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Judge Rules D.C. Voters Can Decide Minimum Wage

Updated on April 7, 2016

Judge's Ruling Allows Vote on Minimum Wage in November 2016

A D.C. Superior Court judge's recent ruling reinstated the likelihood voters will decide whether the local minimum wage is set at $15-per-hour.

Judge Maurice Ross reversed his earlier decision by saying the issue could be put on the ballot.

He was responding to a lawsuit filed by Harry Wingo, former D.C. Chamber of Commerce president. Wingo argued the D.C. Board of Elections lacked authority to approve any ballot initiatives because the board was not properly constituted when it decided to allow the minimum wage to be put to a vote.

The appointed terms for two of the three board members had expired.
This week Ross said the confusion over the term limits should not be an obstacle to ballot initiatives.

The record, as I find, is that there were two board members who were in holdover status, who had been nominated by the mayor and properly confirmed, and even though their three-year term had expired. They are holdovers until their successors are nominated, Ross wrote.

The D.C. Office of the Attorney General had warned in a legal brief that invalidating the authority of the Board of Elections has potential to ripple far beyond this lawsuit, perhaps invalidating several elections. Among them could have been the election of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The $15 minimum wage gained momentum this week when the governors or California and New York signed legislation gradually raising the lowest wages to the new minimum.

Bowser said she plans to introduce a similar bill to raise the District's minimum wage to $15 by 2020. The current D.C. minimum wage is $11.84 per hour.

Meanwhile, supporters of a higher minimum wage working under the name of D.C. for $15 said they plan to collect enough signatures for the next ballot.

They need 25,000 signatures by July to put the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

Wingo and other business leaders are concerned a higher minimum wage would drive up costs for business, threatening small business owners the most.

D.C. Voters to Decide Minimum Wage

A judge's ruling has cleared all obstacles to allowing Washington, D.C. voters to decide their city's minimum wage.
A judge's ruling has cleared all obstacles to allowing Washington, D.C. voters to decide their city's minimum wage.

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