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MultiState's Local Policy Digest explores the top legislative developments from municipalities across the U.S.

Montgomery County, Maryland, has enacted a 2024 goal for a $15 minimum wage.

On Monday, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) ended a year-long legislative battle by signing an ordinance into law that will require all businesses within the county to pay a $15 minimum wage by 2024.

Passed unanimously by the city council earlier this month, the ordinance (Bill No.28-17) implements a wage increase schedule that would require large employers (50 or more employees) to pay their employees a $15 minimum wage by July 1, 2021. Additionally, it would require mid-sized employers (11-50 employees) and small employers (less than 11 employees) to pay their employees a $15 minimum wage by July 1 of 2023 and 2024, respectively. The new law would apply to all employees over the age of 20. For younger workers, the law offers “opportunity wages” that amount to “85 percent of the county minimum wage for the first six months that the employee is employed.”

According to Leggett, county residents “needed and deserved” this raise. Residents who spoke in favor of the ordinance during its public hearings said the cost of living in Montgomery County had increased, leaving many residents struggling to survive on the current minimum wage of $11.50 per hour.

Opponents predicted that the minimum wage increase would make it harder for the county to attract and retain businesses. Gigi Godwin, President and CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, pointed to how technology will intersect with a mandated higher wage. “What kinds of policies are we putting in place that will attract and retain the employer of the future, who in turn is going to attract and retain the employee of the future?” she said.

Maryland's current statewide minimum wage is $9.25 per hour, though an increase to $10.10 is scheduled for July 2018.

Killeen, Texas, is repealing regulations on taxi and limo companies to help them compete with Uber and Lyft.

Earlier this week, the Killeen City Council unanimously passed an ordinance simplifying its transportation code, with the goal of helping local taxi and limo companies that have been struggling to compete with transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft.

The ordinance (OR-17-016) requires all ground transportation companies to obtain a five-year operating authority, eliminates local vehicle inspections, and brings driving and criminal record criteria in step with the state's requirements for TNC drivers. Prior to the ordinance's passage, taxi and limo companies were required to obtain a five-year franchise and a three-year operating authority, respectively, and subject all their vehicles to annual inspections by local authorities. In contrast, TNCs were free from these local requirements. In May, the state legislature passed legislation (TX HB 100) making TNC regulation the exclusive jurisdiction of the state.

Lawmakers said that the ordinance was necessary because local cab companies had been operating at a severe disadvantage. “We’re talking about global industry versus local enterprise,” said Councilman Jonathan Okray. “Right now, it’s not equal.”

With the ordinance now passed, lawmakers are optimistic that the simplified code will “level the playing field” for local cab companies. “I still have concerns, but the draft we have tonight is much better than the one we had on the books,” said Councilman Gregory Johnson. The ordinance went into effect immediately.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, passed new regulations aimed at decreasing lead exposure.

Earlier this week, the Lancaster City Council unanimously passed legislation aimed at reducing the amount of lead exposure in the city, especially among young children.

The ordinance (21-2017) will require landlords with properties built before 1978 to verify that they are considered lead-safe or lead-free before they are permitted to rent to families with children under the age of six. Verification will be determined by a “clearance examination” that the city will conduct at a cost of $250.

City council members said that the ordinance was passed as part of a broader effort to advance public health, and that protecting children under the age of six was a focal point of the initiative. “In the end, this is a public safety issue. . . . We’ll make it stronger, but this is a good start,” said City Council President John Graupera. Some residents, however, argued that the ordinance did not go far enough, and there should be stricter regulation on lead paint. “It should apply to everyone. Everything should be tested,” said Mimi Shapiro, a resident and member of the Historical Architectural Review Board.

Local landlords have objected to the ordinance, arguing that the additional costs of testing for lead could result in higher rents. Additionally, some residents expressed concern that the ordinance would make landlords less inclined to rent to families with children. The new ordinance will go into effect in early December.

Independence City, Missouri, is attempting to increase local security with new surveillance camera mandate.

Earlier this month, the Independence City Council passed an ordinance that will require all hotels and motels to install surveillance cameras. The ordinance (18822) adds hotels and motels to the list of businesses already required to employ security cameras. Prior to the ordinance's passing, the Independence City code only required convenience stores and tobacco stores to have security cameras.

Like their retail counterparts, hotels and motels will need to install two “color digital high-resolution surveillance cameras” inside and outside their premises. The cameras must be mounted at angles providing clear pictures of patrons, and businesses must retain a library of footage for no fewer than seven days at a time.

Members of the Independence Police Department reacted favorably to the ordinance's passage, citing the use these cameras can provide to law enforcement. “We had almost 60 different vehicles broken into throughout Independence at actual hotels, and were able to use camera surveillance to catch the three people responsible for those,” said Officer John Syme.

All hotels and motels that fall within the city’s jurisdiction will have until July 1, 2018, to update or install security cameras.

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