Government & Politics

$15 minimum wage proposal could go on November ballot in Kansas City

After the Kansas City Council voted for a minimum wage increase that calls for $13 per hour by 2020, Dana Wittman of Stand Up KC led the cheers just outside the council chambers.
After the Kansas City Council voted for a minimum wage increase that calls for $13 per hour by 2020, Dana Wittman of Stand Up KC led the cheers just outside the council chambers. rsugg@kcstar.com

The Kansas City Council has taken the first step toward putting a $15 minimum wage question on the November ballot.

In a procedural move Thursday, an ordinance was introduced on the council docket to submit a petition initiative to voters in the Nov. 3 election. The council must discuss and vote on the measure by next Thursday to meet election authorities’ deadline for the November ballot.

City Attorney Bill Geary said a committee of petitioners gathered sufficient signatures and has submitted a valid petition to place its minimum wage proposal before voters. That proposal, supported by a coalition of civil rights groups and advocates of low-wage workers, seeks to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour on Sept. 1 and incrementally over the next four years to $15 per hour by 2020.

The City Council already adopted an ordinance to increase the city’s minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2020, but that ordinance did not satisfy the petitioners.

The council’s ordinance, passed July 16, still has not become law because a different committee of petitioners, representing restaurants and business groups, has started a referendum drive to overturn it. While the referendum effort is underway this month, the council’s ordinance is on hold.

So the $13-per-hour proposal faces challenges from both sides — a petition group who thinks it’s too low and a petiiton group who thinks it’s too high.

The situation is even more complicated because the Missouri General Assembly is going to try to overturn a governor’s veto at a special session in mid-September. If the legislature overrides the governor’s veto, it could put in place a law that some legal authorities say would prohibit Kansas City and other Missouri cities from adopting any mininum wage above the state-mandated level of $7.65 per hour.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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