One of the dangerous aspects of lawmaking is unintended consequences.  Legislators pass a law only to learn later that the language makes a change that was not contemplated.

That’s what we have with HB 4283, the bill passed by the West Virginia Legislature this year raising then state’s minimum wage.  The intent was to increase the base pay for entry level workers by $1.50 over the next two years, meaning the minimum wage would rise to $8.75 by 2016.

Supporters argued the increase is overdue; the state’s minimum wage has been at $7.25 an hour since 2008.  Lawmakers did not say so publicly, but privately they acknowledged that the raise would be good election year politics.

However, legislators apparently made a mistake… a big one. Brian Peterson, an employment attorney for the law firm Bowles Rice, has researched the bill and determined that, as written, it will dramatically change overtime rules.

Currently, nearly all West Virginia employers are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.  That law includes many employee classifications that are exempt from overtime rules–computer professionals, commissioned sales people, seasonal and recreational employees, railroad employees, drivers and mechanics—over 50 in all. The federal law also includes narrow exemptions for firefighters, police officers, hospital and residential care employees.

Peterson says the bill providing for the increase in minimum wage is written in a way that eliminates those exemptions, dramatically increasing the number of employees in the state who would have to be paid time-and-a-half after 40 hours.

It’s not just private businesses that would be impacted.  Peterson believes municipalities would suddenly face significantly higher costs for fire and police protection, costs that would have to be passed on to taxpayers.

Word is getting out, and Governor Tomblin is hearing from government and business leaders, such as Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce President Terry Sterling, who are worried about the bill.

“The unintended result is that all West Virginia employers with six or more employees would be required to comply with state overtime requirements that otherwise have not been updated since 1982,” Sterling wrote in a letter to Tomblin.  “Making the situation even worse, the overtime law changes made by House Bill 4283 would take effect June 6, 2014, leaving employers just a matter of weeks to scramble to comply with the provisions.”

West Virginia regional jail officials say they would have to calculate overtime differently for correctional officers, adding an estimated $3 million to payroll costs.

It’s evident that the bill, if it becomes law as written, would be a disaster.

The intent of lawmakers was to raise the minimum wage, not fundamentally change how overtime is calculated by thousands of West Virginia employers.  The Governor should veto the bill.

Lawmakers have to report back to Charleston before the June 30th end of the fiscal year to clear up some budget issues.  They can fix the minimum wage bill then.

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  • Jonus Grumby

    The term "unintended consequences" when used to describe legislation translates into we passed it without any forethought.

  • The Ironconservative

    They just do voodo

  • TruthTeller

    Unfortunately the truth is if you want more pay you have to leave West Virginia. All the surrounding states pay double almost triple what any jobs pay in West Virginia. This is why a lot of people have and will be leaving the state. West Virginia has always been behind the times with the rest of the country. In some areas that is good but in other areas it is bad. Also with the cost of utilities, taxes, gasoline and insurance cost also double is hurting West Virginia as well. I know from experience it is very difficult to find good paying jobs in West Virginia. There is too much of a good old boy clicks and politics going on inside the good paying jobs. If you
    are not related to one of the higher ups you don't stand a chance of getting hired. With high cost of living and low paying jobs this state will never get out of the economical mess that it has been in. West Virginia needs
    to turn it around if it is ever going to get out of
    the mess it is in. A good start would be to lower capital gains taxes and property taxes but you got too many greedy paid off Democrats who just want to keep taking your
    hard earned money and stick in their own pockets. The local governments need to flushed out. Too many greedy Obamabots in office.

  • WW Glasser

    The sky is falling because more people earn overtime? Really?

  • Hillboy

    On behalf of myself and the other pinboys and pinchasers down at the local duckpins alley, I protest that we were specifically excluded from getting time and half for overtime in HB 4283.

    Really though, are there any bowling alleys left in WV that don't have mechanical pin setters? This bill reads like it was written in 1929.

  • jay zoom

    just pay an employee a decent wage for their service and the employer will be rewarded as well. try it you might like it'

    • Aaron

      What is a decent wage?

  • Pickle Barrel

    Another example of a Democrat-sponsored bill where we "have to pass it in order to find out what's in it."

    • Hillboy

      The Senate passed it 32-1. The House passed it 89-5. I don't think you can blame this one totally on Democrats.

  • Stacey

    It doesn't seem fishy that the ONE lawyer saying this is paid by the Chamber? Anyone think that is a bit fishy at all or do you just blindly follow what corporate hacks tell you regularly?

    I call BS on this and all he's saying. Sign the bill, wait to see if this happens, and then apologize when the world doesn't come to an end.

    • Aaron

      Read the bill Stacey.

    • Tom

      Obviously not a business owner in WV. It is easy to roll the dice with another person's money/business. Signing the bill just to see what happens is just flat our irresponsible behavior....but this is the state of politics now-a-days...

  • bulldog95

    Is anyone really shocked that something like this happened? I am not. If they wanted to raise the min. wage then how is a bill needed to do this that is more than 2 pages.

    Simply refer to some old law where the established wage is set and then say it is hearby increased to this on this date and this on this date. Simple and DONE. This is like the Ukraine bill that other garbage in dealing with the IMF.

