KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More than a dozen people asked Kansas City lawmakers to create a law that “could” allow the state to sue our city. Supporters want the city to raise minimum wage, regardless of whether implanting that change violates state law.
Things got hot at a City Council committee meeting Wednesday afternoon. The topic: an ordinance that would raise city minimum wage from $7.65 to $10 an hour, beginning September 1. It would also raise that number to $15 an hour by 2021.
A councilman moved to send the article to full council and it was seconded, but the committee chair tabled it for one week because he said it needs more time to go through the vetting process. That’s where it got heated.
“When the state statute says no city shall, that’s pretty clear language. When I have an opinion from the city attorney saying that this is illegal for us to pass it, that’s pretty clear,” committee chair Ed Ford said.
A supporter who testified before the committee challenged him by saying, “Do you know what you’ve done? You’ve got it so the business community is here next week. They were not here today this man right here. He’s the only one happy [points to a man opposed to creating the new law].”
The discussion between the two men continued. “Here you’ve got two folks on your committee asking you to do this, you’ve got people out here asking you to do this and you do it because of one consideration, the business community,” the supporter continued.
“No sir, I did it because this is illegal. I did this because this is illegal,” Ford replied.
Councilman Jermaine Reed says lawmakers are able and obligated to take on this moral issue.
“We are supporting the institution of a living wage for person in our city who are struggling every single day to make ends meet,” he said.
City attorney Bill Geary’s arguments weren’t about whether or not people deserve that raise. Instead he said it’s a legal matter.
“Our ordinance would say all of what the state permits is illegal. That’s a basic preemption. That state’s minimum wage law is a preemption in my opinion, of what we’re trying to do here. It says we may not mandate a minimum wage. At all,” Ford said.
It’s a risk Reed, other council members, and supporters say they’re willing to take. When FOX 4 asked Reed who would pay for such an increase, he said, “Those are a number of questions we’ll have to continue looking at. When it relates to that. And I think we’ll have some additional answers next week since this has been held and we’ll be able to work through getting a concrete answer.”
FOX 4 is working for you and will attend next week’s City Council meeting. Check back for updates.