Idaho House Declines Discussion on Minimum Wage 

click to enlarge - Adrienne Evans, of United Action for Idaho, was disappointed the Idaho House didn't take up discussion of HB 400. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Adrienne Evans, of United Action for Idaho, was disappointed the Idaho House didn't take up discussion of HB 400.

In a last-ditch effort to address Idaho's minimum wage, House Democrats moved to pull HB 400 from the House Ways and Means Committee for discussion on the House floor.

Rep. Sue Chew (D-Boise) made the initial motion and Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise), author of the bill, spoke to the importance of raising the state's minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.

"The merits of this bill are crystal clear," he said.

HB 400 would raise the state's minimum wage to $8.25 per hour effective July 1, 2016 and again increase it to $9.25 on July 1, 2017. Beginning Sept. 30, 2018, the minimum wage would be pegged to the federal consumer price index.

The bill had been held since Feb. 1 in the House Ways and Means Committee, which meets at the discretion of its chair, Rep. Christy Perry (R-Nampa).

House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Rusche (D-Lewiston) pointed out that the minimum wage issue is of statewide importance and has already been addressed in the Idaho Senate.

"To not allow discussion [of HB 400] is in error," he said.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star) did just that, moving to keep the bill in committee. Moyle's motion passed 56-14.

With mere days left in the 2016 Idaho legislative session, it's unlikely the bill will again reach the House floor—a reality that was not lost on the 50 or so supporters of the bill, who had filled the House Gallery. Outside the chambers, Adrienne Evans, of United Action for Idaho, urged the crowd to continue to take action in support of raising Idaho's minimum wage and address those in the House who'd voted to keep the measure in Ways and Means.

"Pull them aside and tell them how disappointed you are," she said. "People are dying. People are starving."

Two of Idaho's neighbors have already raised their minimum wages—Washington and Oregon—with Seattle adopting a $15-per-hour minimum wage. According to Fortune, both Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx have also raised their minimum wages.

The issue has long been of interest to labor unions and other stakeholders, but critics say upping wages could be a job-killer, though states that have raised their minimum wages have experienced above-average increases in job growth.
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