116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - A Linn County group of more than a dozen elected officials, residents and other vested individuals has begun the conversation on a possible countywide minimum wage increase.
Much of Thursday's discussion - the group's first formal meeting - was aimed at establishing goals and identifying what data members would want to see at future meetings.
For Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, the first question that needs to be answered is whether or not a countywide ordinance, which goes against state and federal rule, is even legal.
'The first thing I'd like to at least find out is why Johnson County felt they had jurisdictional authority to set the minimum wage, when many people have the opinion this is a state government issue and should be addressed at the state level,” he said.
While Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness opined the move is legal under the basis of home rule, Iowa City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes has questioned whether the ordinance would hold up in court.
So far, Johnson County's ordinance has not been challenged in court.
Rogers said the legality of a minimum wage ordinance is one of many issues the study group needs to discuss, along with the total number of county residents making a minimum wage, what exemptions would be included and what the impact on social service providers might be if an ordinance passes.
The group hopes to host presentations from legal officials, a Johnson County Supervisor and any others with expertise on the matter.
The working group is not a policy-making body and any potential increase to the minimum wage would need to be taken up by the Linn County Board of Supervisors.
Also at Thursday's meeting was Polk County Supervisor Robert Brownell, who said he was interested in seeing the Linn County working group's process.
'We're interested to see how this goes,” he said.
Brownell said his county of more than 450,000 residents - which he said has about 7,000 residents making a minimum wage - has no current plans to create their own study group, but said addressing poverty is a bipartisan issue in his county.
'I think it's safe to say, D's and R's both, we want to see poverty reduced,” he said.
Discussions of a Linn County working group began after Johnson County's Board of Supervisors passed a minimum wage ordinance - which will phase the wage up to $10.10 in 2017 - last fall. The wage increased from the state $7.25 an hour to $8.20 in November and will reach $9.15 in May.
Several present at Thursday's meeting said they felt Johnson County's approach lacked proper communication with city officials, business owners and social service providers.
City officials within Johnson County have echoed this sentiment.
'We were really watching with interest what was happening in Johnson County,” Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers said. 'In order to not repeat those steps, we created this minimum wage study group.”