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Wheeling mayor joins veto calls for minimum wage hike

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Before an increase to the state minimum wage can take effect, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin must sign the bill before Tuesday’s deadline.

On Friday, members of the Tomblin Administration were still working through the proposed legislation (HB 4283), which would lift the current $7.25 an hour minimum wage to $8.75 by 2016. It was one of the more than 90 bills from the 2014 legislative session that had still not been addressed.

Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie was among those calling on Tomblin to veto the bill: “If the intent is to make minimum wage go up, and solely that, go back and make a bill, very simple, that states just that.”

The current legislation, McKenzie said, includes definition changes that would impact overtime laws by trumping the overtime exemptions 80 percent of West Virginia’s employers fall under currently.

There are 19 exemptions in the state’s overtime law, but more than 50 in the federal law. If it becomes law, the overtime changes would take effect June 6 for all employers with more than six workers.

“Somehow, this has gone through committee after committee, two floor sessions, and, clearly, no one read the bill,” said McKenzie on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

McKenzie estimated, in its current form, the legislation would cost his city between $300,000 and $400,000 in additional expenses within the city budget that has already been submitted to the state. The costs would be greater in Huntington and Charleston.

But House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48) argued the overall intent of the bill is good.

“Instead of people looking for ways to make the bill better and workable, they want to just kill the entire bill and throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” Miley and Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 2) are urging Tomblin to sign the bill.

“If there’s unintended consequences or if there are mistakes, you fix it. You don’t act like the sun’s not going to come up tomorrow.  You don’t act like the world’s going to stop turning. You address it calmly and you fix it and that’s what I fully expect Gov. Tomblin to do if there are these unintended consequences,” said Miley.

Any issues with the bill, he said, could be addressed through emergency rules from the Division of Labor or adjustments during a Special Session.

McKenzie said such promises for fixes, after the bill becomes a law, cannot be guaranteed. “I think the concern is, the governor signs the bill, they (lawmakers) get back into some type of a special session here in the next 30, 60, 90 days and they can’t come to a compromise,” he said.

State lawmakers approved the minimum wage during the legislative session that ended March 8. If the bill is signed by Tomblin, the minimum wage increase would be phased in. It would climb to $8 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and $8.75 an hour on Jan 1, 2016.

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