Senator wants to stop the minimum wage for workers at schools and people under 18
The minimum-wage increase passed by more than two-thirds of Arkansas voters in the November election would be partially undone by legislation filed Wednesday by state Sen. Bob Ballinger, a Republican.
Democrats on Wednesday quickly denounced the plan as an effort to sidestep voters.
“It is a direct affront to the will of Arkansas voters who overwhelmingly wanted to see a minimum-wage increase,” said Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville. “I guarantee when Arkansas voters voted in favor of a minimum-wage increase, they intended that for all Arkansas workers, including, for instance, the aides in our children’s kindergarten classrooms.”
The Arkansas Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers to amend any part of an initiated act, and Democrats currently make up about a quarter of both the House and Senate.
However, Ballinger said his bill — which expands upon the definitions of “employee” and “employer” that were not changed by either wage increase — might not be affected by the two-thirds requirement.
Rep. Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, a former teacher at Central High School, said that exempting schools and preschools from the minimum-wage law could drive qualified people in those professions to work elsewhere. “Minimum wage should be minimum wage, it should be for everyone; I don’t think we should start excluding people,” McCullough said. Read more of John Moritz coverage at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette >>>
After the boost from $8.50/hour to $9.25/hour Jan. 1, the state wage increases to $10/hour in 2020 then $11/hour in 2021.
The author of the constitutional amendment, attorney David Couch, said Ballinger’s bill guts the 2018 law and the minimum wage increase voters passed in 2014. Couch argues both measures received nearly 70 percent of the vote.
One of Ballinger’s Democratic colleagues in the House also weighed in.
“The people of Arkansas voted overwhelmingly in support of the minimum wage in the last election,” said St. Rep. Fred Love, D-Little Rock. “Our job as legislators is to represent the people of this state and to make sure their will is carried out. While I am sensitive to the needs of small businesses, this bill is reaching too far and would go against the will of the voters. The minimum wage is good for Arkansas families and good for our economy. The legislature shouldn’t support bills that will take money out of the pockets of Arkansans.”
Rep. Love serves as the vice chair of the House City, County, Local Committee. Ballinger’s bill will begin in the Senate City, County, Local Committee and have to pass through the House committee to make it to the full House and Senate for a vote. Read more of Jessi Turnure’s coverage at KARK >>>