Baker Signs ‘Grand Bargain’ Legislation

Gov. Charlie Baker signed the “Grand Bargain” legislation on Thursday, June 28, that deals with minimum wage increases, paid family medical leave and an annual sales tax holiday.

The compromise legislation will create a permanent sales tax holiday, increase the minimum wage over the next five years and create a new paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts.

The bargain part of it came in that the Legislature negotiated with separate groups who had petitioned to put the issues on the ballot for a vote. Rather than have a vote on those measures, a compromise was worked out legislatively last week.

“I am thankful that all parties came together, compromised and found common ground to produce a better set of policies than what the ballot questions represented,” said Governor Baker. “The Massachusetts workforce continues to grow with more and more people finding jobs and our administration is committed to maintaining the Commonwealth’s competitive economic environment.”

Said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, “Compromise on all sides made this legislation possible and our administration remains committed to making the Commonwealth the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

“This compromise strikes the right balance of empowering employees, supporting our hardworking residents and ensuring that businesses can continue to provide good, steady jobs,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I sincerely thank the stakeholders who came to the table and the legislators who brokered this compromise.”

The legislation signed into law will create a permanent two-day weekend sales tax holiday, a provision recently proposed as part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Economic Development Bill to provide annual relief for consumers and increased sales for retailers. The new law will begin in August of 2019 and the particular weekend will be determined by the Legislature.

The bill will also gradually raise the Commonwealth’s minimum wage to $15/hour over five years, with an initial increase taking effect in January 2019. Coupled with that increase will be a raise to the minimum base wage rate for tipped workers, up to $6.75, that will also phase in over a 5-year period commencing in January of 2019. Wage policies for Sunday and Holiday pay will also be reformed and brought in line with most other states across the country.

The third major component of H.4640 introduces a new Paid Family and Medical Leave program for in Massachusetts employers and employees. The new program will provide employees who contribute to the program the ability to take paid leave for up to 12 weeks a year care for a family member or bond with a new child, 20 weeks a year to deal with a personal medical issue, and up to 26 weeks to deal with an emergency related to deployment of a family member for military service. Weekly benefit amounts will be calculated as a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage, with a maximum weekly benefit of $850. Self-employed persons may opt into the program. For the law to apply to municipal employees, the city or town involved must vote to accept participation in the program.

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