New Missouri law stops plans for Kansas City pay hike, bans other local minimum wage increases

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JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — A new Missouri law blocking higher local minimum wages has stopped such efforts in Kansas City, although St. Louis still is moving forward with a recently adopted plan for higher pay, city officials said Thursday.

The Republican-led Legislature this week voted to overturn Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto on a measure banning municipalities from enacting higher minimum wages or employment benefits than the state, meaning cities no longer have the option to hike those wages on a local level. The bill also blocks cities from banning the use of plastic bags.

But there's an exception in the bill. Any such wage ordinances in effect before Aug. 28 can stay.

Elected officials in Kansas City and St. Louis rushed to raise wages before that deadline in case Republican lawmakers overturned Nixon's veto, which they did. The House voted 114-46 to overturn Nixon; the Senate 23-9.

Missouri's current minimum wage is $7.65 an hour and adjusts annually with inflation.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay on Aug. 28 signed a phased-in hike to $11 an hour in 2018. Slay spokeswoman Maggie Crane confirmed that the city "absolutely" was moving forward with plans to implement the ordinance, which is set to hike wages to $8.25 on Oct. 15.

It still faces a court challenge by businesses claiming the ordinance violates a 1998 law to ban local minimum wage variations in certain cities that's already in place but is legally disputed. The lawsuit also questions whether the city met the Aug. 28 deadline now in state law that requires ordinances to be "in effect" by that time, disputing that it was a so-called emergency measure.

Kansas City officials have conceded the defeat of a planned incremental increase to $13 an hour by 2020. The ordinance was adopted in July and the first increase to $8.50 an hour was set to take effect Aug. 24 until Missourians for Fair Wages — representing restaurant, hotel and other business associations in the state opposed to a hike — pushed for a public vote or for the city to repeal the measure, which delayed the minimum wage increase from taking effect.

City attorney Bill Geary said he plans to present an ordinance to the city council to repeal the current $13-an-hour ordinance, which he said never went into effect. He said officials also are working with election authorities to remove a separate activist-backed proposal for a minimum of $15 an hour from the November ballot.

"If minimum-wage workers in Kansas City are to receive an increase in their $7.65 per hour wages," Geary said in a statement, "they must look to their employers, the Missouri General Assembly, or a statewide initiative petition."

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