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Government

Missouri High Court: Let Kansas Citians Vote On Higher Minimum Wage

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Elle Moxley
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KCUR 89.3
Kansas City workers rally in September 2015 for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Missouri law bars setting local wages higher than the state minimum, $7.70 an hour.

The Missouri Supreme Court says Kansas City voters deserve a chance to weigh in on a higher minimum wage.

Last fall the City Council declined to put a minimum wage hike on the ballot because it would’ve contradicted state law.

“We often try to make sure before we’re putting something on the ballot it’s something that could be legally enacted in Kansas City, Missouri, thereafter,” Councilman Quinton Lucas says.

But Lucas, a lawyer, says Tuesday’s ruling turns that thinking on its head.

“We can’t really do that pre-ballot analysis,” Lucas says. “Instead, we just need to throw it out there and see if there’s some challenge thereafter.”

Lucas says he’s already heard from the community that supports a higher minimum wage that they want to see it on the ballot in April.

“We not only need to digest this quickly but understand what it means in connection with our charter very soon,” Lucas says.

The deadline to set ballot language is Thursday.

Kansas City’s charter allows initiative petitions, which citizens have used to try to get everything from transit to marijuana on the ballot. In the past, the Council has blocked initiatives that were likely to violate Missouri law.

Lucas says the ruling might require the Council to revisit some of those decisions.

According to city spokesman Chris Hernandez, Kansas City’s Law Department is reviewing the ruling and will soon advise the Council on next steps.

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

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