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Kansas City Minimum Wage Ordinance Repealed, Council Backs Statewide Effort

The Kansas City Council on Thursday grudgingly repealed the minimum wage ordinance it passed in July. 

The council instead endorsed efforts to get the minimum wage increased at the state level.

Council members unanimously said the repeal did not indicate abandonment of the minimum wage cause, and that the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Missouri General Assembly.

Mayor Sly James told a council chamber packed with minimum wage supporters, “We didn't think we could do what you were asking us to do. We did it anyway.  Now we've had a court tell us, 'You can't do what you are trying to do.' And we can't ignore the court.”

The ordinance, originally brought to the council by the organization Stand Up KC, ran into multiple problems from the start. 

Initially, the city attorney had advised the council that the city probably did not have the power to pass its own minimum wage legislation, which Missouri law defined as the province of the state and federal governments.

But some argued that if that was a too strict interpretation, the gap until a new state law specifically forbidding local minimum wage ordinances could take effect provided a “window” in which the city might be able to act.

The council passed a plan would have increased the local minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020. 

However, a state court struck down a St. Louis minimum wage ordinance based on the original Missouri law. 

Also, the new, more specific law was passed through an override of Gov. Nixon's veto. That law is currently facing a constitutionality challenge.  Several council members said if it should be found unconstitutional they will bring up the matter of a local minimum wage again.

Four council members voted against the repeal on principle, to show support for constituents who had pressed for the higher minimum.

All 11 council members present voted for a resolution supporting efforts to get the state legislature to raise the minimum wage statewide.

Steve Bell is afternoon news anchor and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or at steveb@kcur.org

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