One tiny change made in a massive omnibus bill at the Legislature would nullify Minneapolis’ and St. Paul’s $15 minimum wage ordinances

Minnesota Senate
By changing a single date, from “2019” in the original bill to “2017” in the omnibus bill, the GOP-led Senate would cancel ordinances passed in Minneapolis and St. Paul to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Between the time a bill dealing with local labor laws was heard in a Minnesota Senate committee and when the proposal appeared in a large omnibus bill, a small change was made that could make a huge difference in its impact.

By changing a single date, from “2019” in the original bill to “2017” in the omnibus bill, the GOP-led Senate would cancel ordinances passed in Minneapolis and St. Paul to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The same language would preempt ordinances passed in those cities, as well as Duluth, that requires employers to let workers accumulate paid sick leave.

The date was the only change from when the original bill, SF 2321 — the Uniform State Labor Standards Act — was heard by and passed by the Senate’s Local Government Committee on March 13 and when it was incorporated into the large Jobs and Economic Growth omnibus bill drafted by the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth committee.

The original language of the bill noted: “This section is effective upon final enactment and applies to ordinances, local policies, and local resolutions enacted on or after January 1, 2019.”

But the Jobs and Economic Growth omnibus bill says: “This section is effective upon final enactment and applies to ordinances, local policies, and local resolutions enacted on or after January 1, 2017.”

The reason that date is so important: It was 2017 and 2018 when Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth adopted their ordinances to provide benefits to workers that exceed those required by the state. The state has a lower minimum wage adopted in 2014 but has no statewide statutory demand that workers be allowed to accumulate sick leave.

State Sen. Mark Koran
State Sen. Mark Koran
While there was testimony against the original bill in the Local Government Committee, none came from officials from the three cities. That was because the prime sponsor, Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, had said the measure wouldn’t cancel out the existing ordinances. Instead, it would apply only to cities that adopt similar regulation in the future. That made the hearing more philosophical than practical, with supporters and opponents arguing about the concept of local control versus statewide standards.

But Sen. Eric Pratt, the Prior Lake Republican who chairs the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth committee, which put together the Jobs and Economic Growth omnibus bill, said he wanted the existing ordinances to be addressed in the larger bill, since it is important to have uniform labor standards across the state, especially for employers who do work in multiple cities. “This is about having uniform labor standards across the state,” Pratt said.

DFL elected officials argue that the state wage standard is the floor — the minimum — and that cities should be able exceed that if they want. But Pratt has a very different view. “I believe the state is the standard,” he said. “We’re not the floor; we’re not the ceiling; we’re the standard.” 

“When we start talking about wage theft and safe and sick time and paid family medical leave, if the state is the floor you could have businesses having to comply with over 800 different rules and regulations depending on where their employee is,” he said. “As we were pulling it into our bill, it seemed appropriate that we make it retroactive to prior to when Minneapolis implemented their first labor ordinance.”

While some Republicans and some lawyers for businesses who challenged the Minneapolis wage ordinance in court thought the state already preempts local action, the state court of appeals disagreed, and in March it upheld the law. The Senate bill language states specifically that the state of Minnesota — and not local governments — has sole domain over labor standards.

Pratt takes issue with suggestions that he snuck the preemption language into his omnibus bill, saying that he briefed the DFL members of the committee on that and other changes ahead of time. It was also discussed in open committee before it was approved — and again when the bill was presented to the Senate Finance Committee. In fact, the existence of the preemption was one of the reasons Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Center, said she voted no.

“We had a good conversation when it went into the omnibus bill,” Pratt said. There was additional testimony and DFLers offered amendments to strip it out.  “I didn’t want this to be me trying to sneak something in.”

Yet the breadth of the language in the omnibus bill was news to St. Paul City Council president Amy Brendmoen, who said she heard her city’s wage and leave ordinances were at risk. “Allowing the municipalities to make these changes at the local level is almost like a pilot project,” she said. “We’re doing the heavy lifting in figuring out how to navigate timelines and rollouts and working with advocates and businesses to come up with a good plan. I would think they would welcome the opportunity to see how these things work on the local level if they’re not willing to make a statewide investment in our people.”

“Rather than seeking preemption and trying to micro-manage local government, especially the urban core like Minneapolis and St. Paul, maybe the state could spend its energy on a statewide effort,” she said. “It seems funny to try to roll backward rather than take what we’re doing and move it forward to the state level.”

Brendmoen said she would have testified on the issue had she known it was attempting to cancel out the St. Paul ordinances. “This has been a huge priority for Mayor [Melvin] Carter. I know it has been a huge priority for Council President [Lisa] Bender and Mayor [Jacob] Frey in Minneapolis. I am sure there would have been loud voices testifying, not only from the city government but from the advocates who worked hard to create these ordinances.”

