Nebraska’s state legislature voted down a proposal to create a lower minimum wage for workers who are 18 and younger. The bill would have partially repealed the state’s newly lifted pay floor, which voters approved by referendum last fall.
A majority of the state’s unicameral legislature voted for the bill on Friday, but it still fell four votes shy of the 33 required to change laws passed by ballot initiative. Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, who sponsored the initiative last November, called Friday’s vote a “win for democracy.”
Nebraska’s hourly minimum wage increased to $8 this year, and will hit $9 in 2016. But the proposal from Sen. Laura Ebke, who worries that rural small businesses will be forced to make layoffs and cut hours next year, sought a separate $8 hourly rate for a new category of “young student workers.” “I don’t think voters approved an increase thinking in terms of a first job for high school students,” she told International Business Times earlier this month.
Opponents said the bill unfairly targeted the state’s more urban, working class youth who work to help support their families--not just gain experience. They also charged that it violated public will, coming just months after voters approved the state’s new pay floor by a roughly 60-40 margin.
Earlier this year, South Dakota created a special $7.50 hourly rate for workers under 18 -- $1 less than the voter-approved wage that took effect in January. However, opponents are mounting another referendum campaign in the hopes of overturning that reform.
Sen. Ebke is unlikely to bring up the issue again next year, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.