Senate panel essentially kills youth minimum wage proposal

April 8, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona Senate panel on Monday added a supermajority vote requirement to a Republican legislative proposal allowing lower minimum wages for young workers attending school, a move that essentially kills the proposal.

The Senate Rules Committee decision came after the panel’s own lawyer echoed opinions by the attorney general and two other legislative lawyers that the measure required a three-fourths vote to pass.

All four cited the Voter Protection Act, which prevents lawmakers from changing voter-approved laws unless they have a supermajority vote and “further the purpose” of the law.

Republican Rep. Travis Grantham’s bill would have let full-time students under 22 earn the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Arizona’s minimum wage is now $11 an hour, after voters approved a series of wage increases in 2016. State law exempts only employees who are family members or do casual babysitting in a private home.

Grantham has said the bill was needed to let small businesses hire more workers and give workers more job opportunities. It was backed by numerous business groups, including the state restaurant association and multiple Chamber of Commerce groups.

Minority Democrats scoffed at the measure, saying there was no way it could further the purpose of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the latest measure. Senate minority leader David Bradley Monday said the attorney general’s opinion, released last week, was the death knell for the proposal. Democrats were concerned if this proposal passed, other minimum wage carve-outs would soon emerge.

“It’s pretty rare for the attorney general to pipe in,” Bradley said. “If he went to that length, it’s significant.”

Senate President Karen Fann said she has no plans to put the bill up for a vote unless it has a chance to pass. And with all 13 Senate Democrats opposed, there’s no way that can happen.

“Personally I think the bill stinks,” she said.