The Maryland Senate on Thursday overrode Gov. Robert Ehrlich's veto and approved a bill that would force Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to spend more on employee health care in the state.I'm pretty sure this will not end in Maryland. Knowing how crazy liberals in Oregon are, our state could be next. I just wish Wal*Mart would do what it did in Canada last year when one store tried to unionize. The store was closed.
The state Senate voted 30-17 in favor of the bill, surpassing the margin needed to override the veto by one vote.
The override sets the stage for a vote in the Maryland House of Delegates, which was expected to take up the bill at about 5 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).
According to one Republican delegate opposed to the bill, who requested anonymity, the bill's supporters in the House have secured 88 votes there, three more than the number required to override a veto.
The measure would require companies with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health benefits, or pay the balance into a state low-income health insurance fund.
The state Senate vote came after about 90 minutes of debate and came down largely along party lines, with three Democrats crossing over to vote against the bill.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark said in a statement after the vote that lawmakers had "placed the special interests of Washington, D.C. union leaders ahead of the well-being of the people they serve."
But those supporting the measure in the Senate argued that they were being forced to act because Wal-Mart was forcing the state to subsidize its employees' health care.
"I hope personally all 49 (other) states will do this. The states are backed up to the wall on this one," said the sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Gloria Lawlah.
Opponents countered that the bill would be bad for business.
"This isn't the perfect storm. It's the Bermuda Triangle. Jobs go in, but they don't come out," said Republican Sen. EJ Pipkin.
Some opponents of the bill said it could even cause Wal-Mart to drop plans to build a large distribution center on Maryland's Eastern Shore, which would bring an additional 800 to 1,000 jobs to the state.
Wal-Mart's Clark said in her statement that the bill would do nothing to make affordable health insurance available to more Marylanders. She said the vote was about "partisan politics" rather than health care.
Clark said more than three-fourths of its 1.3 million U.S. employees had health insurance coverage, either through the company, a spouse or a government program.
U.S. labor groups are promoting the Maryland bill and it is being viewed as a model for similar laws other state legislatures are considering.
Nationwide, labor leaders said, more than a quarter of workers in large companies do not get employer-based health insurance coverage. They say a growing number of uninsured workers have been forced to turn to government programs such as Medicaid for coverage.
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