While Pratt said he hopes the language will be acceptable to House DFL leaders and Gov. Tim Walz, the chair of the House Jobs and Economic Development Committee said that will not happen. “It’s obviously a negotiating ploy, some kind of a what-can-I-trade-for,” said Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s not coming back to this House.”

“The states are the laboratories of the national government and the cities are the laboratories of the state government,” Mahoney continued. “I don’t understand what the Republican caucus has against laboratory experiments unless they are against science.”

State Sen. Eric Pratt
MinnPost photo by Erin Hinrichs
State Sen. Eric Pratt, the Prior Lake Republican who chairs the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth committee, which put together the Jobs and Economic Growth omnibus bill, said he wanted the existing ordinances to be addressed in the larger bill, since it is important to have uniform labor standards across the state.
Taking issues like minimum wage to the local level has become a central tenet of local and national Democrats. It was seen as a way to overcome opposition to higher wages at the federal and state levels. Dozens of cities, counties and a few states have adopted something akin to $15 Now ordinances. A New York Times article this week said that U.S. workers on average have the highest minimum wage in history because of the drive for local ordinances.

At the very beginning of session, House Speaker Melissa Hortman was asked at a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce dinner whether she favored increasing pay and benefit requirements for workers. While she said her DFL caucus would introduce a paid family leave insurance plan, local governments have been doing the work that the state has not. “Cities have been leading because the state has not been leading; and that has pushed the issue forward,” the Brooklyn Park lawmaker said.

“Cities need to be allowed to innovate,” Hortman continued, citing as an example public smoking bans that began in cities. “We learned that it could be good for our local economies by seeing counties and cities take leadership first.”

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Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/26/2019 - 11:18 am.

    This article should be paired with one of the numerous articles talking about the problems in rural Minnesota. The Republicans who represent those areas do nothing to address those problems, and instead are fixated on interfering with what the DFL represented cities are doing.

    And the idea that you need consistency in minimum wage/sick leave as a reason to do this is beyond dishonest.

  2. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 04/26/2019 - 11:35 am.

    Grandstanding by Republicans as this will never pass the Housd or getting the Governor’s signature. Garbage like this makes a special session more like. My question is why Republicsnx are doing everything in their power to enrich millionaires and take back compensation working people need to buy houses, educate their children, afford their healthcare and enjoy their retirement.

    https://biblehub.com/matthew/25-40.htm

    • Submitted by Richard Steuland on 04/26/2019 - 11:33 pm.

      People are beginning to grasp the disdain these Republican politicians hold towards those they were elected to represent. Why? It’s the contribution of PAC monies. Rather the concerns of those who an pay to play are heeded. This represents a betrayal and is held in place by fear mongering, false piety and dishonesty. Trump is the leader of the RepublicanParty. His actions speak volumes and represent the practices of the GOP. So remember to weigh this next election. Do you want more dishonesty, give away to powerful interests, division, hatred or do you want accountability, transparency and the common good?

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/27/2019 - 10:43 am.

        For rural Minnesotans, I’ll wait for solid electoral proof that “People are beginning to grasp the disdain these Republican politicians hold towards those they were elected to represent.”

        While it should be very doable to peel off a few rural GOP seats, I doubt it will be very many. The politics of resentment is about owning the Libs, and sticking to my enemy. It’s not about actually doing anything for me.

        Twin Cities’ higher minimum wage and sick time ordinances make out state more competitive. But for GOP legislatures, they care more about serving employers by driving down wages. For their constituents, it’s more about sticking it to those Citiodts.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/29/2019 - 08:52 am.

          So much gloom and doom Frank?

          The DFL has held the House and Senate several time, in fact not so long ago. It’s reasonable to assume they can capture the Senate again. The problem is when the get into power they refuse to use it. I don’t think we’re seeing a sea change in rural MN voters, we’re just seeing frustration that no matter who gets into power, they don’t fix things. When the DFL ran the table during the first two years of Dayton’s regime, they dialed back his financial asks for spending because they were afraid of being called big government spenders. They left problems on the table our of fear that rural voters respond to “over-reach” by voting them out… and they got voted out anyways and rural voters got stuck with Republicans.

          I’ve never understood that fatuous political reasoning behind leaving problems on the table in order run on the premise that you didn’t do “too” much. Fix things, and run on being the guys who fix things… why is that so confusing? Did FDR ever say: “Well I could have created even MORE jobs but we don’t the government to get too big do we?”.

          • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/29/2019 - 10:12 am.

            Neither gloom nor doom here Paul. Why not both? An effective agenda and districts that favor Dems?

            If anyone doesn’t like it, direct them to John Roberts.

  3. Submitted by Mike Schumann on 04/26/2019 - 12:12 pm.

    We shouldn’t have these large omnibus bills at all. There should be a 10 page limit on any bill. That would solve a LOT of problems with stuff being forced down peoples throats that can’s stand on their own merits.

  4. Submitted by Leon Webster on 04/26/2019 - 12:42 pm.

    you know, I just detest people who claim they are in favor of pushing decisions to local levels except when they don’t agree with the local decisions
    .

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/26/2019 - 04:24 pm.

      Conservatives used to brag about how they were the principled ones. That train has long since left the station. Flip flopping on a decades long position in support of local control is just a small piece of the puzzle.

      They have no problem using whatever leverage they have to rig the game. Look at how the use lame duck sessions to defeat the will of the voters. They even contravene the will of voters as express in ballot initiatives, as witnessed in MI and FLA.

      And this week we witnessed the Supreme Court declare that the emperor has resplendent clothing, in the Census citizenship question case.

      This is why any state that has Democratic control of the legislature and governor’s office should ram through the most partisan gerrymander possible in 2021. Anything less is bringing a knife to a gun fight, which is the typical liberal playbook.

      • Submitted by stephanie snow on 04/26/2019 - 07:44 pm.

        Was never for gerrymandering but after the lowdown dirty tricks the Repubs kept pulling you might be right.

        • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/27/2019 - 10:36 am.

          Oh yes, the typical centrist response, “This is getting serious, we may have to do something, maybe take some half measures as long as no one get’s too upset.” When a tsunami is headed your way, you need to do more that put fresh batteries in your flash light.

          I suppose we could just “go high” while our democracy circles the drain, owing to a tyrant POTUS and a entire political party that is more than willing to enable him because, well, corporate friendly judges.

          Good Lord. A stolen SCOTUS seat, which lead to a stolen election, aided by the machinations of a hostile foreign power (invited by that same POTUS), lame duck legislatures and governors refusing to accept the will of the voters….and on it goes.

          Yeah, maybe we should do something.

          • Submitted by Tory Koburn on 04/28/2019 - 12:28 am.

            How was what Stephanie said a “typical centrist response”? She was basically agreeing with you.

            • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/28/2019 - 11:25 am.

              Leftie-Centrists typically agree that there is some sort of problem, but often are unwilling to seek a proper remedy. Stephanie say I “might be right”.

              Might be right? After a full decade of the GOP rigging the game I “might be right”?

              When the freedom to organize was under attack in GOP state capitals across the land, where was the Centrist-in-Chief? You know, the one who promised to put on those comfortable shoes and join the picket line. Where was that guy? AWOL, that’s where. He tsk-tsked from the Rose Garden while another nail was pounded into the coffin of the middle class.

              On the evening of Obama’s first Inaugural, McConnell swore a blood oath to deny him any victory at all, even if it hurt America. Voters denied a voice through gerrymandering. Lame duck legislatures hamstringing incoming democratically elected governors, attorneys general, and secretaries of state. Two stolen SCOTUS seats. McConnell telling Obama Admin officials that if they tell Americans the truth about Putin’s electoral interference he will lie to the public that they are only saying that to undermine the Don Trump campaign.

              And now I “might be right” that we need to use every tool at our disposal to save our democracy. Don Trump took over the GOP, but Trumpism had already taken it over. It’s not just Don Trump. He has an entire political party that sees nothing wrong with subverting democracy, and they ask what’s wrong with an American politician accepting stolen docs from a hostile foreign power.

              But yeah, maybe we should consider at some point possibly doing something about this. As long as the Hannity doesn’t get too upset. And those Wall Street guys in the Brooks Brothers suits that fund the DNC, don’t upset them either.

              You can’t offer centrist compromises to people who are destroying our democracy. Half measures are dangerous and naive.

              We are not that far from becoming Hungary.

    • Submitted by lisa miller on 04/27/2019 - 08:26 pm.

      You nailed it. And then we have to subsidize more housing for people whose large employers refuse to pay a decent minimum wage or won’t provide decent health care. The MN Republican Party lost the suburbs for a reason and this is an example.

  5. Submitted by Dee Ann Christensen on 04/26/2019 - 01:29 pm.

    Audacious and plain sneaky. The basis of a affective government is public confidence and that confidence is endangered when ethical standards falter. John Kennedy.

