By Missourinet contributor Alex Derosier
Missouri House Republicans have moved to stop St. Louis from raising its minimum wage. A bill that would ban local governments from having a higher minimum wage than the state passed in the House today in a vote that largely fell along party lines.
House Republicans called the need to stop local wage increases an emergency, and passed the bill with a clause that would make it go into effect immediately. If the Senate passes the measure with the emergency clause, the law would go into effect as soon as the governor signs it. Normally, it would take effect in August.
The bill was introduced last week after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in favor of a St. Louis City proposal to raise its minimum wage. The city’s plan would raise it to $11 an hour by 2018. This prompted swift action by House Republicans.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Chipman (R-Crawford), said it was urgent that the state stop the St. Louis minimum wage raise. Under the Missouri Constitution, a bill can be passed with an emergency clause if an issue presents an immediate threat to health, welfare, peace, or safety that justifies emergency action.
Chipman argues that minimum wage hikes could present an urgent health matter to citizens of the state.
“We know that jobs will be lost, and if not that, your hours reduced so you can’t afford to buy stuff,” says Chipman.
House Democrats protest the use of the emergency clause.
Rep. Jon Carpenter (D-Clay) opposed the local minimum wage hike ban, and expressed stronger opposition still to making it effective immediately.
“Whether or not we increase the state minimum wage or the wage in Saint Louis is just another par for the course issue,” says Carpenter. “For us to contend that it is a special emergency that requires a constitutional emergency clause to be invoked is several steps too far.”
Carpenter points to other states that allow local governments to set minimum wage, challenging other lawmakers to call those situations emergencies.
St. Louis Democratic Representatives stressed the rights of local governments. Rep. Karla May (D-Saint Louis) says many Republicans were contradicting their small government principles.
“It amazes me how many times people get up on this floor and talk about intrusion of federal government on state government,” says May. “And you say you want ‘smaller’ government? It’s hypocrisy!”
Local minimum wage efforts gained ground earlier this year when the Missouri Supreme Court overturned a 2015 ruling that a Kansas City ballot measure to raise its minimum wage was against state law. Advocates scored another victory last week with the high court green-lighting the St. Louis wage hike, but with Republicans acting quickly to stop it, that progress may be undone.
A version of the wage hike ban has been filed by Sen. Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby).
Gov. Greitens, who has voiced opposition to minimum wage hikes in the past, would likely approve a bill that would keep local governments from raising the wage.