House Republicans kill bill to establish a TN minimum wage

Republicans on a House subcommittee Wednesday killed a Democrat-sponsored bill that would have established a Tennessee state minimum wage of $8.25 per hour for employees of companies that do not provide them with health care insurance.

House Democratic Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville, sponsor of the bill, said 41 other states have a state minimum wage – 21 of them setting it at a level higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Turner’s bill (HB1694) would set a state minimum wage of $7.25, matching the federal rate and with a provision declaring that will increase in alignment with any future increase in the federal minimum wage. For companies that do not provide medical insurance, the state minimum would be $1 higher.

“This is the right thing to do and it’s time we did it in Tennessee,” he told the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee. “We’ve done very little in this state to help people on the lower end of the wage scale.”

None of the Republicans on the panel offered comments on the bill during the brief hearing, other than subcommittee Chairman Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, complimenting Turner on a “good presentation.”

But all three Republicans present voted no on the bill. A fourth was absent. The panel’s two Democrats voted yes. The defeat effectively kills the measure for the year.

The fiscal note prepared by legislative staff said there are 247 part-time state employees who do no get health care insurance and would thus be covered by the bill, costing the state about $701,500 annually.

Note: The Democratic party commentary on the rejection is below.

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
In a statement issued Friday, Tennessee Democratic Party chairman Roy Herron called out Republican legislators for voting down an increase in Tennessee’s minimum wage after only five minutes of debate.

“There is no clearer example of how Tennessee’s Republican legislators are putting ideology over the everyday, kitchen-table concerns of Tennesseans,” said Chairman Herron. “While tens of thousands of Tennesseans making minimum wage work themselves to the bone and still struggle to make ends meet, Republicans take just five minutes and then dismiss legislation that would pay those workers fairly for an honest day’s work. Meanwhile, those same legislators spend hours upon hours of their own time (and thousands of our tax dollars) competing to see who can propose the most out-of-touch ideas, whether it’s vouchers to undermine public education, guns-in-parks to endanger our children, or obstructing Medicaid expansion to deny our citizens life-saving healthcare.”

The bill, HB 1694, would have established a state minimum wage in Tennessee for most employees at $8.25 an hour, one dollar above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. It was voted down 2-3 in the Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee, with every Republican voting against it.