Minimum wage hike on hold

Those interested in the minimum wage issue filled the city council chamber yesterday for a hearing.

Those interested in the minimum wage issue filled the city council chamber yesterday for a hearing.

The city council on Thursday delayed action on a minimum wage hike ordinance among uncertainty and legal complexities.

A citizens group that raised enough initiative signatures to put it to a vote also agreed to the city delay.

The group has also accepted a raise to about $13 an hour by 2020, instead of $15 an hour that was proposed.

Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, said the agreement with the city was a victory for those who gathered the signatures and have long fought for a wage increase.

Mayor Sly James said he has agreed to push for increasing the minimum wage and action will be taken on an ordinance at the July 16 council meeting.

Meanwhile there will be meetings and input from all sides, he said, including restaurant and hotel interests who say the measure will cost thousands of jobs.

The city was forced to act too quickly on a matter that takes more time to study, James said, because an action by the Missouri Legislature possibly created a small window of opportunity.

City lawyers originally said state law prohibited cities from raising the state minimum wage of $7.65 an hour, but then the legislature recently passed another law saying cities absolutely could not raise the wages.

But state lawmakers also strangely said that city wage increase laws passed before the new law goes into effect on Aug. 28 can stay in to last story

To make things more complex, the governor has not yet signed the new law. He could veto it, and the state legislature could override the veto, or not.

Whatever happens, James said, any city raise of the minimum wage will play out in court.

All the more reason, James said, to properly consider the matter and get input from all involved, which is how the council does business anyway.

They will “see if we can’t come up with a Kansas City solution to a Kansas City problem in a Kansas City way,” he said.

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