Aug 31, 2017 – Weekly Capitol Update

LAW BLOCKING LOCAL MINIMUM WAGES TAKES EFFECT

A new Missouri law blocking local minimum wages that are higher than the statewide minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.70 an hour, took effect on Aug. 28. That could end up being a temporary setback for advocates of a higher minimum wage with an effort underway to ask Missouri voters to ultimately raise the statewide minimum wage to $12 an hour.

During the final minutes of the 2017 legislative session in May, the Republican-controlled General Assembly enacted HB 1194 to preempt local minimum wage ordinances. As a result, the new law nullifies St. Louis’ citywide minimum wage of $10 an hour and also blocks a ballot measure Kansas City voters approved earlier this month that sought to gradually increase that city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.

But a campaign group called Raise Up Missouri is circulating initiative petitions to directly ask voters to increase the minimum wage. Under the group’s proposal, Missouri’s minimum wage would initially increase to $8.60 an hour, with annual hikes of 85 cents per hour until 2023 when the state minimum wage would be set at $12 an hour.

If the petition drive is successful, voters would decide the wage measure at the November 2018 general election. The effort has been endorsed by St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Columbia Mayor Brian Treece.

The last time Missouri voters were asked to increase the minimum wage was in November 2006 when Proposition B passed with 76 percent support. That measure increased the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.50 an hour. It also required the minimum wage to be adjusted annually for inflation, resulting in periodic increases that to date have pushed Missouri’s minimum wage to $7.70 an hour.

 

GALLOWAY OFFERS WAY TO REPORT WASTE, FRAUD OR ABUSE

State Auditor Nichole Galloway is encouraging state employees to anonymously report waste, fraud or mismanagement of taxpayer dollars through her office’s whistleblower hotline after a new state law took effect on Aug. 28 that eliminates legal protections for employees who report workplace wrongdoing.

“Whistleblowers must be able to raise concerns about government mismanagement without fear of losing their jobs,” said Galloway, a Democrat. “As the state’s only independent watchdog, I want to make sure we are able to shine a light on misuse of taxpayer dollars. Missourians deserve better.”

The Republican-controlled General Assembly eliminated whistleblower protections as part of Senate Bill 43, legislation passed last spring that also makes it significantly harder for victims of illegal discrimination to hold the perpetrators legally accountable. Democratic lawmakers unanimously opposed the bill.

Those with information to report may contact the State Auditor’s Whistleblower Hotline by emailing [email protected] or calling 800-347-8597. Concerns may also be submitted anonymously online at auditor.mo.gov/hotline.