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Minimum Wage Increase, Marijuana Decriminalization Pass in Md. General Assembly

Also passing on the last day of session, "Jake's Law," which increases the penalties for someone using a cell phone while driving if they kill or seriously injure another person and are found at fault for the accident.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The 2014 session of the Maryland General Assembly came to an end, with your lawmakers passing some major bills on the last day of session Monday.

Legislators passed a bill raising the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2018. Supporters say this will help families, minorities, and women.

"A lot of women are working at $7.25 an hour, which is like $16,000 a year, and it's just not at all enough money for individuals to survive on," said Del. Frank Turner, (D-Howard County).

"Things are so expensive and gas prices are going up and all these things are going up. I remember what it was really like to struggle. Although I'm no longer making minimum wage, I do know what those times feel like," said Del. C. T. Wilson, (D-Charles County).

However, opponents say it will hurt small businesses and jobs.

"One of two things will happen. You will either decrease the number of people you have in your labor force, which means a decrease in jobs, or you'll have an increase in prices to make up for the costs and the revenues that are being lost from the increased labor wages," said Del. Kelly Schulz, (R-Frederick County).

"At $10.10, even though they've lengthened the time that it'll be phased in, we're still going to be much, much higher than all the adjacent states to us. In Western Maryland, it's extremely hurtful. Jobs that would have been in Washington County are now going to go to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or Virginia," said Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County).

Two other major bills to pass included marijuana reform bills. Legislators passed a bill decriminalizing having less than 10 grams of marijuana. Those who are caught with it will get a civil citation and a $100 fine.

"We try to teach kids with the DARE program to stay away from drugs. Now we're turning around with the decriminalization and saying, 'Okay, you can use a little bit. It's okay,' and then next it'll be a little bit more and a little bit more," said Sen. George Edwards, (R-Garrett, Allegany, and Washington Counties).

"What we're trying to do is get people out of the judicial system. We're trying to free up police officers, but also for those people who are starting to have a problem, this legislation allows people to basically be referred into some type of treatment," said Sen. Minority Leader David Brinkley, (R-Frederick and Carroll Counties).

The medical marijuana bill will allow patients to use the drug if it's recommended by a certified doctor. 15 growers will be allowed to produce it.

Governor Martin O'Malley's office says he'll sign the minimum wage and marijuana bills into law.

Also passing on the last day of session, "Jake's Law," which increases the penalties for someone using a cell phone while driving if they kill or seriously injure another person and are found at fault for the accident.
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