ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland's Senate voted Thursday to enact a first-in-the-nation requirement that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spend more on employee health care despite the governor's veto of the legislation. The measure, touted as a money-saver for Medicaid, now goes to the House for a vote.
At least 30 state legislatures are considering similar bills.
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 30-17 to overturn a veto of the so-called Wal-Mart bill last summer by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich. The measure now heads to the House, where the prospects of a three-fifths vote required to overturn vetoes was less certain, though Democrats control that chamber as well.
Supporters of the bill said Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, unfairly costs taxpayers money by spending less than 8 percent of payroll on health care. The bill requires all companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend that much or give the state the difference. Currently, only Wal-Mart would meet the criteria in Maryland.
Critics called it a dangerous precedent that ultimately would cost Maryland jobs.
The veto override has been one of the session's most intensely lobbied, with business groups taking out print ads supporting a veto and labor groups rallying and taking out their own ads siding with supporters.
The decision is being closely watched by labor unions and legislatures around the country, with unions pursuing similar legislation this year in more than 30 states.
The unions contend that some large, profitable companies shift health insurance costs to workers, taxpayers and other businesses. They are proposing legislation, like the Maryland bill, that would require big employers to dedicate a percentage of their payroll to health care benefits. The unions have said the states they will focus on include Colorado, Connecticut and Washington