Maryland AG: ‘Wal-Mart Bill’ Doesn’t Target Wal-Mart

By June 25, 2006General

In one of the more astonishing claims ever made in an American courtroom (a high bar, we know), Maryland’s Assistant Attorney General Gary Kuc, in a hearing on Friday in federal court in Baltimore contended that the Wal-Mart bill that passed few months ago does not target Wal-Mart.

How’s that again….?

The union-sponsored bill, officially known as the “Fair Share Health Care Fund Act,” requires employers in Maryland with more than 10,000 employees to provide health care to their employees or pay an equal amount into a state fund. Wal-Mart was the only large employer in Maryland subject to its provisions and thus it became known simply as “the Wal-Mart bill.” If you Google “Wal-Mart bill” and “Maryland” there are over 2.3 million results. In other words, it was pretty well-known earlier this year during the debate over the law, its eventual enactment, sensible veto by Governor Ehrlich and eventual boneheaded override that this bill was aimed solely at Wal-Mart.

If you believe that Mr. Kuc wasn’t lying, then apparently he doesn’t read the local papers, or talk to any of the local politicos, or live in the real world. And so he was able to march into a federal courtroom and claim with a straight face that the Wal-Mart bill didn’t target Wal-Mart. Federal Judge J. Frederick Motz is reported to have said to Kuc that his claim simply didn’t pass “the silliness test.” Indeed it doesn’t.

We happen to think a state’s mucking around in the market like this is bad public policy. At the end of the day, Marylanders will have a less business-friendly climate, fewer businesses, a smaller tax base and fewer jobs. If Wal-Mart leaves, it will disenfranchise all the Marylanders who shop there now and who can afford to buy more stuff there because of Wal-Mart’s low prices. But regardless of how you view this bill, it’s something close to outrageous that a state official can march into Federal court and make a claim as specious as this one.

Here’s a link to the Retail Association’s Motion for Summary Judgment and brief and here’s a link to their press release on Friday’s hearing.