Debate continues over prohibiting city minimum wage increases

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Hearty debate ensued Tuesday afternoon as the House of Representatives took up a resolution from Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) to urge Congress to improve the vetting process for refugees entering the country and allow for states to reject those refugees.

Despite widespread opposition among Democrats, including Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) who noted that a resolution eliminating the sales tax on groceries would be a better use of time, the resolution passed.
The first item on the agenda was the “Uniform Wage and Right-to-Work Act” from Rep. David Faulkner (R-Jefferson), which prohibits cities from increasing the minimum wage. The bill is in response to Birmingham’s recent vote to incrementally raise its minimum wage to $10.10 over three years.

“We want to keep this state a pro-business, Right-to-Work state,” Faulkner said. “This bill will help to do that. This bill does not set, does not place a minimum wage level. It does preempt local efforts that attempt to raise the minimum wage and to provide other benefits.”

Rep. Mike Hill (R-Shelby) was first to speak in favor of Faulkner’s bill, saying ” he was going to “start this filibuster off properly.” Hill noted that if one city is allowed to raise its minimum wage it will force others to do the same and create perpetual competition among municipalities.

“I don’t know that I want to call this a filibuster as much as I want to call it an understanding of what we’re doing,” said Rep. A.J. McCampbell (D-Marengo).

McCampbell’s opposition stemmed from the fact that Alabama legislators as a whole have, historically, held significant disdain for the overreach of the federal government. But, in McCampbell’s opinion, the state government is doing the same thing to city governments.

“If you believe in home rule, then you have got to believe in home rule,” McCampbell said. “But if you believe a legislative body has more smarts than the people in these little cities, then we don’t need to be proclaiming and protesting when the federal government says ‘We are so much smarter than the people of AL.'”

Rep. Juandalynn Givan (R-Jefferson) also rose to object to Faulkner’s bill, saying that the bill had no sponsor “who knows what it means to suffer, who knows what it means to be poor.”

“Shame on you and shame on these sponsors,” Givan added.

Faulkner clashed with a slew of Democrats for two hours before hearing his second word of support from Rep. Ed Henry (R-Morgan), who expressed appreciation for the bill and the stability it will provide to Alabama law.

“I’m looking forward to seeing exactly how we manage the future if politics trend the way they have over the last 8 years,” Henry said. “If we don’t have this bill, there are people in Jefferson County who will lose their jobs and it will continue in a downward spiral that I can’t understand why people fight for.”

The House is expected to motion for cloture after 5 p.m.

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