Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Democrats win court challenge to GOP effort to weaken minimum wage law, micromanage cities

PHOENIX, State Capitol The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled today that a 2016 effort by Republican legislators and Gov. Ducey to weaken Arizona's voter-approved Minimum Wage Act was unconstitutional.

The Court upheld a challenge by Democratic lawmakers, UFCW and several local city council members to House Bill 2579, which would prevent cities and counties from regulating nonwage benefits like sick leave, vacations and severance pay.

"Arizona voters have said more than once that they want a decent minimum wage, and they want to keep that right – and other voter-approved laws -- beyond the reach of legislators who seek to take us backwards," said House Democratic Co-Whip Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen. "This ruling is a win for working families and voters. It was also a message to our Republican colleagues to stop micro-managing local governments."

Under Proposition 202 (the Minimum Wage Act), which voters approved in 2006, Arizona employers must pay employees at least the current minimum wage. A group of Arizona Democratic lawmakers, including Bolding, filed suit, arguing HB 2579 violated Arizona's 1998 Voter Protection Act, which requires the Legislature to have a 75-percent majority to undo any voter-approved initiative.

A Superior Court judge agreed with the legislators and enjoined enforcement of HB2579. The State appealed, but on Tuesday, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's ruling.

From the Court's opinion: “The Minimum Wage Act specifically empowered counties, cities, and towns to regulate benefits, which we have found to mean nonwage benefits. H.B. 2579 explicitly prohibits what the Minimum Wage Act permits, and thus, the two statutes cannot be harmonized. Because H.B. 2579 impliedly amends and repeals a portion of the Minimum Wage Act, it violates the [Voter Protection Act’s] express limitations on legislative changes to voter-approved laws.”


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