A court order Tuesday appeared to be the final blow to advocates for a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Kansas City.
Jackson County Presiding Circuit Judge Justine Del Muro ruled that a petition initiative to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City should be removed from the November ballot.
Del Muro said a new Missouri law clearly prohibits Kansas City from adopting the higher minimum wage that a citizens petition initiative had sought.
Del Muro’s ruling, which followed arguments Tuesday morning, came just in time to meet the Tuesday evening deadline for removing questions from the Nov. 3 ballot.
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The ruling was a victory for the city attorney’s office. Earlier Tuesday, assistant city attorney Sarah Baxter told the judge that the petition initiative should be stricken from the ballot because the state legislature last week outlawed cities from adopting anything greater than the state-set $7.65 per hour.
The City Council had agreed in August to place the petition initiative on the ballot because at the time the state law forbidding local control on minimum wages had been vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. But the General Assembly overrode the veto last week.
Baxter said asking Kansas City voters to approve a local measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 would be meaningless.
“Nothing will happen if the voters pass this law,” Baxter said, because state law now clearly prohibits such local measures.
She told Del Muro that Kansas City shouldn’t be forced to spend $500,000 in taxpayer dollars for an election on an issue that state law forbids.
Taylor Fields, representing the committee of petitioners, argued the new state law is flawed and could be challenged in court if Kansas City voters signaled their approval for a higher minimum wage.
He said the petitioners gathered sufficient signatures, so under the city charter, they should be entitled to that local vote.
During arguments, Del Muro questioned that reasoning. In light of state law, she asked the petitioners whether they weren’t just asking her to approve an election that would be “an effort in futility.”