The Tuesday Count: Minimum wage could be hot topic on 2014 ballots

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December 3, 2013

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Edited by Brittany Clingen

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52 measures for 2014

Minimum wage (News)
Direct democracy (Spotlight)

Minimum wage on the ballot
November 5, 2013 proved to be a red-letter day for proponents of increasing the minimum wage. In New Jersey, voters approved a statewide ballot measure that increased the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour and guaranteed future annual adjustments based on inflation. On the west coast, in the city of SeaTac, Washington, a measure that increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour for certain workers was approved by the narrowest of margins. New Jersey and Washington voters were not the only ones watching with bated breath on election night; both of these measures were largely seen as referendums on how voters feel about increasing the minimum wage, and with multiple minimum wage petitions circulating for 2014 statewide ballots, people all over the country were paying attention.

There are currently five states - Alaska, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, and New Mexico - that have petitions circulating in an attempt to land a minimum wage measure on the 2014 ballot; a South Dakota measure is already certified. The issue of minimum wage increases on the ballot is further complicated by the fact that there are other statewide efforts, as well as one at the federal level, to tackle the issue. In addition to the ballot measure efforts, four other states - Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota and Hawaii - have coalitions that are campaigning for a higher state minimum wage.[1] Support for increasing the minimum wage is also coming from state legislatures. In Massachusetts, for example, the Senate approved a minimum wage bill in a 32-7 vote on November 19, 2013, just one day before signatures for the ballot measure were due to be filed with local registrars for certification. The proposed bill would increase the minimum wage from $8 to $11 per hour by 2016, whereas the ballot measure, if approved in its current form, would increase the minimum wage to $10.50 within two years.[2]

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2014 Count
Number: 52 measures
States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

It's unclear what course of action the Massachusetts General Court will take, as they will likely have the opportunity to vote on both the bill and the measure. However, supporters of the ballot measure applauded the Senate's action, saying, "As we prepare to deliver the final round of signatures to city and town clerks to raise the minimum wage and provide earned sick time, we want to extend our sincerest thanks to the entire Senate, especially Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth & Barnstable) for her leadership to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts. This is tremendous news for all low-wage workers…We are also pleased that the Senate has voted to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers. All Massachusetts workers have earned this chance to get closer to a living wage." If the General Court takes no action on either the bill or the initiative, supporters could use the measure as a backup plan and send the question straight to voters.[2]

According to a Gallup poll, 76 percent of Americans support a minimum wage increase from the current rate of $7.25 per hour. United States Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015 and implement annual cost of living adjustments. Miller explained his support of the Federal Fair Minimum Wage Act, saying, "Income inequality is one of the greatest threats to America's long-term economic vitality, yet we are widening that inequality with wages that subject people to live in poverty. Even during a so-called 'golden age of corporate profits,' millions of working families are falling behind because their paychecks aren't keeping up," Miller said. "That's immoral and that's undermining our economy."[3] However, those opposed to increasing the minimum wage fear that doing so would harm small businesses and cause employers to lay off workers in an attempt to recoup costs brought on as a result of the higher minimum wage.[4] Only one thing seems certain at the moment: all eyes will remain on New Jersey and SeaTac.


Mystery shrouds a new San Jose petition effort to re-legalize styrofoam:

It looks like San Jose voters will get a chance to repeal the law banning polystyrene containers - commonly called styrofoam - that was passed by the city council in August of 2013. It remains a mystery, however, how exactly the referendum petition seeking to re-legalize the use of styrofoam was so successful, submitting 38,592 signatures, which is nearly double the required number. So far no persons, organizations or corporations have stepped forward to take responsibility for funding or backing the petition effort. The petition forms were signed by Jade Vo, of San Jose. A person of that name has an LinkedIn account describing herself as a "independent contractor" for the California Restaurant Association, which was one of the chief opponents to the law banning styrofoam. But neither the California Restaurant Association nor Jade Vo responded to calls seeking comment and no connection between the two has been proved.[5]

Moreover, once the Santa Clara Registrar of Voters began verifying signatures, there were many allegations of deception with regard to this petition effort. Reportedly many who signed the petition have called the office of the city clerk and said that they were told they were signing a petition to ban styrofoam instead of to legalize it.[5]

City Clerk Toni Taber said that while the allegations of deception are being looked into, the measure will likely go to the ballot because judges tend to side with signature gatherers when complaints about petitions are brought forward, allowing the issue to be sorted out by the voters at the ballot.[5]

In wake of late term abortion ban, two city officials propose increasing city initiative requirements:

Closely following the defeat of the Late Term Abortion Ban Initiative by voters in a special election on November 19, 2013, City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter have proposed a measure that would increase the difficulty of qualifying an initiative for the city ballot. This idea is partly in response to three ballot initiatives that the editorial board of the Albuquerque Journal claim were badly worded and provided nothing but a waste of time and hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money when put to the vote. Of these three the late term abortion ban is only the most recent. The proposed measure would make additional restrictions on the initiative petition process in the city and would likely require a greater number of signatures. Currently only 20 percent of the average turnout during the last four regular city elections or 20 percent of the turnout in the last election, whichever is greater, is required to put an initiative on the ballot. For 2013, this number amounted to only 12,091 signatures in a city of more than 500,000.[5]

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard