Minimum wage issue goes back to the voters

Rejecting Senate amendments to an initiative ballot question raising Nevada's minimum wage, Assembly members agreed Saturday to send the issue back to the voters.

The petition raising Nevada's minimum wage $1 an hour to $6.15 was approved by more than two-thirds of those who went to the polls in 2004. That sent the question to the Legislature. If lawmakers also approved, the initiative language would become law.

But the Republican majority in the Senate didn't like parts of the petition tying future increases in the minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index of inflation.

"That doesn't take into account what might be occurring with the economy," said Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas.

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to remove the inflationary increases. To tempt voters into taking their proposal, the Senate committee raised the minimum $1.25 instead of $1 an hour.

Assembly Democrats who said that is contrary to the will of the people and would result in the minimum wage stagnating again like it has for more than a decade at $5.15 an hour. AFL-CIO state director Danny Thompson said the inflation index was the most important part of the petition Nevadans voted for because it does respond to the economy and raise salaries for those who make the least.

At a conference committee, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, made it clear indexing is important to the Assembly.

"Sixty-eight percent of voters supported it and we don't want to do anything to infringe on the will of voters," she said.

Hardy, representing Senate Republicans, said simply "we like our amendment."

Giunchigliani said in that case, they wouldn't waste lawmakers' time holding another conference committee. The two sides agreed the bill will simply die, which puts it back before voters at the next general election.

Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, supported the move, pointing out that "the constitutional amendment (ballot question) trumps anything else."

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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