$12 minimum wage proposal killed in New Hampshire House committee

Measure would have upped hourly rate by 2020

A bid to increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 was voted down Tuesday in a House committee.

The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee voted 12-9 along party lines against a bill that would have increased the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour in 2019 and $12 in 2020.

House Bill 115 also would have increased the percentage of the minimum wage for tipped workers from 45 to 60 percent, and it would have allowed a youth minimum wage of $8.50 an hour.

New Hampshire’s minimum wage is currently tied to the federal wage of $7.25 an hour, giving the state the lowest such wage in New England. (The committee did kill a bill that would have abolished the state minimum wage altogether, a move that wouldn’t affect most firms but would wipe out the minimum wage requirement for small firms that don’t engage in any interstate commerce.)

Supporters of the wage hike argued that having the lowest minimum wage aggravates the state’s labor shortage.

“People are leaving this state because they can’t afford to live here,” said Rep. Benjamin Baroody, D-Manchester. “If you can’t make enough money you go where you can. We need workers in this state.”

The committee also voted along party lines to kill a bill that would have “banned the box,” forbidding employers to ask job applicants whether they had ever been convicted of a felony on the application. Employers could inquire into an applicant’s criminal past in an interview, but “banning the box” would at least give an applicant a chance to be considered for employment, supporters argued.

Rep. Michael Cahill, D-Newmarket, offered an amendment that would exempt banks, nuclear power plants, health care providers and contractors who are forbidden to hire felons due to federal regulations, but Rep. Keith Murphy, R-Bedford, said retailers shouldn’t have to consider someone convicted of stealing for a position that handles cash, or have to consider hiring a convicted rapist in a workplace that consists of young women.

The committee also dismissed on another 12-9 vote a similar bill that forbid employers from considering a job applicant’s credit history.

The committee did recommend killing a bill that would have allowed employers to pay their employees biweekly without state approval, a bill the House passed last session but was not enacted into law.

Currently, an employer has to seek a waiver from the state Department of Labor to pay once workers every other week. The department almost always grants the waiver, but the procedure gives it a chance to see if the company is in compliance with other labor laws, the agency says.

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