The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 31, 2014

Our View: Minimum wage doesn't belong in state Constitution

Why It Matters: Democrats in the state Legislature are starting to push a partisan constitutional amendment.

Some people — or at least some politicians — never learn.

Two years ago, the Republican majorities in the Minnesota Legislature, stymied by the Democratic governor, put a pair of partisan amendments on the election ballot. Not only did their bids to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriage and a requirement for photo ID for voters in the state’s fundamental law fail, the overreach played a role in the loss of their majorities.

Last week, the majority Democrats, unable to come to a consensus on their plans to raise the state minimum wage — and in particular, unable to attain a majority to “index” future raises of the minimum wage — started the process of putting it in a constitutional amendment.

It wasn’t that long ago that DFL leaders were talking about the need to avoid such partisan amendments. It wasn’t that long ago that they were floating an amendment that would elevate the requirement to put future amendments on the ballot to a legislative supermajority, rather than the current 50 percent-plus one.

On Friday, a Senate panel heard opposition to the amendment plan from both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO — two interest groups on opposite sides of the minimum wage dispute but united in agreement on this point: The minimum wage issue doesn’t belong in the state Constitution. It belongs in the hands of the Legislature. (Despite the unified opposition to the amendment scheme, the committee advanced the amendment on a party-lien vote.)

If the Legislature can’t reach agreement on what should be done on this contentious issue, that might be a pretty good indication that the state as a whole isn’t in agreement.

The DFL should consider that before following their Republican predecessors down the path of legislative overreach.

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