Advocates have called for a higher minimum wage in Kansas City. On Thursday, the Kansas City Council declined to put a minimum wage petition initiative on the April ballot. The petitioners may go to court to try to qualify for an April election. File photo by Rich Sugg rsugg@kcstar.com
Advocates have called for a higher minimum wage in Kansas City. On Thursday, the Kansas City Council declined to put a minimum wage petition initiative on the April ballot. The petitioners may go to court to try to qualify for an April election. File photo by Rich Sugg rsugg@kcstar.com

Government & Politics

KC Council declines to put minimum wage increase on April ballot

By Lynn Horsley

lhorsley@kcstar.com

January 19, 2017 05:44 PM

UPDATED January 19, 2017 06:22 PM

The Kansas City Council declined Thursday to put a minimum wage petition initiative on the April ballot.

Thursday was the last day for the council to adopt language for the April 4 ballot. But the petitioners said they may still go to court to try to qualify for the April election.

The new ballot language seeks voter approval to raise Kansas City’s minimum wage to $10 per hour this year and by $1.25 per hour annually after that, to $15 per hour in 2021.

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The flurry of council activity was prompted by Tuesday’s Missouri Supreme Court ruling that ordered the city to put the minimum wage petition on a local election ballot. Under council rules, it would have taken nine council members Thursday to advance the measure, but the council vote was only 7-6 in favor of advancement.

Council members voting for the advance were Teresa Loar, Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed, Katheryn Shields, Lee Barnes, Alissia Canady and Scott Taylor. Council members voting against were Scott Wagner, Heather Hall, Dan Fowler, Jolie Justus, Kevin McManus and Mayor Sly James.

Fowler, an attorney, said he voted against the advance because he didn’t want to do something so important in such a rushed fashion. The council will have more time to prepare a measure for the August ballot.

The petition initiative first surfaced in 2015, but a Jackson County circuit court judge ruled it should not go on the November 2015 ballot because state law clearly prohibited Kansas City from adopting a higher minimum wage than the state-set level, which is $7.70.

The Supreme Court said Tuesday that regardless of state law, the petitioners had met the Kansas City charter’s procedural requirements for a petition initiative. So their measure must go before local voters, but it still remains to be seen whether that will be in April or August.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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