116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Some local officials have declared a House proposal aimed at reinforcing statewide minimum wage and civil rights rules as a blatant attack on home rule.
The study bill, discussed Wednesday by the House local government subcommittee, would take away city and county authority to pass a minimum wage higher than the state's $7.25 rate. In addition, the bill aims to take away local governments' ability to adopt civil rights ordinances that go above and beyond the statewide standard or pass consumer merchandise ordinances, such as a ban on the use of plastic bags.
Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry described the proposed bill as a 'wolf in sheep's clothing” and a direct attack on counties such as Johnson, which has passed a the state's first countywide human rights and minimum wage ordinances in the state.
'It's pretty much a ‘screw you, Johnson County,' bill,” Carberry said. 'It's sneaky, it's not just pre-empting the minimum wage, the way it's worded eliminates almost everything we could do with home rule ...
. It's a total Trojan horse horse presenting itself as a pre-emption bill.”
Johnson County's minimum wage ordinance brought the local rate up to $10.10 last month. Future adjustments would be based on committee recommendations.
Linn County's minimum wage increased last month to $8.25 an hour and is slated to increase to $9.25 next year and reach $10.25 in 2019.
However, if signed by the Gov. Terry Branstad, the House proposal would eliminate all existing local ordinances and reestablish a statewide $7.25 per hour minimum wage ordinance.
Local rules such as Linn County's would be unenforceable, Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers said.
'If they strip our home-rule authority, I don't think there really is anything we can do - it makes our ordinance null and void,” he said.
Local officials such as Rogers and Carberry said they plan to watch the bill closely.
'We're going to fight like hell, we're going to fight it any way we can. If we have to file lawsuits to stop it, we'll do that,” he said. 'We fought for the minimum wage, we're going to fight to keep it.”
Meanwhile, business representatives applauded the bill as a way of establishing more clear statewide rules and eliminating a patchwork of ordinances - four Iowa counties have passed minimum wage ordinances higher than the state rule.
In addition to Johnson and Linn, Wapello County approved an increase to $10.10 in 2019, while Polk County's minimum wage will reach $10.75 an hour that same year.
Black Hawk County supervisors last month voted to create an advisory committee to study and make recommendations on a possible countywide minimum-wage ordinance.
Bill Peterson, executive director with the West Des Moines-based Iowa State Association of Counties, said he would prefer to see such decisions remain at the local level.
'Obviously there are some challenges with that approach. Cities within a county that might not want to go along with the minimum-wage ordinance could make it non-operative in their entities, so a city could overrule things within the boundaries of their city,” Peterson said.
'It's not perfect, but we are always supportive of our members attempting to do what they feel is right within their communities.”
l Comments: (319) 339-3175; email@example.com