- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A push by civil rights and religious leaders to increase Kansas City’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 ran into resistance this week when the city attorney warned that Missouri law prohibits cities from mandating any level of pay that exceeds the state minimum wage.

Still, supporters of City Councilman Jermaine Reed’s proposal told the council’s Planning, Zoning and Economic Committee on Wednesday it was the city’s moral duty to approve the increases - even if they’re challenged in court, The Kansas City Star reported (https://bit.ly/1MC7P9K ).

“The pain and the misery of working poor people just can’t wait,” Vernon Howard, executive vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, told the committee.

The measure would require Kansas City employers to pay $10 per hour beginning Sept. 1. The wage would rise to $11.25 on Sept. 1, 2017, and then by $1.25 per hour each year for three years until it hits $15.

The state’s current minimum wage is $7.65 per hour.

Finding a way to lift people out of poverty “is one of the most important topics of our time,” committee member Scott Taylor said.

The committee postponed a vote for at least a week after City Attorney Bill Geary said state law doesn’t allow the increase and committee chairman Ed Ford said he wanted more assurance that the city could prevail in court.

“To pass something just to have it struck down, I’m not sure what that accomplishes,” Ford said.

Though other cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have approved phased-in minimum wage increases, Geary noted those states don’t forbid cities from adopting their own laws.

If the Kansas City Council doesn’t act, supporters of the proposed law said they will collect signatures to put an initiative petition on a city ballot. They said they would want the city attorney to advise them on a way to craft the ballot language in a way that would survive a court battle.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com


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