Mayors with uncertain city minimum wage increases support statewide effort

untitled-(16-of-18)Adding to evolving complexities over higher city minimum wage laws, the mayors of Kansas City and St. Louis on Friday supported action at the state level.

Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay issued a joint media release. Both cities have passed minimum wage increases that face uncertain legal status.

The mayors noted that the secretary of state’s office has approved circulation of three initiative petitions to increase the state minimum wage of $7.65.

“Workers in our cities and across the state work at one, two, or sometimes even three jobs, but they still cannot earn enough to provide for themselves and their families,” James said.

The mayors said they hope business leaders who were against cities raising the wages would support a statewide increase.

Meanwhile last week, opponents of Kansas City’s increase to a $13 an hour minimum by 2020 submitted enough petition signatures to force a vote on whether to overturn it.

They will have to get in line.

Supporters of a raise to $15 an hour by 2020 have likely already forced a Nov. 3 vote on that proposal.

But their action to force that vote delayed the Aug. 24 enactment of the city law for $13 an hour, which city attorneys say could prevent any city raise at all.

That is because lawyers for Kansas City say cities could only legally raise the wage under a bill that allowed it until last Friday. That state bill, vetoed by the governor, clearly says cities cannot pass such laws unless they were enacted by last Friday, Aug. 28.

Mayor Slay on Friday signed a city increase into law there that phases in an increase to $11 an hour by 2018.

On Sept. 16, state lawmakers begin a veto session that could overturn the governor’s veto.

If that succeeds, Kansas City lawyers say, the city cannot raise the raise the minimum wage because it was not enacted by last Friday.

And then the scheduled Nov. 3 vote on a raise to $15 an hour would be meaningless, they say, and illegal if it passes.

In putting it on the ballot, the city council included an untested legal clause that said election officials can call off the vote if the veto is overridden.

If it is not overridden, Kansas City and St. Louis lawyers take different positions.

Kansas City lawyers say current law forbids city increases and St. Louis lawyers say it does not.

The state bill that would allow city increases if done before Aug. 28, St. Louis lawyers say, amounts to state lawmakers admitting that current law allows city increases.

No matter which way the veto override goes, there appears to be one certainty: much work for lawyers and judges.

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