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Supreme Court upholds minimum wage raises in St. Louis


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The city of St. Louis won a major case at the Missouri Supreme Court when the bench ruled unanimously the city could keep its minimum wage increase statute passed by the Board of Aldermen in August 2015.

A circuit judge struck down the minimum wage increase in October of that year after the Missouri General Assembly passed a bill written by Rep. Dan Shaul in the 2015 veto session that banned minimum wage hikes from municipalities.

But the Supreme Court voted overwhelmingly to allow the city to keep its minimum wage hike ordinance. Judge Laura Denvir Stith issued the unanimous decision, with Judge Zel M. Fischer providing his own concurring opinion. Stith cited 1998’s HB 1636 as an example of a bill trying to expand its original intention, which is a Hammerschmidt violation. While the bill originally dealt with the creation of community improvement districts, the minimum wage provision was added later.

“This late addition to the HB 1636 provides a clear example of the legislative logrolling that article III, section 23 is intended to prevent,” Stith wrote. “It contains more than one subject because its minimum wage provision does not fairly relate to its original purpose… This Court finds that the core, original purpose of HB 1636 relates to the establishment, proper governance, and operation of community improvement districts. The provisions that support this controlling purpose are independent of the minimum wage amendment – indeed, that is why the section is invalid.”

Fischer added his own opinion because he the statute was passed before Shaul’s bill became law.

“Even if other statutes generally preempt local minimum wage ordinances that exceed the state minimum wage, such preemption would not control in this case because [R.S. Mo.] 285.055 specifically provides that certain local minimum wage ordinances,
including Ordinance 70078, are not preempted,” he said. “As this case concerns only Ordinance 70078 specifically, whether other statutes validly preempt local minimum wage ordinances in general is irrelevant.”

Stith and Fischer’s full opinions can be read below. The story continues after the break.

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The court case was a win for progressive St. Louisans who have wanted to see the minimum wage raised in their city. Mayor Francis Slay stated on Twitter that plans were already underway to begin implementing the law, including a grace period for employers to comply with it. The ordinance will raise the minimum wage within St. Louis City to $11.00 per hour, and it was supposed to be gradually implemented to the level by 2018.

“We are very happy with the Supreme Court Justices’ decision to uphold our minimum wage increase,” Slay said in a statement. “The increase will help lift hard working men and women out of poverty so that they will be able to better provide for themselves and their families. There is dignity and value in having a job – even more so in one that helps a worker put a roof over her head, food on the table, and save a little for a child’s future college education or an emergency medical need.”

Meanwhile, President of the Board of Alderman Lewis Reed released a statement praising the Supreme Court decision. The mayoral candidate noted in press release that he had called two executive sessions for the Board of Aldermen to vote on the ordinance.

“Increasing our minimum wage means empowering more people to make the best decisions for their family, about retirement, going back to school or having children,” Reed said. “ It helps people to lift themselves up and to get out of debt. Most of all, more money gives working people more time for their families and their community.”

Reed also pointed out mayoral frontrunner, Alderwoman Lyda Krewson did not vote on the measure, but she did offer the amendment to the bill to lower the final minimum wage to $11 from $13.

“The minimum wage bill that passed the Board of Aldermen was actually offered as an amendment by Alderwoman Krewson,” Krewson spokesman Ed Rhode said. “She voted yes to perfect that bill but wasn’t able to attend the meeting for the final vote. Any reasonable person would believe that she would vote yes for her own amendment.”

Alderman Antonio French, another candidate for mayor, voted against the measure.