Don’t Let Flaws Remain in Law
Why the rush and the enormous pressure to get a badly, expensively flawed law on the books in West Virginia? Mountain State residents should be asking that question as we await promised action to correct the statute.
But more than just waiting – concerned West Virginians should be telling our legislators the law must be corrected fully.
Beyond any reasonable doubt, lawmakers already are under pressure to leave the law, known commonly as House Bill 4283, alone. At the very least, they are being told, certain provisions pointed to by critics should not be rescinded.
HB 4283 was approved by substantial majorities in the houses of the Legislature. The intent was to provide an increase in the minimum wage for those currently covered by the state law on that subject. The state minimum wage, now $7.25, will be increased to $8.75 in two years.
But as written and signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, HB 4283 goes far beyond that. It increases the number of workers covered by the state minimum wage rule. It also alters overtime pay mandates for many workers, including those employed by local fire and police departments.
Some workers whose positions have unusual or even unique demands spend more than 40 hours a week on the job but do not receive overtime pay. Instead, as those who hold such jobs understand going in, they are compensated differently, often by extended time off.
In Wheeling, where firefighters work 56-hour weeks, Mayor Andy McKenzie estimates HB 4283, if not amended, will cost the city about $300,000 a year.
Though most attention has focused on the overtime pay problem, HB 4283 will cost some private-sector employers substantial sums, too, by increasing the number of people covered by the state minimum wage. Some may have to cut back on the number of minimum-wage workers they employ. A measure intended to help West Virginians will force some into unemployment.
Legislators, in addition to dealing with the rules on overtime pay, should take another look at expansion of the minimum-wage pay base. That, too, may require corrective action.
All this has been plain for a few weeks. Tomblin could have vetoed the bill, then asked legislators to approve it again – minus the flaws – during a special session he plans to call in May.
But Tomblin went ahead and signed HB 4283. Both state Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, pledged to correct flaws in the law. They should be held to that pledge.