Councilman Quinton Lucas On Minimum Wage: Council Needs To 'Correct Our Past Mistakes'

Mar 3, 2017

Councilman Quinton Lucas says Kansas City needs to act to raise the minimum wage — now. 

In the past few weeks, the debate over raising the minimum wage is Kansas City has been revived. Here's a quick overview of what's happened so far:

Back in 2015, a group of petitioners successfully got an ordinance on a November ballot that would raise the minimum wage in Kansas City to $15 by 2020. But before voters had a chance to decide, the Missouri Legislature enacted a law that bars cities from enacting a minimum wage that's higher than that set by the federal or state government, so Kansas City removed the ordinance from the ballot.

At the same time all of that was going on, the Council passed a compromise ordinance that would raise the minimum wage to $13 by 2020. But the city council killed that ordinance around the same time as the initiative petition was blocked.

But earlier this year, the Missouri Supreme Court said Kansas City's charter required the city to put the issue before voters, because it was brought to the council by a citizens' petition initiative. It didn't matter whether the ordinance could be challenged if it were passed — it was the city's responsibility to put the issue before voters. 

So the city council, after some back and forth with petitioners, decided to place the ordinance on the August ballot. 

On Tuesday, the high court also ruled that St. Louis could raise their minimum wage. It argued that the state cannot bar a city from raising the minimum wage above the state's. This seemingly clears the way for Kansas City's minimum wage ordinance. 

But Missouri Rep. Dan Shaul (R) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would make that wake hike illegal. 

Lucas says the council should take action before they're potentially preempted by the state. 

"Not even worry about the August election, pass an ordinance that basically accomplished what the minimum wage increase vote would do," Lucas says. 

He plans on re-introducing an ordinance on the floor next Thursday that would raise the minimum wage to $13 — the same ordinance approved by the council in 2015.

Elaborating in a Facebook post, Lucas says they're already been discussing the issue for years. 

"There's no need to wait and see. It's hard to ask a person actually working each day to get out of poverty to just keep waiting," he writes. 

He also says that the council should not use the law, or potential actions by the state legislature as a defense against "doing what's right."

"[The] Council now has the opportunity to correct our past mistakes."

Lucas thinks he has the support of a majority of his colleagues in the council. A few weeks ago, when councilman Jermaine Reed attempted to get the minimum wage ordinance on the April ballot, he had seven votes — just two shy of the majority he needed. 

Lucas thinks they can secure the last two before next week. 

Lisa Rodriguez is the afternoon newscaster and a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig