Arizona Democrats win court challenge of minimum wage law

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PHOENIX — The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a 2016 effort against Arizona’s Minimum Wage Act was unconstitutional.

The Court upheld a challenge by Democratic lawmakers, and several local city council members, to House Bill 2579, which would prevent cities and counties from regulating non-wage benefits like sick leave, vacations and severance pay.

The Court’s found: “The Minimum Wage Act specifically empowered counties, cities, and towns to regulate benefits, which we have found to mean nonwage benefits. H.B. 2579 explicitly prohibits what the Minimum Wage Act permits, and thus, the two statutes cannot be harmonized. Because H.B. 2579 impliedly amends and repeals a portion of the Minimum Wage Act, it violates the [Voter Protection Act’s] express limitations on legislative changes to voter-approved laws.”

Under Proposition 202 (the Minimum Wage Act), which voters approved in 2006, Arizona employers must pay employees at least the current minimum wage. A group of Arizona Democratic lawmakers filed suit in which they argued thay HB 2579 violated Arizona’s 1998 Voter Protection Act, which requires the Legislature to have a 75-percent majority to undo any voter-approved initiative.

A Superior Court judge agreed with the legislators and enjoined enforcement of HB2579. The State appealed, but on Tuesday, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

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