KC VOTERS PASS MINIMUM WAGE HIKE DESPITE STATE LAW
With 69 percent support, Kansas City voters on Nov. 8 approved a ballot measure that seeks to bump the citywide minimum wage as $10 an hour effective Aug. 24 before gradually increasing it to $15 an hour in 2022. The move came in defiance of a 2015 state law prohibiting local minimum wages that are higher that the statewide minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.70 an hour. As a result, the already heavily litigated matter is likely to end up back in court.
The Kansas City proposal originally was slated to go before voters in November 2015, but city officials got a court order removing it from the ballot shortly after the state law pre-empting local minimum wages took effect in August of that year. Ballot measure supporters appealed that decision.
In January 2017, the Missouri Supreme Court ordered city officials to put the wage measure on the ballot. In its unanimous opinion, the high court said a circuit judge erred in striking the measure from the ballot since under longstanding legal precedent substantive challenges to whether a ballot measure meets constitutional or legal muster aren’t ripe until and unless the measure is approved by voters.
As originally enacted in 2015, the state pre-emption law contained a grandfather clause allowing higher local wages that were already in place as of Aug. 28, 2015, to continue. The St. Louis Board of Alderman enacted such an ordinance just under the wire, though opponents kept it tied up in court until February 2017, when the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the ordinance’s validity.
St. Louis’ citywide minimum wage of $10 an hour finally kicked in in May, but on the last day of the 2017 legislative session the Republican-controlled General Assembly granted final passage to a bill eliminating the grandfather clause in the state pre-emption law, thus nullifying the St. Louis ordinance. As a result, the minimum wage in St. Louis will revert to $7.70 an hour on Aug. 28 when the revised version of the law takes effect.
As with Kansas City’s new wage law, litigation seeking to preserve the St. Louis ordinance is expected.
LT. GOV ONLY STATEWIDE OFFICIAL TO TAKE LOBBYIST GIFTS
Lt. Gov. Mike Parson has taken $2,752 worth lobbyist-provided meals and gifts since taking office in January, making him the only one of Missouri’s six statewide elected officials to accept such largess, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Aug. 4. That overall amount included $1,350 worth of commemorative coins, the paper said, citing disclosure reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Before moving to the executive branch, Parson, R-Bolivar, served 12 years in the state House of Representatives and Senate, where the acceptance of lobbyist gifts is much more common. The lieutenant governor, however, is unique among Missouri’s executive branch elected officials in that he also serves a legislative function as president and presiding officer of the Senate.
Counting lawmakers, Parson ranked third among all state elected officials in the value of lobbyist gifts and meals accepted during the first half of 2017, coming in behind Republican state Sens. Brian Munzlinger of Williamstown and Paul Wieland of Imperial, who each benefited from $3,825 in lobbyist spending on them, the paper reported.
Legislation to sharply restrict the ability of state officials to accept meals and gifts from lobbyists was among the first bills passed by the House during the 2017 session. The measure ultimately died from lack of action in the Senate, as it has in previous years.
GOP RETAINS HOUSE, SENATE SEATS IN SPECIAL ELECTIONS
Republicans won a pair of special legislative elections on Aug. 8 to hold on to districts that have long been in GOP hands, with Sara Walsh narrowly prevailing in hotly contested race for a central Missouri House seat and state Rep. Sandy Crawford of Buffalo earning promotion to the state Senate.
Walsh will replace Caleb Jones of Columbia, who resigned his seat in January, just before he was to begin his fourth House term, in order to take a job on Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ staff. Crawford will serve out the term of Mike Parson, who resigned his Senate seat in January after being elected lieutenant governor. Both Walsh and Crawford will be up for re-election to full terms in 2018.
Crawford’s election to the Senate will require the governor to call a special election to fill her south-central Missouri House seat. Three other special legislative elections are already set for Nov. 7 to fill a Senate seat in eastern Jackson County and two House seats, one in Kansas City and the other in the Bootheel.
The newly elected lawmakers likely will be sworn in on Sept. 13 during the legislature’s annual veto session. With the new members seated, Republicans will outnumber Democrats 115-45 in the House, with three vacant seats, and 24-9 in the Senate, with one vacancy.