State lawmakers cannot legally fix to what some contend is a flaw in Arizona’s new minimum wage law, Gov. Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.
The governor said a voterapproved measure mandating a $6.75-an-hour minimum wage contains no exception for the developmentally disabled — and, more to the point, for the training centers that employ them.
These organizations, considered transitional job centers, have an exemption under the federal minimum wage law.
That’s the law which has been in effect in Arizona but will be replaced Jan. 1 when the provisions of Proposition 202 take effect.
Some have suggested the gap could be fixed by state lawmakers meeting in special session, if not before the end of the year then immediately afterward.
“A special session, I don’t think, works in part because this was a voter-approved initiative,” Napolitano said.
A constitutional provision approved by voters in 1998 specifically prohibited lawmakers from tinkering with future voter-approved ballot measures unless the change “furthers the purpose of the initiative.”
Rebekah Friend, president of the state AFL-CIO, told Capitol Media Services the issue of exceptions for disabled never came up when her organization was involved in crafting Proposition 202. But Friend said she doesn’t see the need for the exception.
“We do believe that workers should make minimum wage and they should be entitled to the new minimum wage,” she said.
Bev Hermon, who lobbies for the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities, said that is a worthwhile goal.
But Hermon said not everyone is capable of the same work, which is why Congress approved the “commensurate wage” exception to the law.
“It’s based on productivity,” she said. “Never did it occur to me that federal law wouldn’t supersede state law.”