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Kansas City attorney declares local minimum wage hike dead

Kansas City Attorney Bill Geary says a vote last night by the Missouri General Assembly killed a local minimum wage increase passed by the City Council this summer.

Lawmakers voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that forbids cities from raising the minimum wage above the state level of $7.65.

The Kansas City Council voted in July to gradually increase the local minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020. But the law hadn’t gone into effect because of a referendum campaign aimed at repealing it.

Meanwhile, a group of civil rights and low-wage worker advocates gathered sufficient petition signatures to put a measure on the local November ballot calling for a $15 minimum wage by 2020.

In a statement to The Star, Geary said the vote by the Missouri Legislature voids the local ordinance and makes any future local referendum moot.

“We are working with the election authorities to remove the $15 per hour initiative measure from the November ballot,” he said. “That should happen officially in the next few days.”

He will also present the City Council with an ordinance to repeal the $13 per hour wage law.

“If minimum-wage workers in Kansas City are to receive an increase in their $7.65 per hour wages,” Geary said, “they must look to their employers, the Missouri General Assembly or a statewide initiative petition.”

The St. Louis Board of Alderman voted last month to raise the local minimum wage to $11 an hour. A lawsuit has been filed by business groups seeking to strike the ordinance down.

In addition to the minimum wage provisions, the bill also prohibits local governments from banning plastic grocery bags or mandating benefits on employers such as vacation or sick leave.

Democratic lawmakers argued Wednesday that because the bill started out solely focused on plastic bags (the minimum wage and benefits provisions were added as amendments in the Senate), it violates the state constitution’s mandate that legislation have only one subject.

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