$15 Minimum Wage, Ending Local Preemption Get Hearing in State Senate


legislature(APN) ATLANTA — A packed room spilled out into the hallway during a hearing on several minimum wage bills Thursday, February 11, 2016.


“We got an extensive list of folks signed up… If [the committee] drop[s] below six, we can’t do anything.  So just keep that in mind,” Chairmen Charlie Bethel (R – Dalton) reiterated multiple times during the meeting.


Ultimately the committee did not lose its quorum, but still decided not to act on the issues, after the Chairmen said he did not believe any of the bills had the votes to move forward.


The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee listened to over an hour and a half of testimony and discussion on bills from State Sens. Donzella James (D – Atlanta) and Vincent Fort (D – Atlanta), after delays pushed the start of the meeting into the late afternoon.


SB 15, sponsored by Sen. James, and SB 293, sponsored by Sen. Fort, propose state minimum wage raises to $10.10 per hour, and $15 per hour, respectively.


“The nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute estimated that 10,000 Georgia workers, or nearly twenty percent of the State workforce, would earn larger paychecks as a result of the change,” to $10.10 per hour, Sen. James said about her bill, which was pre-filed before the start of the 2015 legislative session.


“The only thing I would say to you is this: that we pay, that is taxpayers, pay for low wages.  Low wage work, low wage companies, are subsidized by you and me and the constituents that we serve,” Sen. Fort said.


“Low wage workers use public assistance, and we should not be in the business of subsidizing Walmart and other companies that pay those low wage,” Sen. Fort said.


Sen. Fort’s other bill, SB 292, deals with state preemption of local minimum wage laws.  Currently, local governments in Georgia cannot set a minimum wage higher than the state minimum wage; the City of Atlanta attempted and failed under the Mayor Shirley Franklin administration.


Low wage workers provided testimony that mirrored the discussions that occurred during the People’s Wage Board hearing late last year.




“I’ve been working the health care or home care field since 1997, I make $3.30 an hour,” Carol Cartharn, a homecare worker, testified before the Committee.


“We can’t wait for these high wages for three or four or five years.  We have to be able to take care of our landlords, they’re not waiting.  We can’t wait for our wages because Georgia Power is not waiting.  Our medical bills aren’t waiting.  Georgians need a raise,” Cartharn said.


The bills received lukewarm responses from the committee.


“I do think there is some merit to the idea that work should be as attractive as possible, to encourage people to work instead… for all the benefits that you can sometimes receive from not working,” Sen. David Shafer (R – Duluth) said.


“If people are coming in at the minimum wage and moving up rather rapidly to higher wages, if we raise that minimum wage, are we stopping people from having the opportunity?” Sen. David Shafer (R – Duluth) asked the two sponsors.


APN previously reported on the preemption issue.




SB 292 allows locals governments to set their own minimum wage ordinances..


“In fact, I’ve stood outside the chambers downstairs for nearly three years now… and hearing Democrats and Republicans talking about local control, home rule,” Ted Terry, Clarkston Mayor and ‎State Campaign Director at Georgia AFL-CIO, said during the hearing.


“And the phrase I heard most often was ‘Well, I probably wouldn’t do that in my town,’ but I don’t think we should be telling other people what they ought to do in their own community, let them decide for themselves,” Terry said.




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