JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The House Rules Committee on Friday introduced a bill to raise Alaska’s minimum wage, which if passed, could prevent a similar initiative from appearing on the August primary ballot.
HB384 would increase the minimum wage of $7.75 an hour by $2 an hour over two years and adjust it for inflation after that.
An initiative can be pre-empted if the Legislature passes substantially similar legislation. That happened in 2002, and a year later, lawmakers gutted the law.
The head of the state’s largest labor union last week told lawmakers his organization would fight any attempts to pre-empt an initiative vote. A sponsor of the ballot initiative, former state labor commissioner Ed Flanagan, said he feared history repeating itself.
“I think Alaskans can certainly see what’s going on here, and we will be doing our best over the next 16 days to make sure they’re aware what a phony deal this is,” Flanagan said.
The Legislature is currently scheduled to adjourn April 20.
House Speaker Mike Chenault, who sits on the House Rules Committee, said lawmakers had been talking about the issue. “It’s an issue on Alaskans’ minds, and we think maybe it is time to take it up,” he said.
Chenault said the Legislature, at times, should take action to pass legislation citizens would like to see.
In 2002, the Legislature pre-empted a proposed initiative by passing a bill to raise the minimum wage and allow it to be adjusted for inflation. The measure also said the minimum wage should be either the most recent wage adjusted for inflation or $1 more than the federal minimum wage, whichever was greater. But a year later, lawmakers removed the inflation adjustment requirement and reference to the minimum wage being $1 higher than the federal level.
The Legislature in 2009 passed a measure stating that, beginning in 2010, the minimum wage had to be at least 50 cents more than the federal minimum wage. That’s where it stands today.
Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen contributed to this report from Anchorage.