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WalMart Bill Struck Down

A federal judge's ruling striking down Maryland's WalMart bill, did more than take the giant retailer off the hook for a requirement to increase employee health care.

It rekindles a fierce political debate in Maryland at a time when most lawmakers and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. are seeking reelection. The measure drew a sharp contrast between Democratic lawmakers, who viewed it as striking a blow for working-class families, and the Republican governor, who described it as an assault on the state's business climate.

Ehrlich lobbied hard to defeat the measure and then vetoed it. After his veto was overridden in January, he predicted that the measure would have a chilling effect on businesses weighing whether to locate or expand in Maryland.

Yesterday he praised the judge's ruling, saying the law was a prime example of "overreaching" by an activist legislature that "overstepped its bounds in an effort to demonize that employer for political gain."

The decision came not long after the state's highest court blocked the legislature's effort to fire members of the state's Public Service Commission, which regulates the electricity industry.

Democrats, meanwhile, called the Wal-Mart ruling an affront. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), one of the measure's chief sponsors, said it was nothing less than a matter of "good versus evil."

"These guys are billionaires," he said. "We're not going to let a big Arkansas corporation, protected by their contributions to the Republican Party, avoid their basic responsibility to the citizens of Maryland."

Matt Mosk

By Phyllis Jordan  |  July 19, 2006; 2:54 PM ET
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