City of Baltimore v. Sitnick (State Report Title: Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Sitnick)

Decision Date27 June 1969
Docket NumberNos. 295,297,s. 295
Parties, 19 Wage & Hour Cas. (BNA) 116 Mayor and CITY Council OF BALTIMORE et al. v. Milton SITNICK t/a Hilton House et al. Mayor and CITY Council OF BALTIMORE et al. v. Milton J. FIREY et al., t/a Congress Hotel Company, et al. *
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Ambrose T. Hartman, Deputy City Solicitor and Gerald S. Klein, Asst. City Solicitor (George L. Russell, Jr., City Solicitor, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellants.

Benjamin N. Dorman, Baltimore, for appellees Milton J. Firey and others.

D. Duffy Herman, Baltimore (A. David Gomborov and Gomborov, Steinberg & Schlachman, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellees Milton Sitnick and others.


FINAN, Judge.

These two appeals 1 were consolidated by the lower court and present the question of the validity of Ordinance Nos. 370, 491, 739 and 1219, now comprising Article 19, Sections 51 through 61 of the Baltimore City Code (1966 Ed.), as amended, enacted by the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore to establish minimum wage standards for certain private employments within the City's jurisdiction.

In both cases the defendants are the City, the members of the City Minimum Wage Commission and the Commission's Executive Director. In No. 295, the plaintiffs are Milton Sitnick, t/a Hilton House, a tavern business in Baltimore City, and Baltimore Licensed Beverage Association, Inc., an organization representing certain tavern owners in the City. There is a tavern exemption in the State law (Code (1964 Repl.Vol., 1968 Supp.) Art 100, Sec. 82(e)(11)) limited by volume of business, however, taverns are included in the City law. In No. 297, the plaintiffs are Milton J. Firey and Margaret F. Hewitt, partners t/a Congress Hotel Company, which operates a hotel in Baltimore City, and Maryland Hotel and Motor Inn Association, Inc., an organization representing certain hotels and motels in the State of Maryland. Hotels are included in both the City and State laws. However, the municipal wage rate at the time of suit was $1.25 per hour while that of the State was only $1.00. By subsequent enactments these rates have since been changed to $1.40 and $1.30 respectively. Through an invalidation of the City law, the taverns would escape minimum wage regulation entirely, and the hotels would be required to comply with the lower State standard.

Appellee, Sitnick, petitioned the Superior Court of Baltimore City for a declaration that the City law, inter alia, conflicted with the State law and was, therefore, void under Article XI-A, Section 3 of the Maryland Constitution. Appellee, Firey, filed a bill of complaint in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City praying a declaratory decree that the City law, inter alia, conflicted with the State law and was, therefore, void under both the constitutional provision and the city charter, and that the passage of the State law pre-empted the field of minimum wage regulation. The four ordinances which comprise the City law and its codification, the Rules and Regulations of the Baltimore Minimum Wage Commission and a 'comparison schedule' between the City and the State minimum wage provisions were attached to the Firey complaint as exhibits. Appropriate injunctive relief was requested in both cases. Although various other issues were raised in each case, only those mentioned were decided by the trial court and raised by this appeal. Maryland Rule 885.

We think a recitation of the legislative chronology helpful towards an understanding of the issues involved.

December 3, 1964-Baltimore City Minimum Wage Ordinance (No. 370) was enacted. It created the Minimum Wage Commission to enforce the law and set a minimum wage level at $1.00 per hour for certain employments in the City. Sections 174 to 183 of Article 24 of the City Code (1950 Edition). The declaration of policy and finding of facts contained in Section 174 (now Section 51 of Article 19 of the 1966 Code) were simply that many persons in the City were being paid wages insufficient to maintain a minimal standard of living, that such condition adversely affected their well-being, the general economic and social welfare of the inhabitants of the City, and that legislation was therefore necessary to establish minimum standards.

April 21, 1965-Ordinance No. 491 repealed and reordained the City law with amendments.

May 4, 1965-Chapter 697 of the Acts of 1965, a public general law applicable uniformly throughout the State, was enacted. It established the State Minimum Wage Law as Article 100, Sections 81-93 of the Maryland Code, empowered the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to enforce the law, and set a minimum wage level of $1.00 per hour. The declaration of policy and findings of fact contained in Section 81 substantially paralleled those which motivated the City Council.

June 1, 1965-Effective date of rules and regulations promulgated by the City's Minimum Wage Commission.

