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January/February 1996, Vol. 119, Nos. 1 & 2
Richard R. Nelson
State labor legislation enacted in 1995 covered a wide variety of employment standards and included many important laws.1
Among new laws passed were several significant prevailing wage and child labor measures, as well as legislation affecting the structure of State labor departments, repealing two private employment agency regulatory laws, and enacting right-to-work measures. Prevailing wage laws also were the subject of major court decisions in three States.
Wages. A majority of the States proposed legislation in l995 to enact minimum-wage laws or to increase minimum rates. Despite this interest, only one new increase was enacted: a measure, adopted in Massachusetts over the Governor's veto, that raised the State rate to $4.75 per hour, with a further increase to $5.25 scheduled for Jan. 1, 1997. Also, a rate increase to $4.75 an hour took place in Vermont on Jan. 2, 1996, as provided for in a prior law.
In addition to Massachusetts and Vermont, rates higher do the Federal were already in effect in Alaska, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Puerto Rico (for a limited number of occupations), Rhode Island, the Virgin Islands, and Washington.
Maine raised to $5.15 an hour the upper limit that the State rate may be raised to match any Federal increases. In other developments, New Hampshire and North Dakota eliminated language equating the minimum wage with a living wage; New Hampshire made workers whose employment subject to the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act now also subject to the State minimum-wage law and removed all references to wage boards and their powers and duties; and new exemptions were added to the laws of Delaware, Montana, and Oregon.
For the third consecutive year, there were several significant prevailing wage developments. Enforcement of the Michigan law ceased as the result of a court decision holding it invalid because of preemption by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and a ruling in Oklahoma voided that State's law, holding its use of federally determined rates an unconstitutional delegation of authority. Major changes to the prevailing wage laws, including revised rate determination procedures, were made in Arkansas, Indiana, and Oregon. Other changes included increasing the dollar threshold amount for coverage in Indiana and Oregon; authorizing civil penalties in Arkansas and Oregon; and establishing a fee on contracts in Oregon, to be used to conduct surveys and administer the law. The changes in Indiana have not taken place, because enforcement has been enjoined by a court decision.
Other prevailing wage activities included establishing an enforcement fund in New York; changing the disposition of penalty monies collected in Montana; and, in Delaware, providing protection for employees who make complaints or participate in investigations under the law. In Utah, a State without a prevailing wage law, a measure was adopted to prohibit the State or any local government from requiring the payment of a prevailing wage.
This excerpt is from an article published in the January/February 1996 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 The Kentucky legislature met only in special sessions in 1995 and did not enact any labor legislation. The District of Columbia, Guam, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wyoming did not enact significant legislation in the fields covered by this article. Information about Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands was not received in time to be included in the article, which is based on information received by Nov. 3, 1995.
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