Debate on a bill that would prevent local governments from having a higher minimum wage than the state rate dominated Wednesday’s Missouri House floor debate, and a final vote is expected Thursday morning in Jefferson City.

State Rep. Clem Smith (D) speaks on the Missouri House floor on March 8, 2017 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications]

The move to prevent local minimum wage hikes comes in response to the Feb. 28 Missouri Supreme Court decision to allow the City of St. Louis to raise its minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018. Legislation filed the next day flew through House committees and out to the floor this week, where the Democratic minority now staunchly opposes it.

Democrats opposed to the bill introduced more than a dozen amendments Wednesday, none of which were approved by the House.

State Rep. Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills) says the state government should keep its hands off of local policy. “Let’s not do to local governments what we say the federal government does to us,” he said, telling the assembly that it should let the City of St. Louis make its own decisions on wages.

The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Jason Chipman (R-Steelville), calls the Saint Louis City minimum wage increase a potential mishap. “When you do something bad in a lab, it stinks up the whole lab,” he says. Chipman says that minimum wage hikes are a threat to smaller businesses. “If you are a giant business, if you’re Walmart, you are jumping for joy because it will destroy your smaller competition.”

While many Republicans support state minimum wage control, some raise doubts on grounds that it was a heavy handed, top-down measure, contradicting what they say is government’s role to protect personal freedom.

State Rep. Paul Curtman (R-Union) supports the bill, but raises doubts over the bill’s legitimacy under the Missouri Constitution. “Simply by doing it by statute in this body, there is a good case that it might be unconstitutional,” he says, adding that the debate was a waste of the assembly’s time. Curtman says the best path of action would be to amend the Constitution.

State Rep. Jason Chipman (R) on the Missouri House floor on March 8, 2017 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications]

The House will finish debate on the minimum wage increase Thursday morning at the Statehouse. Despite some reservations on the part of a few Republicans, it is expected to pass.