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Chamber Challenges Maryland Health Care Mandates Law

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 - 7:00pm

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Maryland's recently passed law that dictates how much large businesses must spend on employee health care violates federal law, according to an amicus brief to be filed today by the U.S. Chamber's National Chamber Litigation Center (NCLC) in Retail Industry Leaders Association v. James B. Fiedler, Jr.

"State legislatures won't solve our nation's health care debate by unfairly targeting large businesses," said Steve Bokat, NCLC executive vice president. "Congress enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in 1974 to ensure uniform national laws on pensions and benefits. Maryland's mandate ignores the inherent purpose of ERISA and could set a dangerous precedent for further violations of the law."

The brief will be filed in support of the Retail Industry Leaders Association's lawsuit against the state on the grounds that Maryland's Fair Share Health Care Fund Act is pre-empted by ERISA. Maryland lawmakers passed the law (commonly known as the "Wal-Mart bill") over the veto of Governor Robert Ehrlich earlier this year.

The legislation requires companies with more than 10,000 employees in Maryland to spend at least eight percent of their payroll on health care benefits or divert that money directly into the state's health care fund for low-income individuals. Wal-Mart is currently the only employer in the state that meets the criteria for the proposed law.

NCLC warns in the brief that if allowed to stand, Maryland's law would encourage other states to follow suit and attempt to apply the same type of mandates on employers, resulting in a confusing patchwork quilt of state law. Union officials and other proponents of these mandates have pledged to introduce similar legislation in as many as 30 other states.

The U.S. Chamber is the world's largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region. The National Chamber Litigation Center is a membership organization that advocates fair treatment of business in the courts and before regulatory agencies.

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