Legislation preventing the city of St. Louis from raising its minimum wage is racing through the Missouri legislature.

Missouri Republican House Speaker Todd Richardson speaks in favor of measure restricting St. Louis from raising minimum wage – Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel

After the state Supreme Court struck down a lower court ruling which favored state laws against local pay hikes, the House marched a bill to passage in four days.

The legislation drafted by members of the chamber’s Republican super-majority nullifies local ordinances that establish a minimum wage.  Richard Von Glahn Glahn with Missouri Jobs with Justice thinks the GOP is exercising a double standard because they often complain about federal overreach into state business.

“Right now, we are seeing the heavy hand of the state government coming in and retroactively telling a city what it can and can’t do to meet the needs of their community”.

House Republican Paul Curtman of Union counters that a local government would overstep its bounds and bring harm to people by hiking minimum pay.

“If the local government is robbing people of their security, of their liberty, or their economic freedom, then as political subdivisions its incumbent on the state to step in and reign them in, because even big government can come in the form of local government.”

The Supreme Court action overturns the lower court’s ruling in a lawsuit brought on by businesses seeking to overturn a St. Louis ordinance to gradually raise the city’s minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2017, and $11 by 2018.

The circuit court sided with the businesses in determining that the local ordinance was preempted by the state’s minimum wage law, which is $7.70 an hour.  The city of St. Louis appealed to the Supreme Court.

The high bench determined that laws in place since the late 1990’s only set a floor for minimum pay.  Legislation passed in 2015 also sought to prevent local wage hikes.  Lawmakers overrode then Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of the measure, and it became law.

A clause in the measure allowed local municipalities to keep wage increases so long as they were in place by August 28th, a provision St. Louis complied with.  So the city’s ordinance is currently valid, which is what the legislature is now trying to overturn.

Von Glahn with Missouri Jobs with Justice thinks lawmakers are attempting to override their own work.  “This is actually a question about local control, and the process that they themselves created and put into state statute, and the city followed” said Von Glahn.  “And now they are attempting to nullify the very process that they established.”

The current legislation has already moved from the House to the Senate and passed out of committee. Republican Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard says it could see floor action there when the legislature returns to session from its annual spring break Monday.

House GOP member Shamed Dogan of Ballwin mirrors some arguments made by business interests when he says raising the minimum wage would have unintended negative consequences.

“We have teenagers who don’t get a job opportunity, we have business owners who might not start a business, because the minimum wage impacts their ability to hire employees” said Dogan.  “There are all kinds unseen detriments to minimum wage increases.”