Waging War on the Local Minimum Wage


As more cities pass minimum wages, a reactionary trend seems to be taking hold in some state legislatures.  

On March 22, Idaho became the latest state to ban county and municipal governments from establishing local wage requirements. The bill automatically became law after Gov. Butch Otter (R) did not take action in the five days after the measure was sent to his office.

Idaho was the second state to place a ban on local wage requirements this year. Alabama passed a similar law in late February.

In Idaho, no city or county wages were in effect at the time of the law’s passage, although voters in McCall rejected a minimum-wage ballot measure  in November. 

Alabama was a different story. In 2015, Birmingham passed a minimum wage that was to take effect in  July 2016.  In response, a bill was proposed to the Alabama legislature that would ban all city and county governments from creating minimum wages higher than the level observed by the state.

Birmingham responded to the proposed bill by moving up the wage’s effective date to March. Then, on Feb. 23, the Birmingham City Council again moved up the effective date, this time to next day, Feb. 24.

The Birmingham minimum wage was in effect for one day before Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed into law the bill that not only banned cities and counties from creating their own minimum wages, but also voided any wages already in effect.

Birmingham has not decided whether to challenge the ban in court, Brittany Sharp, Birmingham City Council’s Director of Public Information, told Bloomberg BNA on March 18.

Bills to Watch

The Virginia legislature passed a bill March 1 that would ban cities and counties from establishing wages higher than the state.  The bill was sent to the Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who has until midnight April 10 to take action. McAuliffe vetoed a similar bill March 11 that would have prohibited local governments from setting wage and benefit requirements for government contractors.

In addition to Alabama and Idaho, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin have limited city and county governments’ authority to establish wage or benefit requirements.

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