The reaction to Tom Emmer’s proposal to slash minimum wages for wait staff caused me to revisit the Minnesota House debate on the issue that took place on May 2, 2005. Those who want to watch it may do so by accessing the body’s video archives of the debate here. (I’ll try my hand at capturing video as time permits.)
It was a fascinating debate in both houses, ably summed up at the time by Tom Scheck at Minnesota Public Radio. One statement by Randy Demmer, now the GOP-endorsed congressional candidate in Minnesota’s First, shows which side he’s on in this debate:
Others say some businesses may be forced to close if the wage hike becomes law. Rep. Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield, says the Legislature is sending the wrong message to those who may want to start a business in Minnesota.
“Welcome to the business world, welcome to business in Minnesota,” Demmer said. “We love it here, We love to have you here so we can screw ya. Folks, this is a bad idea.”
Demmer’s floor remarks begin at 2:00;18 in the archives. You’d think from his remarks that Demmer grew up inside a rags-to-riches Horatio Alger dime novel, and through luck and pluck opened a small business all on his own. Truth be told, he started in business working for his father’s implement dealership.
Even more astonishing: Tom Emmer’s carrying on about the need of an amendment to repeal the minimum wage entirely. He is recognized at 2:08:08 in the archived footage. The exchanges between Emmer and Ranger Tom Rukavina are vintage Housee debate, and worth a read.
Emmer recites the basic conservative talking points about how the minimum wage, whatever its level, are job killers. But there’s more to the story: the American Voice 2004 produced this handy guide to both sides of the argument over minimum wage that’s roughly contemporary with the 2005 Minnesota House floor debate.
However, the Journal of the House for May 2, 2005, reveals that for all Emmer’s bluster, the amendment was never voted on. Emmer withdraws his motion on the amendment at 2:28:46; the proposed (and withdrawn) amendment is noted in the Session Weekly beginning at the very end of the article on page 15, with copy carried to page 22.
The bill passed (and the GOP controlled the Minnesota House at the time, so the bill had it have bipartisan support, with 18 Republicans voting yes). Congress raised the federal minimum wage in 2007. Given the general economic downturn, it’s difficult to assess the impact of the raise. However, the Economic Policy Institute published an Issue Guide on the Minimum Wage that’s fairly accessible to the lay reader, and its look at Teenage Jobs and Minimum Wage is a start for those who want to examine the consequences of the latest minimum wage hikes.