February 21, 1966-Ordinance No. 739 repealed and reordained the City law with amendments.

April 21, 1967-State law amended by Chapter 393 of the Acts of 1967, including phased increases in the minimum wage to $1.15 and then $1.30 by June 1, 1969.

December 4, 1967-Ordinance No. 1219 repealed and reordained the City law with amendments including an increase in the minimum wage to $1.25 per hour with subsequent escalation to $1.40 by September 1, 1968.

1968-The General Assembly was silent on the subject of minimum wages.

Judge Albert L. Sklar heard both cases on the City's demurrers, no testimony being taken. At the hearing, the plaintiffs (appellees) also moved for summary judgment, in the event that the City's (appellant's) demurrers were overruled. The lower court overruled the City's demurrers and rendered a declaratory judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that the Ordinances (known as the Baltimore City Minimum Wage Law) were unconstitutional.

The lower court relying heavily on two fairly recent New York cases, Wholesale Laundry Board of Trade, Inc. v. City of New York, 17 A.D.2d 327, 234 N.Y.S.2d 862 (1962), aff. 12 N.Y.2d 998, 239 N.Y.S.2d 128, 189 N.E.2d 623 (1963), and Wholesale Laundry Board of Trade, Inc. v. New York, 43 Misc.2d 816, 252 N.Y.S.2d 502 (Sup.Ct.1964), aff. 22 A.D.2d 762, 252 N.Y.S.2d 955, aff. 15 N.Y.2d 604, 255 N.Y.S.2d 265, 203 N.E.2d 652 (1964) (cases which we shall discuss later in this opinion), rationalized that the City law was in conflict with the State of Maryland Minimum Wage Act (Code (1964 Repl.Vol.) Art. 100, §§ 81-93) 2, and because of that this was an area of legislative regulation which had been pre-empted by the State of Maryland, the opinion stating:

'The City argues that there is no fatal conflict between the State and City law and that the Ordinances are supplemental and complementary to the State law. If the enactments of the Ordinances resulted in only additional regulations to the State law, then some would be termed 'supplemental', however, I find that it is clear that there exist many inconsistencies and that there is no hope of reasonable reconcilation between the State law and City law in the areas therein touched upon.'

For the reasons which we shall hereinafter relate, we are in disagreement with the decision of the court below.

We start with the recognition of the general proposition that Baltimore City, as a municipal corporation, had the authority under its police powers to establish by ordinance minimum wage regulations. West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish, 300 U.S. 379, 57 S.Ct. 578, 81 L.Ed. 703 (1937); Parish Council, Etc. v. Louisiana Highway, Etc., 131 So.2d 272 (La.Ct.App.1961); Art. II, §§ 24 and 27 Baltimore City Charter (1964 Revision). The question is, to what extent was that authority circumscribed, restricted or abrogated by the action of the State moving into this field of legislation and establishing a comprehensive scheme of state-wide regulations. A discussion of this question necessarily leads into a consideration of Article XI-A of the Maryland Constitution, the 'Home Rule Amendment,' 3 measured against the limitations superimposed by the Legislature. Heubeck v. City of Baltimore, 205 Md. 203, 208, 107 A.2d 99 (1954).

The Maryland Constitution, Article XI-A, § 2 provides:

'The General Assembly at its first session after the adoption of this amendment shall by public general law provide a grant of express powers for such County or Counties as may thereafter form a charter under the provisions of this Article. Such express power granted to the Counties and the powers heretofore granted to the City of Baltimore, as set forth in Article 4, Section 6, Public Local Laws of Maryland, shall not be enlarged or extended by any charter formed under the provisions of this Article, but such powers may be extended, modified, amended or repealed by the General Assembly.' (Emphasis supplied.)

In restricting the exercise of the legislative powers thus granted, Section 3 of Article XI-A provides that there shall be no conflict between the ordinances of the City and the public general laws of the State:

'* * * All such local laws enacted by the Mayor of Baltimore and City Council of the City of Baltimore * * *, shall be subject to the same rules of interpretation as those now applicable to the Public Local Laws of this State, except that in case of any conflict between said local law and any Public General Law now or hereafter enacted the Public General Law shall control.' (Emphasis supplied.)

In the instant case we are of the opinion that the City law neither conflicts nor is inharmonious with the provisions of the State law, nor conflicts with any intention of the Legislature to reserve to itself the exclusive right to legislate on the entire subject matter, as we shall discuss in this opinion; therefore, the only theory by which the City law would be a nullity or invalid, is on the premise...

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