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Chenault pushes for minimum wage bill

Posted: April 16, 2014 - 11:53am

JUNEAU — House Speaker Mike Chenault on Thursday said legislative passage of a bill to raise Alaska’s minimum wage would guarantee that wages go up, while the outcome of a similar ballot initiative would be dependent on the whim of votes.

Chenault, R-Nikiski, said most lawmakers he’s spoken with support having the Legislature address the issue. He said the minimum wage was once aimed at helping young people in entry-level positions.

But “it seems like that’s expanded into people trying to make a living and trying to raise a family off of those minimum wages,” Chenault told a news conference. “And I just think that we need to improve those and bring that standard up a little bit more.”

The bill introduced last week, HB384, had been slated for a vote as early as Friday. But it was pushed to Sunday’s calendar to allow all members the opportunity to be present to vote, Chenault said.

The timing of the bill late in session has raised concerns about the Legislature’s intent. An initiative can be pre-empted if the Legislature passes substantially similar legislation. 

That happened in 2002, and a year later, lawmakers gutted the law, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of union leaders and initiative supporters.

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