Editorial: Is minimum wage hike constitutional?

This past week Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 456 into law fulfilling a promise to raise the minimum wage in Nevada.

AB456 raises the minimum wage 75 cents per hour each year as it climbs from the current $7.25 per hour for those receiving company health insurance and $8.25 for those not insured until it reaches $11 or $12 per hour in 2024.

“Keeping working Nevadans stuck in a 10-year-old minimum wage erodes the real value and purchasing power of the wages of hardworking Nevadans,” Sisolak was quoted as saying by the Las Vegas newspaper before signing the bill. “But with this bill, hundreds of thousands of working Nevadans will see a difference in their paycheck — extra hard-earned money they can use to put food on the table, save for their kids’ education, and re-invest into the economy.”

Yet, some will go from minimum wage to no wage as jobs are eliminated and new jobs fail to be created. Others may see their hours cut to compensate for the higher wage cost. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.

Further, a recent study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found “robust evidence that minimum wage hikes increase property crime arrests among teenagers and young adults ages 16- to-24, a population for whom minimum wages are likely to bind.”

The study projects that raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour nationally would result in approximately 231,000 additional property crimes, costing the nation $1.3 billion. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would generate more than 410,000 additional property crimes and $2.4 billion per year in additional crime costs.

“We conclude that increasing the minimum wage will at best be ineffective at deterring crime and at worst will have unintended consequences that increase property crime among young adults,” the study authors concluded.

Additionally, raising the minimum wage will increase the cost of goods to consumers. A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent. The governor just signed a bill increasing the minimum wage in Nevada by 45 percent in five years.

But don’t start spending that minimum wage check just yet. There is a possibility it could be legally challenged.

In 2006 the minimum wage and how it would be raised was established by Nevada voters through a constitutional amendment. Arguably, it would take another constitutional amendment to change that, not a mere change in law.

The amendment set the minimum wage at $5.15 for employees with health insurance and $6.15 for those without. It dictates that raises would match any increase in the federal minimum wage or increase in the consumer price index, whichever is greater, though any CPI increase would be limited to 3 percent. AB456, in the first year, amounts to an increase of 9 percent for the insured and more than 10 percent for uninsured.

The constitutional amendment states how the minimum wage is to be raised and that does not include permission for the lawmakers to raise it by some other means.

In fact, in 2015 the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), the lawmakers’ lawyers, opined, “Because provisions governing the minimum wage rate are included in the Constitution, any changes to the minimum wage provisions require a constitutional amendment.”

The ever-compliant LCB reversed that opinion in 2017.

In the law there is a Latin maxim that states “expressio unius est exclusio alterius,” which means the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other.

So, if the Constitution dictates just how the minimum wage is to be increased, lawmakers may not cherry pick another means to do so.

This should end up in court.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

4 comments on “Editorial: Is minimum wage hike constitutional?

  1. Bruce Feher says:

    More “feel good” Liberal baloney! My Grandson will be old enough to work in a few months, this nonsense will make it more difficult for him to get an entry level job!
    If the minimum wage isn’t good enough for someone then, I offer the advice my Grandfather gave me 55 years ago; Be the first one to show up, the last to leave and ALWAYS ask your boss if there’s anything else that needs to be done!

  2. Anonymous says:

    During the family’s sparse evening meal, Ma Joad complains about the high food prices in the company store for meat: “Well, they charge extra at that company store and there ain’t no other place.” Tom leaves to “find out what all that fuss outside the gate was,” as Ma warns him to mind his own business: “Don’t you go stickin’ your nose in anything.” Al wants to wander around: “I think I’ll look around and see if I can’t meet me a girl.” Outside, Tom hasn’t walked more than a few yards before he is stopped by a flashlight-wielding guard who despotically warns that walks are not allowed that evening: “Now, do you want to walk back or shall I whistle up some help and have you taken back?” As the contemptuous warning is made, the cocky, bullying bookkeeper/deputy shines the bright light of his flashlight into Tom’s face.

    When he finds an opportunity, Tom ducks away and leaves the ranch, coming upon tents next to a river bank. There, he is reunited with Casy, who was not jailed but run out of town. Tom is informed that there’s a striking group of migrants at the Keene Ranch, protesting lowered, starvation wages. Casy predicts that once the strike is over, the fruit pickers’ salaries will be reduced by the greedy employers from five cents to two and one-half cents: “One ton of peaches picked and carried for a dollar. That way, you can’t even buy enough food to keep ya alive.” The striking workers plead with Tom to help organize the ranch’s pickers and join the strike against their exploitation, but Tom is content to not get involved with the protest movement:

    Tom: They won’t. They’re gettin’ five now. That’s all they care about.
    Casy: But the moment they ain’t strike-breakin’, they won’t get no five…
    Tom: The five they’re gettin’ now. That’s all they’re interested in. I know exactly what Pa’d say. He’d say it’s none of his business.
    Casy: Guess that’s right. You’ll have to take a beatin’ before you’ll know.
    Tom: Take a beatin’? We was out of food. Tonight we had meat, not much, but we had it. You think Pa’s gonna give up his meat on account of some other fellas? Rosasharn needs milk. You think Ma’s gonna starve that baby just on account of fellas yellin’ outside a gate?
    Casy: Tom, you gotta learn like I’m learnin’. I don’t know what’s right yet, myself, but I’m tryin’ to find out. That’s why I can’t ever be a Preacher again. Preacher’s gotta know. I don’t know. I gotta ask.

    From The Grapes of Wrath.

    Some folks never seem to learn the easy way right Bruce.

  3. Steve says:

    The Constitution sets a minimum, it does not set a maximum.
    The law sets the minimum higher than that set by the Constitution.
    This means it does not violate the minimum set in the Constitution.
    I bet no one will file a challenge because the courts will deem it constitutional since it raises, not lowers, the minimum wage above that set by the Constitution.

  4. […] Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 […]

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