A House committee rejected a proposal Thursday to let local governments set their own minimum wage, opting to keep that power in the hands of the state.
A bill by Representative Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans) would have stripped a 1997 law that restricts parish and municipal governments from establishing their own minimum wage.
“This bill lifts the restriction," Representative Duplessis told members of the House Labor committe, "only to give the authority and autonomy to local government that they can exercise the option to go above $7.25.”
$7.25 an hour is the current minimum wage set by the federal government, which Louisiana follows since the state doesn’t have a minimum wage of its own.
Governor John Bel Edwards has been pushing the Legislature to set and raise the state minimum wage since taking office three years ago, but has yet to gain enough support from lawmakers.
Duplessis says the local bill is a direct response to the Legislature’s unwillingness to address a statewide minimum wage, but he also believes locals are the best equipped to handle the issue.
"There’s no debate that the wages that we make in New Orleans don’t go the same distance that they do in New Roads or New Iberia or anywhere else that we might live,” he said.
The legislation received support from city councils in Shreveport, Alexandria and New Orleans. The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council did not back the effort.
Supporters say raising the minimum wage would make workers more financially independent and more likely to stay in their jobs.
But business groups oppose allowing locals to set their own minimum wage for the same reasons they oppose the policy statewide. They argue an increase to the minimum wage would result in job losses.
“The chaos that would be created particularly for employers that operate in more than one locality would be untenable," said Jim Patterson, with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.
The bill was rejected in committee on a party line vote of 9-6.
A separate constitutional amendment that would let voters decide if a state minimum wage should be set at $9.00 an hour is still making its way through the Senate. That bill is expected to be heard on the floor next week.