- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - It’s unclear whether Gov. Dennis Daugaard will sign a measure to exempt South Dakota’s youngest workers from the $8.50 minimum wage voters approved in November, the governor’s administration said on Thursday.

The state Legislature has approved the measure, which would carve out a $7.50 minimum wage for people under 18. Daugaard’s spokeswoman said in an email that he wants to review the plan before deciding whether to sign it.

Republican Rep. Justin Cronin said on the House floor the proposal would help minors get jobs and learn from more experienced colleagues.

“It allows the opportunity for young people to come into a workplace,” Cronin said. “This allows an opportunity for a business owner to start a youth in a workplace environment where they can learn from people who are doing the … jobs.”

South Dakota residents voted 55 percent to 45 percent in November to raise the state’s minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour, which went into effect on Jan. 1. The measure increased the $2.13 hourly wage that tipped workers earned to half the minimum wage and tied future increases to the cost of living.

The $7.50 youth wage in the bill wouldn’t be subject to future cost of living increases.

Opponents of the proposal said it goes against the voters’ wishes and should be shot down. Democratic Rep. Karen Soli said the bill “is a rejection of the will of the voters shown so decisively this past November.”

Cronin said a youth wage wasn’t discussed during the ballot question campaign ahead of the election.

Republican Rep. Lance Russell said he opposed the minimum wage hike that voters approved, but he thinks going against the people shouldn’t be done lightly.

He also highlighted Republicans’ strong hold on the Legislature.

“I think when we have supermajorities of the party that didn’t bring (the ballot question), we have to be very careful not to appear to do whatever we would like,” Russell said. “It is a very dangerous precedent for us to simply overturn the will of the people.”

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