Government & Politics

Judge to hear arguments on timing of KC minimum wage ballot question

Petitioners want a measure for a higher minimum wage in Kansas City to go on the April ballot. A Jackson County judge set a hearing date for Wednesday to determine if it should be April or August.
Petitioners want a measure for a higher minimum wage in Kansas City to go on the April ballot. A Jackson County judge set a hearing date for Wednesday to determine if it should be April or August. rsugg@kcstar.com

A Jackson County judge will hear arguments Wednesday to determine when a Kansas City minimum wage petition initiative should go on the city’s ballot.

Petitioners say it should be in April, but the City Council declined to approve that, so it may be postponed until August.

The issue has urgency because the Kansas City election boards are preparing to print ballots for the April 4 election. Judge S. Margene Burnett will consider arguments Wednesday by attorneys for petitioners who gathered sufficient signatures for a ballot measure that seeks to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City to $15 per hour by 2021.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Jan. 17 that the city must put the measure on a city ballot, even though it appears to be in conflict with state law. The City Council’s next meeting after the Supreme Court ruling was Jan. 19, which happened to be the deadline for it to approve April 4 ballot measures.

Under council rules, it would have taken nine council members that day to advance the measure. But the council vote was only 7-6 in favor of advancement. Council members opposing advancement said they didn’t want to do something so important in such a rushed fashion, and they wanted more time to prepare a measure for the August ballot.

Now, the petitioners have gone to court to argue that the council’s arcane rules shouldn’t keep their measure off the April ballot. The judge will hear their arguments as well as those from the city and from the local election boards, which must soon begin printing ballots.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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