- Kelsey Hawes
Idaho House Republicans pushed through a measure Friday afternoon that strips Idaho cities of the authority to set their own minimum wage rates.
"The current law is poorly stated, leading to possible litigation and confusion," said Rep. Luke Malek (R-Coeur d'Alene), who introduced House Bill 463. "This does not open up a new Idaho debate on minimum wage."
Nonetheless, the House floor debate circled the contentious issue of Idaho's current $7.25 minimum wage—the lowest in the nation.
"I don't think this bill promotes democracy or the arena of ideas," said House Minority Leader John Rusche (D-Lewiston). "There are local needs that should be addressed with local remedies. And I find it especially troublesome that we can't talk about a minimum wage bill."
A proponent of the measure, Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg) argued Idaho's minimum wage was "an arbitrary standard that sends a negative message." In a particularly provocative remark, Nate insisted that "minimum wage has a racist history," going on to suggest minimum wages repressed minorities in Apartheid South Africa.
Meanwhile, Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) said the state of Idaho has the final say on just about anything: "States empower the federal government. In fact, states created the federal government. States also created local governments. They're all creatures of the state. The state has the power to control municipalities and to control the federal government."
With that, House Republicans voted en masse, 55-14, to pass H463, sending the measure to the Idaho Senate for its consideration.