“The Legislature gave us the ability to pass the law; it was challenged in court; and the Missouri Supreme Court upheld it, giving us authority to do this,” he said, adding that the business organizations challenging the law are the ones causing confusion.and more »
JEFFERSON CITY • Opponents to the minimum wage increase in St. Louis filed a motion Wednesday challenging a Missouri Supreme Court decision that upheld the hike.In their request for a new hearing, attorneys for business groups like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the Missouri Restaurant Association argue that the state’s high court misinterpreted the law at the center of the case.In 2015, the Legislature passed HB 722, blocking any local minimum wage rates that exceed the state standard — currently $7.70 an hour — established after Aug. 28, 2015, the very day city lawmakers in St. Louis passed a gradual increase to $11 an hour.
Earlier this month, the court ruled that St. Louis made it just under the wire, acting within its rights as a charter city to approve the change.Opponents take issue with an argument made in the court’s opinion that the Legislature, merely by passing HB 722, recognized cities’ power to enact local minimum wage ordinances.In its decision, the Court also struck down a 1998 law that prohibits political subdivisions, like St. Louis, from establishing a minimum wage exceeding the state’s wage.The motion filed Wednesday contends that if lawmakers were still operating under that law in 2015, they couldn’t have possibly recognized local efforts to hike up the wage.“It is an unreasonable strain on logic to assume that the legislature somehow anticipated (that bill) – which was enacted nearly two decades ago and survived a legal challenge all the way up to this court – would be struck down on procedural passage grounds nearly two years after HB 722’s passage,” the motion reads.St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay told the Post-Dispatch that the challenge merely buys time for state lawmakers, who have worked quickly to block the city's increase in light of the court's ruling.
“I expected this,” Slay said. “This is an attempt to delay this to give the Legislature time to act.”Slay also pushed back on the notion that a city-only minimum wage hike is causing confusion for business owners — a common argument during a debate in the House last week.“The Legislature gave us the ability to pass the law; it was challenged in court; and the Missouri Supreme Court upheld it, giving us authority to do this,” he said, adding that the business organizations challenging the law are the ones causing confusion.
“We did everything deliberately and transparently,” Slay said.The fast-tracked state legislation would nullify the city's increase and prevent local entities from passing their own hikes. It's already passed the House, but awaits debate in the Senate. A report released Wednesday by the National Employment Law Project found that workers in St. Louis lost an estimated $35 million in wages they would have gotten since October 2015 if the city's increase hadn't been blocked in a legal challenge. Analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data, the report found those wages would have gone to more than 35,000 low-wage workers in St. Louis.
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