  • Daryl

    Sure we wouldn't want to pay a few more workers overtime wages when they deserve that extra pay ! It would bring our whole capitalist system crashing down .

    • Butch

      The horror of paying people overtime! Capitalism would be ruined....FOREVER.

      • ole sasquatch

        The very opposite of capitalism is giving people artificial pay. Capitalism is not capitalism anytime govt. intervenes. I would have thought being Americans you all would have known that. You need to get out of that democratic socialist way of thinking or you make everyone poorer and stagnant - like what is happening now.

        • Butch

          As an American, I've realized that the 20+ times they've raised the minimum wage hasn't hurt us.

          As an American, I've realized that China doesn't have a minimum wage and I don't want to be like China.

          As an American, I KNOW I want those WORKING paid enough to buy a loaf of bread and a gallon of gas.

          • Jason412

            I clearly said the food increases have been since the beginning of 2014.

            "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of food in February rose 0.4% from January, the largest increase in nearly three years. The report suggests that prices may rise as much as 3.5% during 2014."

            Do you think income growth will see above 3.5% this year? If not, that's how goods are outpacing wages.

          • The bookman

            According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPI for 2013 increased 1.1% for all of 2013. That's 1.1 cents on the dollar all of 2013.

            Income growth in 2013 was more than double the CPI at 2.6%. WV had the lowest growth at 1.5%, still above the CPI for the year. So, how, exactly is the cost of goods outpacing wages?

          • Jason412

            "Are you aware that pricing for the gallon of milk and loaf of bread you want everyone to be able to purchase are directly tied to the cost of production, of which labor cost is a key component?"

            Just said this a minute ago in the other article, but bread and milk have already went up 10-30% since the beginning of the year. Labor cost didn't raise a single percent, but prices have.

            "Do you know the economic impact of those 20+ raises and how many jobs they have cost unskilled employees?"

            Do you know the answer to that?

            Do you really think the first 11 of those increases, from 1938 to 1968, cost significant amounts of unskilled employees their jobs?

          • Big Bob-E

            Gee Scott...seems to me that the price of Big Mac's have gone up without a raise in the minimum wage. ..and they will continue to go up regardless. Sounds like the same old tired "theory of trickle down economics."

          • Aaron

            Do you know the economic impact of those 20+ raises and how many jobs they have cost unskilled employees? How many opportunities of on the job training have been eliminated because small businesses cannot afford the added cost? Do you truly know the cost or is your knowledge anecdotal?

            Regarding China, are you aware that they are a communist country that not only owns the production but the labor as well and very few have little choice in where they work, much less how much they make?

            Are you aware that pricing for the gallon of milk and loaf of bread you want everyone to be able to purchase are directly tied to the cost of production, of which labor cost is a key component?

            With all your knowledge, you should have no problem explaining what you would do if you owned a bakery and incurred a 20% increase in labor that reduces your profit from 1% to -1%, right.

          • Scott

            Of course with minimum wage increasing, so will the price of a loaf of bread. And Big Macs. And any product or service that requires the use of minimum wage employees. Minimum wage increases are instant inflation and that affects everyone.

  • Pensfan

    Just another example (can anyone say "obamacare" ?)of law makers voting for bills, they don't fully understand or have not taken the time to read thru...

  • wornoutwv

    You are mistaken Hoppy in the idea that this was misintended. No doubt some legislators didn't bother to read what they were voting law but this wasn't misintended.

  • hillbilly

    most of the legislators are attorneys?
    make sure you dont use them on a case they don't under stand law!

    • Rich

      In fact, most legislators are not attorneys.

  • JJ

    Thanks to Obama, Earl Ray, and the gang, I'm now $1.50 an hour closer to the poverty line.

    Why can't people grasp that increasing the minimum wage impacts the middle class as much, if not more, than those earning minimum wage? Willful ignorance under the guise of concern.

    • Jason412

      Forgive my willful ignorance, but how are you now closer to the poverty line? The FPL is not directly based on the minimum wage. If it was, someone working a full-time minimum wage job would be at the poverty line, not below it.

      • The bookman

        Jason, the FPL is calculated from year to year based on the CPI, or Consumer Price Index. If you apply the principles of economics, that an increased cost of labor will eventually increase the price of goods or services when applied evenly across all providers, it becomes readily apparent that the FPL will rise. I think the point of the above comment is that in a job making more than the minimum wage, the FPL will approach his/her earnings, as the FPL increases while wages above the minimum wage remain stagnant. It is certainly oversimplified to assume an even trade of $1.50, but the point is valid.

        • Jason412

          Goods are already going up drastically. FPL will be going up right along with those increases, regardless of if the minimum wage is increased or not.

          • The bookman

            That was the point of his post, that the FPL would encroach his wage from the bottom up. His opinion is that increasing the minimum exacerbates that phenomenon, and I believe economic theory supports his opinion.

    • bulldog95

      I feel for those that are in jobs that make 10 dollars an hour because when their hours get cut and business raises their prices, you do get closer to the poverty line.

    • Wowbagger


  • Being facetious

    So our lawmakers can't read or write, but our teachers think they deserve a raise? Makes sense to me, too.