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IN SESSION: Minimum wage constitutional amendment advances

Measure to hike wage via ballot now heads to the Senate floor

February 13, 2014, 10:00 am
By Matthew Reichbach
A proposed constitutional amendment that would increase the minimum wage is heading for a vote by the full Senate.

The bill passed on party-line vote Wednesday with virtually no deabate at the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday evening.  All Democrat members voted for the legislation and all Republicans voting against.

The bill was, however, amended to make things slightly more palatable to those who might on the fence about the measure. In addition to some technical changes, the bill would cap the annual increase at four percent, change the minimum wage for tipped employees to 30 percent of what non-tipped employees would make and give businesses a longer time between when the state calculates the new minimum wage and when the new minimum wage goes into effect.

Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, a sponsor of the legislation, said there was some "give and take" on the joint resolution.

He was happy to see it clear the committee so easily.

"I was pleased to see it go through," Soules told SFR. "We worked really hard to get it this far and I'm pleased to see it continuing to move."

Sen. Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque acknowledged that a lot of debate was not needed on the legislation.

"I think we know how we're going to vote on this," Payne said of the proposed minimum wage increase.

Perhaps because it was late at night -- past 9 pm -- and the committee still had more bills to hear, they didn't belabor the point.

"I think the [Republicans] realized that they weren't going to change any minds," Soules said. "And so they let it move on."

"And it's late, everybody's tired," Soules told SFR with a laugh.

Sometimes it's good to have a bill considered early in an agenda, he says, "because everyone's ready to go. But sometimes being the later one's when people are all spent and they're done with their arguing."

The bill uses the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, to calculate how much of an increase will take effect. The original bill called for calculating the increase in May of each year and put it into effect at the beginning of July. The amendment gives it six months between the calculation and the implementation.

"It gives the businesses a longer period of time in order to prepare for the increase that they have to pay," Soules explains.

This is the same way that Albuquerque calculates its minimum wage increase and similar to how the city of Santa Fe calculates its annual minimum wage increase. Santa Fe uses the CPI for Western states to calculate its annual increase.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor, where Soules is hopeful it will be heard soon.

"I think this is an important issue and we have to get it off of our plate so the House can deal with it," Soules said. "And a 30-day session, time's a runnin'." The session is scheduled to end on Feb. 20.

 

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