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Minimum wage restriction passes through House

Emergency clause passes by the skin of its teeth

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The House voted to pass a bill which would bar St. Louis, Kansas City, and other municipalities from raising their minimum wage above the state level, but not without a slight hiccup.

When the House began voting for an emergency clause, several Republican representatives either voted against the emergency clause or did not vote at all. Since an emergency clause requires approval from two-thirds of the body (109 votes) to succeed, it looked as if Republicans would not be able to muster quite the number needed to put the law into effect immediately.

Eventually, most of the Republicans who voted ‘no’ began switching to ‘yes’ as a growing contingent of legislators from both sides of the aisle surrounded the desk of Rep. Mike Moon, who had not yet cast his ballot. After much discussion, Moon stepped out into the House Lounge with multiple representatives, came back in and cast a ‘yes’ vote.

As soon as his name turned green on the board, Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr gaveled the vote at 109-48 to pass the emergency clause.

Moon, who is no stranger to voting against his caucus on some issues, said, in the end, he voted through the emergency clause because allowing the bill to go into effect by Aug. 28 could drastically harm some businesses.

“As a business owner you have to determine what your costs are and what you have to take in to pay your staff and keep the lights on and for someone else to come in and say, you have to pay minimum here,” Moon said. “It could put some businesses in situations where it would be an unjust burden on them.

“And for an employee to get a three-month raise and then have it go back down… I don’t think we ought to tease them like that either,” Moon, R-Pine Grove, said.

He also said Democratic arguments that the emergency clause on this bill was unconstitutional. Rep. Jon Carpenter and Rep. Bruce Franks managed to make that argument to him and hold up the vote for roughly 15 minutes.

While neither the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Chipman, nor Richardson personally talked to Moon, Richardson said Moon’s eventual decision was not particularly important.

“I understand Rep. Moon was the last person who voted, but 108 other people voted for this bill,” Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said. “I think the focus on Rep. Moon here might be a little bit overblown.”

However, Moon was the deciding vote on the emergency clause.

Another day of long debate

Rep. Jason Chipman
Rep. Jason Chipman
While the debate on the third reading of Chipman’s bill did not take as long as Wednesday’s four-hour perfection debate, Democrats and Republicans still argued for nearly two hours on the legislation.

Chipman said the bill would give St. Louis businesses assurance they would not be punished for violating state law if they chose to pay the state minimum wage in St. Louis.

“This is going to bring some certainty to businesses when they’re budgeting and trying to plan ahead of them,” Chipman, R-Steelville, said. “It won’t imprison them or fine them for following state law, and it will provide them with an environment where they’re able to provide new job seekers who need that first step in the economic ladder a chance to achieve them, without burdening them with expensive regulations.”

The bill was created and passed through the chamber in just over a week, a fast move through the lower chamber by most metrics. The Missouri Supreme Court case which disallowed two minimum wage ordinances from last week gave many Democrats in St. Louis and in the legislature hope the city would see Missouri’s first minimum wage increase. Many Democrats voiced their frustration the bill was being passed so quickly and without regard to local control.

“We talk about the oppression of the federal government on the state, and we’re getting ready to intrude on local control. It’s hypocrisy,” Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, said. “The line is jagged and it’s supposed to be straight.”

“The City of St. Louis Board of Alderman debated long and hard, on any controversial issue like this, there’s likely to be some opposition,” Rep. Fred Wessels, D-St. Louis, added. “They came to the decision this would be in the best interests of their citizens.”

However, Rep. Dan Shaul, who joined a bill on the same subject to Chipman’s bill, noted the House did things by the books and insisted the intent of the legislation was to protect business owners.

“What we did this week and last week was all within the rules of the House,” Shaul said. “Certainly it was quicker than most bills, but that doesn’t mean it was any less legitimate. It had public testimony, it received plenty of floor debate. I thought leadership on both sides of the aisle handled this in a very professional, passionate matter.”

Richardson backed up his caucus member.

“Obviously part of what we try to do here is have a certain landscape to operate,” Richardson said. “We’re past the midway point in session, so we felt it was a priority to get this bill moving to bring that certainty back to the landscape, but we’ve moved other bills with similar speed.”

Democratic leaders, including Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, and Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, said they would expect their respective cities to file lawsuits against the state on the bill. Kansas City Council voted to raise their own minimum wage just hours after the House vote.

It now moves onto the Senate.

Featured photo: Rep. Jon Carpenter (right) lobbies Rep. Mike Moon (left) to vote against an emergency clause on Rep. Jason Chipman’s minimum wage bill March 9, 2017.