Panel votes to change wage initiative

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted Friday to change the voter-approved initiative raising Nevada's minimum wage by $1 an hour, removing what union officials say is the most important part of the proposal.

The amendment recommended by Chairman Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, raised the increase to $1.25 an hour.

But it removed a provision indexing future increases in the minimum wage to the inflation rate.

"The critical issue here is not the amount but the CPI (Consumer Price Index)," said Danny Thompson, head of Nevada's AFL-CIO.

Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, agreed. "If you don't adjust things by CPI, they don't keep up," she said.

AB87 goes to the Senate floor for a vote and Buckley said she expects it will end up in a conference committee to try to resolve the differences.

But if the proposal doesn't pass through the Legislature in the same form it was approved by voters in November, it will be put on the next general election ballot and, if approved again, become law despite the lack of legislative approval.

So Townsend's amendment would also create a competing ballot question that would put the $1.25 an hour increase in statute if the initiative fails to win voter support.

Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, said he believes that would require a resolution which, at this point in the legislative session, would require a waiver from himself and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. Perkins said he has no interest in approving that waiver, which would block that portion of the Commerce and Labor amendment to AB87.

Nevada's minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. It has been at that level since 1997, even though Thompson noted gas prices and all other costs a family must bear have increased substantially since then.

Buckley said the fact the Senate plan would raise the minimum $1.25 an hour, while the initiative would raise it $1 an hour, might win some votes from people who don't understand the importance of the inflation issue.

But Thompson said he thinks people will understand once it is explained, and approve the version they approved at the last election.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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