The Senate’s Workforce Committee has advanced a bill to limit the powers of cities and towns.
Senate Bill 399 prevents local governments from enacting ordinances or local policies that impose requirements on employers when it comes to employee wages and benefits. Among other things, the bill would prevent a city or town from making minimum wage higher than the state’s.
There are exceptions in the bill permitting municipalities to set standards for their own city employees and allowing for nondiscrimination ordinances.
"If a county commissioner doesn’t have the ability to do anything, then why are they there?" Democratic Sen. Richard Ojeda from Logan County asked during the committee. "I kind of see this as stepping on their responsibilities.”
Republican Sen. Greg Boso supports the bill’s provisions though because he says it will provide uniformity for businesses across West Virginia.
“We at the state level are responsible for establishing the laws that pertain to the management of employees on a statewide basis," he said. "This just ensures that we don’t have situations where employers are having to deal with different sets of regulations that impact the bottom line.”
A representative of the West Virginia Retailers Association told the committee that uniformity in employment laws will help both large and small businesses that operate in the state, but several Democratic members protested the bill’s advancement because no one representing municipal or county interests was in attendance to testify to the bill’s implications.
Still, a majority of the committee’s members voted Wednesday to advance Senate Bill 399 which now goes to the chamber’s judiciary committee.