Outlook Uncertain for Roland Ordinances Amending County Wage Requirements

Proposal to strike "living-wage" language from Shelby County Code gets tentative approval on first reading; one on "prevailing wage" fails.

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The Shelby County Commission, which was unable on Monday to come to a decision on proposed changed in County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s amended health-care plan for county employees (see editorial, p. TK) also was somewhat riven on another economic issue.

Or issues, actually: Two ordinances proposed by Republican Commissioner Terry Roland — to remove language from the Shelby County Code (1) in the case of an ordinance currently calling for private employers doing business with the county to provide a “living wage;” and (2) in the case of another ordinance mandating that contractors and sub-contractors on public works projects observe “prevailing wage” standards.

Roland called both of his amending ordinances “housekeeping” measures to correspond with a recently enacted state law which now prohibits local jurisdictions from establishing wage standards different from those sanctioned by the State.

Democrats Van Turner and Reginald Milton raised objections. Turner noted for the record that no requirements relating to a living wage are included with instructions provided to potential bidders on county projects. That being the case, he said, there was an argument for leaving the current county ordinance unaltered on grounds that a change in state law would allow the local intent to be activated.

Milton was explicit on what he said was county government’s obligation to working people: By leaving the existing ordinance unchanged, he said, the county would be making a “statement” — that “we believe [in] the workers, and we believe they should be taken care of.”

Turner and Milton were joined by fellow Democrats Melvin Burgess and Eddie Jones in opposition to the Roland’s ordinance to amend the language on living wage. Two Democrats, Chairman Justin Ford and Willie Brooks, voted in favor of that ordinance, along with Republicans Roland, Steve Basar, Mark Billingsley, George Chism, and David Reaves

The resultant tally of 7-4 in favor on first reading was explicitly acknowledged, following debate and the recording of the vote, as something of a formality, awaiting two more votes, with the third and final one being the official one.

Roland’s companion measure, on amending existing language on the prevailing-wage issue, fell a vote short of passage on first reading. 6-2, with Democrats Turner and Jones voting no and Brooks, Milton, and Burgers abstaining.

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