  6. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 04/26/2019 - 02:27 pm.

    Everyone who cares either about local authority to make these experimental efforts at the local level should contact their State representative and their State Senator, to tell them they want that part of the bill quashed.

    It’s insulting to all of us, when Republicans–or Democrats, who have been known to sin in this way–bunch this kind of sneaky, people-unfriendly thing in an omnibus bill that holds lots of other, necessary stuff.

  7. Submitted by Ole Johnson on 04/26/2019 - 02:57 pm.

    “Cities need to be allowed to innovate,” Hortman continued, citing as an example public smoking bans that began in cities. “We learned that it could be good for our local economies by seeing counties and cities take leadership first.”

    Uffda. What I remember about the smoking bans was that the early adopters all squealed because their business was going to neighboring cities/counties after the ban.

    The statewide smoking ban went into place to “level the playing field”

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 04/26/2019 - 06:19 pm.

      Uffda. You must have a poor memory because you are completely wrong. The early adopters proved that all the predictions about losing business were wrong, and those whining about it didn’t know what they were talking about. The smoking ban is exactly why we need to protect cities’ rights to make their own laws. The innovating cities demonstrated what a great idea the smoking ban was and the rest of the state followed shortly after.

  8. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 04/26/2019 - 05:48 pm.

    Ironically, Sen. Pratt is comfortable allowing local school districts to exempt themselves from certain state rules especially about teaching science and sex education and allowing local units of government to be exempt from tougher measures to control firearms. I also understand that he is comfortable with allowing local of units of government to use “community standards” as opposed to recognizing or enforcing court decisions that may not be popular in a given community.

  9. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/26/2019 - 07:57 pm.

    Who or maybe what are these Republicans. Otherworlders ? The inconsistencies of their philosophies or philosophical shifts are a wonderment. They must have quicksand in their shoes. It really is time to vote them out. But I am deeply afraid their constituencies will not even as it is they who might be hurting most by their representatives approach to governing. They have no grasp of common good. Nor do they grasp that how well urban areas do determines exactly how well they do. They voters in these communities must start giving some thought to the fact the cutbacks to programs like LGA to cities is killing their golden goose.

  10. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/27/2019 - 10:05 am.

    Funny how the Republicans are all about “local control” and “local innovation” unless a city proposes something that would help ordinary working people.

    If a community wants to privatize their public services, no problem.

    I suspect that their real motivation is fear that a higher minimum wage in the Cities will motivate workers in small towns and rural areas to ask for the same.

    The true motivation of the Republicans is to make it so that business owners can make all the money they want by any means necessary and unimpeded by the needs of their employees, environmental laws, or taxes.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/27/2019 - 02:49 pm.

      “The true motivation of the Republicans is to make it so that business owners can make all the money they want by any means necessary and unimpeded by the needs of their employees, environmental laws, or taxes.”

      And the genius is that they have convinced a large share of wage earners to support them doing this, because it’s a poke in the eye to those gun grabbin’ godless libs.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/29/2019 - 09:05 am.

    Centrism is a failed program that has produced almost nothing but failed compromises for decades. To begin, “centrists” have never actually been in the center of anything other than their own comfort levels.

    Only a comfortable centrist can declare that it’s appropriate to leaves so many crises on the table with millions of Amrericans and tens of thousands of Minnesotans suffering in so many ways. I have yet to see a centrists who is trying to live on minimum wages, living in one of our economic refugee camps (any of the tent cities around the country), or cutting their pills in half because they can’t afford to take the recommended dose. You can only live with failed centrist compromises… if you don’t have to actually live failed centrist compromises.

    But here’s the thing… you can’t leave these crises on the table forever. You can move deck chairs around all you want but sooner or later the rising water will reach you as well.

    And I hate to say, but if you’re even willing to leave tens of millions of your fellow Americans, Minnesotan’s, and human beings in dire straights from housing crises to health care… just because YOU’RE not being affected by any of these crises at the moment… you may be a jerk. You can adopt Marie Antoinette as your role model if you want, but if heads start rolling you won’t have anyone else to blame, we tried to warn you.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/29/2019 - 06:25 pm.

      What centrists don’t understand or accept:

      Power concedes nothing without a demand.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/02/2019 - 12:07 pm.

      It’s true. Most of the centrists I’ve met are people who don’t have to worry about their financial future or their children’s financial future and who believe that somehow, climate change will not affect them.

      To such people, cries that we need universal health care now or that people can’t live on the minimum wage or that rental housing is becoming unaffordable or that lack of good transit means that poor people are forced to own cars sound like irrelevant whining from a foreign country.

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