- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota House has taken a step toward giving the state sole authority over whether to hike the minimum wage or require sick leave, a move opponents say strips local control from cities in favor of state businesses.

The Republican-controlled House passed the bill following hours of debate Thursday, mainly along party lines. The legislation blocks local minimum-wage measures and paid sick-leave ordinances set to go into effect this summer in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The bill has generated fierce debate over workers’ rights versus business needs in Minnesota. Supporters say the legislation would end a confusing and costly patchwork of ordinances in Minnesota cities.

“We want to catch those bad guys, and make sure that the businesses playing by the rules don’t get punished,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, who wrote the bill. “We also want to have a thoughtful conversation about what it is people are trying to accomplish here with these ordinances.”

The bill’s opponents say efforts to improve working conditions - like requiring paid sick leave - improves the lives of working people, even if it’s done in a piecemeal, city-by-city way.

“Advocates for this bill keep saying that it’ll create a patchwork quilt of different regulations all over the state,” said Rod Adams of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “But as we know, the lives of workers of color are just a patchwork quilt, working two to three jobs to just patch together income, to just make ends meet.”

A similar measure is headed for the state Senate.

Garofalo said he expects Gov. Mark Dayton to veto the bill as is, but that he hopes a compromise with the Senate would add better wage enforcement or other measures that Democratic legislators and Dayton could agree on.

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