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St. Louis judge strikes down city’s minimum wage increase

ST. LOUIS – A judge struck down an ordinance to increase the City of St. Louis’ minimum wage to $11 an hour in the eleventh hour Wednesday night.

The minimum wage increase was struck down 22nd Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer, who sided with the plaintiffs in the case, a group of pro-business organizations including the St. Louis and Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

Ron Richard 2015
Senate Pro Tem. Ron Richard

Ohmer ruled that a city could not enact an ordinance that conflicted with state law. Senate Pro Tem. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, agreed with that assessment.

“We have laws on the books for a reason, and this was an obvious overreach of power by the city,” Richard said in a statement. “Having municipalities unilaterally raising the minimum wage would create a great deal of uncertainty for businesses, particularly small businesses, would make our state look less attractive to potential businesses and hamper much needed job growth.”

In September, Richard oversaw the final vote to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of HB 722, better known as the “Bag Bill,” which prohibited ordinances by political subdivisions. The bill originally prohibited cities from banning plastic bags, but it later also focused on preventing cities from enacting minimum wage increases. The passage of the bill led to the failure of a similar measure in Kansas City just after veto session.

A previous law from 2006 also prevented such wages, but Republican-dominated legislature designed the new bill to reiterate that cities could not reiterate state law.

Supporters of both increases have lamented the decisions at the state level, claiming that wage increases are essential to stimulate consumer spending and provide people with a livable wage.

“Today’s ruling only benefits the wealthiest few who pushed legal action, while making it harder for parents to put food on the table for their children,” Richard von Glahn, a representative of Missouri Jobs with Justice, said. “The increase passed by the Board of Aldermen in St. Louis reflects a growing consensus that the crisis of poverty wages needs to be addressed at every level in our economy and we thank the City’s elected officials for their continued leadership on this.”

However, opponents of these ordinances claim they would drive business owners, especially small business owners out of the areas the wage increase is meant to revitalize.

“State law controls how much an employer must pay an employee,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri, in a statement. “No local government has ever had the authority to issue an ordinance that directly violates state law. We believe the court made a correct decision.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed the ordinance Aug. 28 and it was immediately signed by Francis Slay after they did. Slay stated after the ruling that the city would appeal the decision.