Coalition wants Arkansas voters to decide on minimum wage hike - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Coalition wants Arkansas voters to decide on minimum wage hike

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- Raising minimum wage in Arkansas is back in the public eye once again, and rather than taking the issue to legislators, the group heading the effort wants Arkansas voters to decide.

The last time that minimum wage went up in Arkansas was in 2006 when then Governor Mike Huckabee called a special session. The hourly rate went from $5.15 to $6.25, where it remains today.

After several unsuccessful tries to have new legislation passed, the Give Arkansas a Raise Now coalition wants to take the matter to voters.

Documentation of an initiated act is heading to the attorney general's office to help Arkansans on minimum wage get a boost.

"Really who we want support from is we want support from those who will go to the ballot box in November," said Stephen Copely, chair of the coalition. "Those are ordinary folks that will have to sign petitions, and then go vote for it."

 If the wording is approved by the attorney general, it's a measure that will need more than 62,000 signatures by July, before it can make it on the November ballot.

A similar proposal went before a house committee in the 2013 legislative session, but died quickly from lack of support. Channel Seven spoke with Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee Chairman Andy Mayberry (R) Tuesday; he said there was concern of how it would impact businesses and unemployment.

GARN looks at its proposal as a way to improve the quality of life.

"If they're getting $15,000 a year, and you start doing that math. $5,600 a year for groceries, or $5,200. $3,600 for rent, and all of that would be minimal. Where's the paycheck? It's gone," Copely added.

If the wording of this initiated act is approved by the attorney general's office, then a petition has to be approved by the Arkansas Secretary of State's office.

Only after those steps, can the coalition move forward to pursue the more than 62,000 signatures needed. GARN said Tuesday is believes the effort to acquire signatures could cost about $250,000-300,000 for workers around the state.

Currently minimum wage sits at $6.25 but if this act passes, minimum wage would move to $7.50 in 2015, $8.00 in 2016 then all the way up to $8.50 in 2017.

It's expected this could become a large topic to go along with political races in November, and Copely, the coalition chair responded to that question.

"In fact, what we would do is welcome any candidate from whatever background," he said. "Any party, from whatever background, who wanted to sit down and visit with us about endorsing it or supporting it."

By law, the attorney general has 10 business days to respond to the filing, which after the holidays will go into the 2014 year.

The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25.