Minimum Wage Bill Introduced Amid Sponsor Outcry

A bill that could supplant the minimum wage initiative has popped up in the Legislature.

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The House Rules Committee introduced the bill on Friday, and it’s modeled after a citizens’ initiative that’s slated to appear on the August primary ballot. It would raise the minimum wage up from $7.75 to $9.75 over the course of two years, and it would peg the minimum wage to inflation. If the bill is enacted into law, it would make the citizens’ initiative moot and remove the question off the ballot.

Initiative organizers strongly oppose any effort to pre-empt their initiative out of concern the Legislature might try to water it down. When a different minimum wage initiative was introduced in 2002, the Legislature passed a similar bill to keep it from getting on the ballot. A year later, lawmakers came back and stripped the inflation component.

Ed Flanagan, an initiative sponsor and former labor commissioner, says he’s worried the same tactic could be used again.

“It’s not like we didn’t see it coming, but I guess you still hope that people will have some sense of — I don’t know what you call it — shame or anything else such a bold-faced attempt to circumvent the will of the people,” says Flanagan.

If a new minimum wage law is enacted through the ballot, legislators may not touch it for two years.

House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt has said that conversation around a minimum wage bill has not been politically motivated, and instead has focused on public approval of raising the minimum wage. Recently, the House Majority Caucus released a poll by Dittman Research showing that 69 percent people they surveyed supported increasing the minimum wage.

The bill is scheduled to be heard by the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Wednesday.