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PHOENIX – The outcome of a legal fight between Flagstaff and state lawmakers could affect the decision by residents of other cities whether they want to impose their own minimum wage.
Attorney Roopali Desai who represents the city wants a judge to void a provision in the new state budget assessing the city more than $1.1 million. That is supposed to represent the additional costs borne by the state between the current $12.15 an hour in Arizona law and the higher figure approved by Flagstaff voters in 2016, currently set at $15.
In new filings in Maricopa County Superior Court, Desai disputes the figure.
She noted the Flagstaff ordinance specifically exempts state employees. And Desai said some of the other claims of higher costs, like from Coconino Community College, really are not obligations of the state.
But the heart of her claim is that the provision itself is unconstitutional.
Desai pointed out that both the original 2006 statewide initiative that first established a state minimum wage and a 2016 revision that increased the numbers specifically allow local communities to establish their own wage laws. The only requirement is that the figure be at least as much as what the state requires.
She contends the law requiring the reimbursement runs afoul of the Voter Protection Act, a constitutional provision which bars the Legislature from repealing or altering anything approved at the ballot box.
The only exception is when a legislative act “furthers the purpose” of what voters approved, something Desai said this does not do. And even if it did, she said it would still require a three-fourths vote of both the House and Senate, which this measure did not get.
The state is fighting the measure, with an emergency hearing set for later this month before Judge James Smith.
Katie Conner, spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich, said he is defending the law because it will “protect taxpayers from having to absorb the costs associated with a city or town’s decision to raise the minimum wage.”
Central to the fight is a provision that first appeared in the 2019-2020 budget. It allows the Legislature to allocate – and the state…