- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A bill to prohibit Alabama cities from raising the minimum wage - and roll back Birmingham’s planned increased to $10.10-per-hour- advanced out of legislative committee on Thursday.

The House State Government Committee voted out the bill in a 10-3 vote that broke along party lines.

The Republican-backed bill is on the legislative fast track as Birmingham seeks to expedite a minimum wage increase approved last year for all workers within the city limits. Democrats said the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 keeps working families in poverty, while Republicans said the city’s planned increase is bad for economic development.

“We’re not debating whether the minimum wage should be raised. The issue is: can one city do it with their council and have other cities stay on a different one. It causes all sorts of problems,” House Speaker Mike Hubbard said.

Legislators and the Birmingham City Council are in something of a race in trying to implement the raise by March 1 or block it.

The City Council this month voted to move up the first increase $8.50-an-hour from July to March 1. The wage would rise to $10.10 by July 2017. Hubbard said the House will vote on the bill Tuesday, putting it in line for Senate approval before March 1.

Alabama has no state minimum wage and uses the federal minimum of $7.25.

Rep. Darrio Melton, D-Selma, said the current minimum wage guarantees that children are raised in poverty. Melton said it is a myth that most low-wage workers are teens. Most are adults with children or senior citizens, he said.

“Big businesses are making money. The people who are working the jobs are not making any money,” Melton said.

Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, criticized Birmingham’s action in moving up the raise date, saying that gave little notice to businesses.

Democrats are expected to filibuster the bill Tuesday, but it has strong GOP support with 50 Republican House members signed on as co-sponsors.

Birmingham City Councilwoman Sheila Tyson said Faulkner may not see many people making minimum wage in his affluent suburban district, but the city is filled with such workers, some she said that have to choose which utility or necessity they will pay for each month.

“They are the working poor,” she said.

Otis McGuire, human resources director for Piggly Wiggly grocery stores in Birmingham, told the committee that the business is struggling with thin profit margins.

“We are not opposed to a wage increase, but we look at the amount of the increase, $10.10, it would be right at 40 percent,” McGuire said after the meeting. He said most of the store’s workers do not make minimum wage, but that it would put upward pressure on the entire pay scale.



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