Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"Walmart" Bill Advances in Maryland

Bill Obligates Firms on Health Spending

By John Wagner and Michael Barbaro
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 6, 2005; Page A01

Maryland lawmakers yesterday approved legislation that would effectively require Wal-Mart to boost spending on health care, a direct legislative thrust against a corporate giant that is already on the defensive on many fronts nationwide.

"We're looking for responsible businesses to ante up . . . and provide adequate health care," said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles), the Finance Committee chairman, as the Senate approved the measure with a majority wide enough to survive an anticipated veto. A similar bill has cleared the House of Delegates, and legislators expect to reconcile their differences easily.

Lawmakers said they did not set out to single out Wal-Mart when they drafted a bill requiring organizations with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health benefits -- or put the money directly into the state's health program for the poor.

But as debate raged in the Senate yesterday, it was clear that the giant retailer, which has 15,000 workers in Maryland, was the only company that would be affected.

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