JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon of legislation aimed at preventing local governments from raising minimum wages has left Missouri cities in murky legal territory over whether such ordinances are allowed under current law.
The Friday veto comes at a time when city officials in St. Louis and Kansas city are weighing whether to adopt higher minimum wages. But city leaders, opponents of higher minimum wages and others are at odds over whether those actions would even be legal.
The bill vetoed by Nixon would have brought clarity to the situation, clearly outlawing such ordinances passed after Aug. 28. But without such guidance, those for and against higher wages are left to grapple with conflicting interpretations of a contested state law.
At issue is a 1998 law that banned counties and cities in the state’s most-populated counties from enacting minimum wages higher than those set by the state. The ban did not appear to apply to towns in many of Missouri’s rural counties.
The law underwent scrutiny after St. Louis voters in August 2000 approved a local ballot initiative requiring a higher “living wage” to be paid to employees of any entity with a city contract of at least $50,000, or any entity receiving at least $100,000 of economic development incentives from the city.
Business associations and other opponents challenged the local law in court and were partially successful.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Robert Dierker struck down the “living wage” ordinances on several grounds, in part because he said it was unconstitutionally vague. But he said the 1998 state law barring higher local minimum wages violated the state constitution based on procedural concerns about how the measure was passed by lawmakers. However, he did not directly rule on the law’s constitutionality.