clear
Wednesday May 6th, 2015 10:31AM

Minimum wage bills pushed in at least 30 states

By The Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Minimum-wage increase proposals are getting the maximum push from Democrats in statehouses in more than half of U.S. states, highlighting the politically potent income inequality issue this year.

Lawmakers in at least 30 states are sponsoring or are expected to introduce wage hike measures, according to a national review by The Associated Press. They hope to notch state-level victories as President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats remain stymied in attempts to raise the federal minimum wage above $7.25 an hour. The president is expected to mention the minimum wage in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

Even in Republican-dominated capitals where the bills are longshots, the measures still give Democrats a chance to hammer home the popular theme of fair wages in what is an election year in most places.

"It's a no-brainer for any Democrat," said Neil Sroka, a strategist for progressive groups who is communications director at the Howard Dean-founded Democracy for America. "Congress is failing. They can take real action right in the states and have a demonstrable impact right here at home. For politics and policy, it's a winning strategy."

Minimum wage is a perennial issue that has taken on a higher profile amid the slowly recovering economy and growing public debate about income inequality. A Quinnipiac University poll this month found 71 percent of Americans in favor of raising the minimum wage - including more than half of Republicans polled.

Michael Sargeant, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, calls it an "organic issue that's bubbling up from the grassroots." But it's also being pressed by politicians and labor unions. Democrats challenging Republican governors have taken up the issue, and there are ballot initiatives in several states.

"We are facing a huge income gap that only continues to widen, where the workers at the top see large wage increases and the workers at the bottom are at a standstill. That needs to change," said Massachusetts Democratic Senate President Therese Murray.

Five states passed minimum wage measures last year, and advocates hope that number will grow as states from New Hampshire to Washington consider proposals. Many would push families above the federal poverty line, which is $15,730 for a family of two. In Iowa, a bill would hike the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. A Rhode Island bill would raise it from $8 to $9. And a year after New York approved a multiyear minimum wage hike, Assembly Democrats introduced another bill for 2014 sponsored by Labor Committee Chairman Carl Heastie of New York City that would accelerate the increase.

Labor unions and other advocates point to workers like Andrew Lloyd, who cleans the cabins, bathrooms and cockpits of airplanes between flights at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City for $8 an hour. With a wife and 1-year-old, he relies on food stamps to help stock the refrigerator and his paychecks barely cover diapers and other needs of his daughter. He said he can't afford a new pair of socks for himself.

"It's not enough. What we're making is not enough to support," Lloyd said. "There's just no way they can justify what is going on is right."

Opponents, many of them Republicans, argue that the higher wages translate into fewer jobs and higher consumer costs. So wage hike bills in Republican-controlled legislatures, like Florida and South Carolina, are not expected to pass. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said the claim that working families need the boost to make ends meet makes him "cringe, because I know that statement is a lie."

"Even if we did raise the minimum wage, working families will still not be able to make ends meet on those jobs," Scott said. "We need good jobs that lead to good careers for our families, and that's what I am focused on."

Already, a Democrat-backed bill to increase Indiana's minimum wage by $1 was blocked by majority Republicans on a party-line vote Tuesday.

Win or lose, the legislation gives Democrats a potential weapon against Republican opponents. Eddie Vale, a Democratic strategist with close ties to labor unions, said Republicans who oppose a wage hike will face fierce criticism.

"There's a lot of people in this state that are making the minimum wage that are voting Republican right now," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Tennessee, where they plan to introduce a minimum wage bill this year. "Maybe if they see that they don't have their best interests in their heart, they might change their minds."

There's hope that success will breed more success. Vale, a top adviser at the Democratic super PAC American Bridge, said the thinking behind the push is to get things started at the state level, where lawmakers come into more direct contact with their constituents. Once state legislatures start moving, it will lend momentum to a federal expansion.

In Minnesota, Rep. Ryan Winkler said as the debate spreads to more states, lawmakers might be more comfortable boosting the wage floor in his state.

"It's not peer pressure, but it's safety in numbers," Winkler said. "It makes people feel like this is a mainstream thing to do."
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 4 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 4 months ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 4 months ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 4 months ago )
Politics
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 week ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Clinton kicks off 2016 campaign online, heads next to Iowa
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champi...
7:56PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Hall, White, Jefferson schools recognized nationally for use of technology
Three school districts in northeast Georgia - Hall, White, and Jefferson - have received national recognition for their use use of innovative technologies. They earned top spots in the Center for Digital Education's and the National School Boards Association's 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey.
By Staff
1:00PM ( 3 weeks ago )
US Capitol lockdown lifted after man fatally shoots himself
WASHINGTON (AP) — A precautionary lockdown of the U.S. Capitol was lifted after about two hours Saturday following a suicide by a man carrying a protest sign.The man died after shooting himself on the...
6:15PM ( 3 weeks ago )