Whether it's political strategy or part of the bureaucratic process, the wait for a possible veto fight over D.C. legislation that raises minimum hourly wages at large retail stores could stretch to summer's end.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Thursday that the bill — which requires his signature before the mayor can officially endorse or veto the legislation — still has not yet reached his desk. There are no guidelines that determine when a bill passed by the council must be sent to the mayor, but the chairman hinted in an interview on NewsChannel 8 that a lengthy process could be a strategic advantage.
"There are council members on both sides of the issue who told me they are traveling during the month of August," said Mr. Mendelson, noting it would be difficult for members to return on short notice to override a potential mayoral veto.
The Large Retailer Accountability Act — which the D.C. Council passed July 10 by an 8-5 vote — requires that large retailers meeting specific requirements pay a minimum hourly wage of $12.50, an increase of $4.25 over the city's minimum wage. Anxiety is high over this particular legislation because Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has threatened to abandon three of its six planned D.C. stores if the bill stands.
D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has not said whether he will sign the bill into law but once the legislation is officially transmitted, he has 10 days to make up his mind. The D.C. Council could override him with a total of nine votes, but would have to do so within 30 business days.
If approved by the mayor, the bill would be subject to an obligatory 30-day congressional review period, a bureaucratic process that would be slowed by the summer recess of Congress.
"There is nothing to be gained by hurrying up here," Mr. Mendelson, a Democrat, said.
Wal-Mart has used the extra time to ratchet up its public relations campaign. In almost daily statements issued since the bill's passage, the company has boasted about improvements new stores have brought to communities across the country and attacked statements made by those who promoted the bill.
On Wednesday, Mr. Gray chided Mr. Mendelson for the delay, saying he hadn't expected to have so much time on his hands to consider the bill. In the meantime, the mayor has met with residents and business representatives with interests on both sides of the matter.
Mr. Mendelson, who supports the bill, said that because the mayor has previously served as chairman he should know better than to expect the bill to have been immediately transmitted. Bills have to be reviewed for any technical corrections before an a version for officials to sign is enrolled.
"The mayor used to be chairman of the council and he knows not all bills get to the chairman's desk within a week or two weeks or even three weeks," Mr. Mendelson said.
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