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Missouri House approves bill to quash ability of St. Louis, other cities to raise minimum wage

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Supreme Court is OK with St. Louis raising its minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018. Missouri lawmakers are a different story.

The House passed combined House bills 1194/1193 that would block St. Louis, Kansas City and other cities from boosting the minimum wage above the state’s, which is currently $7.70 an hour. That wage is adjusted for inflation every Jan. 1.

Republicans, including Rep. Warren Love of Osceola, say it will protect small business owners from going bankrupt. Love cited his own experience as a former restaurant owner.

"Folks, I'm here to tell you, the best way to get a pay raise is to show up early and to work harder," he said. "The less government could get involved in these issues (the better); it should be between the employer and the employee."

But Democrat Karla May of St. Louis blasted the GOP for pushing the bill through.

"It amazes me how many times people get up on this floor and talk about the intrusion of federal government on state government, yet and still we're getting ready to intrude on local government," she said. "It's hypocrisy! Come on!"

Should the Senate sign off on the measure, it will take effect immediately after Gov. Eric Greitens signs it. That's because Republicans added an emergency clause to the bill, which further irked Democrats.

"The real emergency is the murder rate, drug trafficking rate, and high youth violence in the city of St. Louis," said Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis.

His city’s 2015 ordinance ran into legal roadblocks initially, but the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously last month that cities have the right to order businesses to pay a higher minimum wage. A similar push in Kansas City must be voted on, the court has said.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay lobbied against the legislation earlier this week in Jefferson City.

“Seven dollars and 70 cents an hour, that’s just $16,000 a year, that’s just isn’t enough. Not even close,” Slay said.

Upon being asked about Republicans’ arguments for the bill, he expressed frustration.

“That is absolutely ridiculous, that is a wrong argument, it’s a bad argument and as a matter of fact it’s been disproved time and again by studies. The vast majority of studies will show that raising the minimum wage does not negatively impact businesses or jobs,” Slay said.

Democrats tried to add language to the bill Wednesday that would have gradually raised St. Louis’ minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2010, but it failed along party lines.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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