ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota Senate Thursday passed a controversial bill banning cities from setting their own minimum wage and sick leave policies.
That’s after Minneapolis passed a law requiring local businesses to raise the minimum wage for their workers to $15 an hour.
Business leaders say it’s unfair for cities to set wage and sick time policies for their workers, but it’s raising a serious question: Should the state preempt cities from taking any action?
Workers in Minneapolis were slated for a phased in $15 minimum wage beginning July 1, and other cities may require businesses to also offer paid sick time.
But none of it will happen if lawmakers stop local governments from creating what they say could be a confusing patchwork of different labor laws.
“We have 853 cities and 87 counties in the state of Minnesota. Let me repreat that: 853 cities and 87 counties,” Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said.
For critics, it’s the ultimate city smackdown by the state. Demonstrators wearing surgical masks to symbolize sick workers carried signs, urging a no vote at the State Capitol.
On the Senate floor, lawmakers — many of them former local elected officials — said preempting cities from setting their own policies sets a dangerous precedent.
“As a former mayor, we hate to be told what to do,” Sen. Matt Little, DFL-Lakeville, said. “Not once in my four years as mayor, not once did I call St. Paul and say ‘Hey, what is the best thing for Lakeville to do?’ Not once did I do that.”
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton won’t say whether he’ll sign or veto the measure if it gets to his desk, but he did express strong concern about the state stepping into to local government policy.
The governor also said at the very least, workers should be able to earn a minimum wage that allows them to support a family, which he says is a minimum of $12.50 an hour.