This week, the majority of the D.C. Council supported a repeal of Initiative 77. Initiative 77 is the ballot measure voters approved in June that eliminates the tipped minimum wage and would gradually phase out the tipped workersâ€™ minimum wage, so that by 2026, all workers are paid the same minimum wage.
Fifty-six percent of District voters approved of it. States such as California, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, have gotten rid of the subminimum wage, andÂ Economic Policy Instituteâ€™sÂ analysisÂ shows that poverty rates for servers and bartenders are lower in the states that have.
The campaign against Initiative 77 was well-funded and backed by theÂ Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), which created a committee,Â â€śSave Our Tip System Initiative 77â€ť to spread anti-Initiative 77 messages.Â According toÂ The Intercept, the committee is managed partly byÂ Lincoln Strategy Group, which did canvassing work for the Trump campaign. The National Restaurant Association, which has been lobbying against the tipped minimum wage for decades, gave the campaignÂ $25,000.
The council members who have supported a repeal includeÂ Jack Evans (D), Anita Bonds (D), Trayon White (D),Â Kenyan McDuffie (D), Brandon Todd (D), Vincent Gray (D), and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D).Â Brianne Nadeau (D) tweeted that although she did not support the ballot measure, voters did, which is why she didnâ€™t back the repeal.
Council member Todd tweeted that â€śThis bill is just the beginning of a legislative process where nuanced deliberation & constructive dialogue can take place.â€ť When asked by Washington Post reporter Fenit Nirappil how a bill flatly repealing it would lead to nuanced deliberations, Todd responded that â€śit initiates public hearings. Who knows how the bill will change as testimony and more information become available.â€ť
The Council wonâ€™t take up the bill until after summer recess. Council membersÂ chose not to announceÂ the bill to repeal during a committee meeting and instead filed it with theÂ Councilâ€™s Office of the Secretary.
Diana Ramirez of the Restaurant Opportunities Center DCÂ toldÂ WAMU,Â â€śThese are the same constituents who just voted them into office and re-elected them. I think they deserve to tell us why they introduced this.â€ť
Although Ramirez hasÂ voicedÂ a willingness to work with council members on some kind of compromise legislation, according to the Washington Post, Council member MendelsonÂ said,Â â€śThere are not a lot of compromise ideas that come to mind.â€ť
The council has only overridden ballot initiatives four times since the 1980s,Â according toÂ the Washington Post.
There have been many recent incidents of local lawmakers trying to override ballot measures.Â In Nebraska, Republican lawmakersÂ filed a lawsuitÂ to prevent voters from putting Medicaid expansion on the ballot this November. In other states, such asÂ MaineÂ andÂ South Dakota, lawmakers have blocked or repealed ballot measures.
Josh Altic, project director for the Ballot Measures Project for the website Ballotpedia,Â toldÂ Stateline, a nonpartisan news service,Â â€śWe have definitely seen some notable cases of legislative tampering this year, especially with regard to the boldness with which legislatures are willing to change or repeal initiatives.â€ť
This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on July 11, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author:Â Casey Quinlan is a policy reporter at ThinkProgress covering economic policy and civil rights issues. Her work has been published in The Establishment, The Atlantic, The Crime Report, and City Limits.