The Citizens First Congress, a grassroots people’s lobby, fired at a House committee’s unannounced late evening action yesterday to roll back most of the minimum wage increase overwhelmingly approved by voters just four months ago.

As David Ramsey reported last night, legislation by Rep. Robin Lundstrum would take away the minimum wage increase to $9.25 an hour for people 20 and younger, for employees of nonprofits, and for employees of small businesses (a huge number of workers). Despite her protests to the contrary, labor law experts also contend she’s actually NOT frozen the minimum at $9.25 an hour, but rolled it back to $7.25 an hour, where it stood before the last popular increase in the minimum.

UPDATE: An amendment was added to the bill exempting people 20 and under in an apparent effort to avoid the legal interpretation that her bill returns the minimum wage for all covered to $7.25 an hour. No legal review of this as yet. The legislation is still an outrage and punishing to thousands of workers. And that amendment did NOT apply to a separate bill that exempted small businesses and others. NOTE THIS IS CORRECTED FROM AN EARLIER VERSION that indicated the amendment had not been incorporated in the bill.

It’s an outrage and as clear a sign as any of how beholden the legislature is to special interests (big business) and how little they respect the people. (See also their override of the clear intent of the “ethics” amendment approved by voters in 2014.)

Said the Citizens First Congress:

The Citizens First Congress objects to legislative attempts to repeal and carve out exemptions in the Arkansas minimum wage just approved by Arkansas voters only months ago.

We are seeing an emerging pattern of policy makers pushing through controversial legislation after hours. Though committee meetings begin at 10 a.m. weekday mornings, several hot-button issues have been skipped over in committee all day, only to return again in the late afternoon hours.

After SB115 was deferred in committee over a month ago, the bill was replaced by three shorter bills with similar language last Thursday. These three bills were read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare after 5 p.m. Monday.

All three bills to amend the state minimum wage were hastily shuffled and passed through committee in under eight minutes tonight [Tuesday] after 6 p.m.

The bills’ sponsor, Rep. Robin Lundstrom (R-Elm Springs), began presenting these bills to the committee beginning around 6:13 p.m.; all three bills were passed before the committee adjourned at 6:21 p.m. with little to no discussion. In fact, only one question on clarification was submitted by a committee member during the consideration of House Bill 1753, and no one was present to testify for or against the
bills.

No one spoke against these highly controversial bills because no one knew they would run. In fact, highly controversial bills like these should have been a special order of business to give the public ample time to share contact lawmakers to share their views and attend the hearing.

We are astonished that it took a mere eight minutes for some legislators to recommend stripping the new voter-approved minimum wage from so many hardworking Arkansans.

We thank the committee members who voted to oppose these measures and to protect working Arkansans.

We are appalled at those who would ignore the will of 68 percent of Arkansas voters, and those who would discourage public participation in the lawmaking process through strategic deception.

We are not surprised.

A rally against the legislation has been set at noon Thursday at the Capitol. Democrats are howling. And Republicans are feeling the heat, apparently. KATV reported this statement from the Republican Party of Arkansas.