Cities across Oklahoma are now prohibited from establishing mandatory minimum wage or vacation and sick-day requirements under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Mary Fallin.
Supporters say the measure would prevent a hodgepodge of minimum wages in different parts of the state, while opponents say decisions about the wages should be left up to individual communities.
Those against the bill also say it specifically targets Oklahoma City, where an initiative is underway to establish a citywide minimum wage higher than the current federal minimum wage. Organizers have been gathering signatures to support raising the city's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
David Slain, the lawyer who wrote the initiative petition for Oklahoma City, said it disappoints him that the Legislature "would vote in such a way to take the right of the people to decide minimum wage." He said those collecting signatures will continue to do so through their grass-roots efforts with hopes of getting 4,000 by the end of April. They would need to collect 80,000 signatures to bring the initiative to a statewide vote.
The bill passed the House on Tuesday.
Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, who carried the bill in the House, said the measure creates "safeguards that protect small businesses and consumers."
"This bill provides a level playing field for all municipalities in Oklahoma," Grau said. "An artificial raise in the minimum wage could derail local economies in a matter of months. This is a fair measure for consumers, workers and small business owners."
Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, the Senate co-author of the measure, said it provides a safer business environment that will allow Oklahoma to remain economically competitive and see continued job growth.
"With the country just exiting the Great Recession and many businesses struggling to get by, it is imperative that these decisions be made at the state level and follow the compliance with the federal wage requirements," Newberry said.
The federal minimum wage hike would bring the minimum wage across the nation to $10.10 an hour. An increase to the federal minimum wage is one of the main issues currently being pushed by President Barack Obama.
Gov. Fallin had said previously she opposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour because she was "concerned that it would destroy jobs, and especially small business owners can't afford to increase their minimum wage."
After the governor signed the minimum wage hike ban, her office released a statement saying raising the wage is not a path to bring people out of poverty despite advocates' suggestion that it is.
"Most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs," Fallin said. "Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.
"Mandating an increase in the minimum wage would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers. It would create a hardship for small business owners, stifle job creation and increase costs for consumers," she said. "And it would do all of these things without even addressing the goal of reducing poverty."
Fallin signed three other bills Monday dealing with tax credits for banking institutions, public investments, and membership of the Alarm and Locksmith Industry Committee.