ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge on Tuesday began weighing a business-backed lawsuit that seeks to stop St. Louis from incrementally raising its minimum wage, ultimately deciding whether it’s legal for the city to have a wage higher than what the state commands.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer deferred an immediate ruling after hearing two hours of debate over the lawsuit’s request for a permanent injunction that would halt the phased-in increase from beginning Oct. 15, when the minimum wage in the city is to rise 60 cents to $8.25. The measure signed in late August by Mayor Francis Slay calls for the minimum wage in St. Louis to reach $11 an hour by 2018.
Ohmer, who said without elaborating that he would decide the matter quickly, stressed his ruling would not discuss the merits of the minimum wage but instead address the new St. Louis ordinance’s constitutionality, calling the topic “a very volatile issue in many ways.”
Groups that include the Missouri Chamber of Commerce are suing, challenging the legality of St. Louis’ actions and insisting the increase would hurt business.
Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature last month voted to overturn Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto on a measure banning municipalities from enacting higher minimum wages or employment benefits than the state, meaning cities no longer have the option to hike those wages on a local level. But an exception in the law that takes effect later this month allows wage ordinances on the books before Aug. 28 to stay.