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Minimum Wage Proposal May Roll Back Local Law

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Mike Mozart
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Those making minimum wage in ohnson, Linn, Polk and Wapello counties may see a decrease in wages if a Republican-backed bill in the Iowa House of Representatives is passed into law.

A minimum wage law passed through committee in the House of Representatives at the state legislature this week.

"The bill in the House would prevent local governments in Iowa from passing higher minimum wage laws than the state minimum wage. As you know, four counties have done that," says IPR Statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell.

The state minimum wage is currently at the federal level, $7.25 an hour.

"The minimum wage part was kind of overshadowed," Russell continues, "because the bill actually goes much further than that, it tells local governments that they can't go stronger than state law on other things as well, not just the minimum wage."

That includes local civil rights ordinances that are stronger than state law. 

State Senator Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City, says the ban is in some ways an attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. In 2015, he was the only Republican to vote for a minimum wage increase. At the time, he argued it would create stability and help Iowa compete against neighboring states.

"You could see what was coming. There was some unrest with the minimum wage issue within the state. There were counties, including my county, Woodbury County, was talking about putting measures on the table about raising it independently. And what that really does is starts to create inconsistencies and uncertainty within the business community."

So, at the time, he broke with his caucus and voted with the Democrats for a bill that ultimately didn't pass.

"For as much grief as I took for that vote, all I was making a point is saying, 'I think it's unnecessary. We're creating hardship now, that didn't need to happen around an issue that we could have gotten in front of.'"

Now, Bertrand says, the issue has to be sorted out now.

"We let this happen and now it's got to be unwound. I think the Governor recognizes it. I think we recognize it, and, you know what, we've got all three bodies now. We got to make a move on it, and I think we will."

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River