Senator Earline Parmon has resorted to a relatively unusual tactic in an effort to unearth a piece of common sense legislation that has been buried in the Senate Rules Committee for the past two months. The Winston-Salem Democrat gave notice last Thursday that she is circulating a discharge petition on Senate Bill 220 — a measure she is sponsoring along with her colleagues, Senators Angela Bryant and Don Davis to index the state minimum wage to the inflation rate.
Though Senate leaders have thus far refused to allow the bill to be heard, Parmon’s proposal is actually a fairly modest suggestion that has historically enjoyed bipartisan support. Currently, ten states – including the conservative bastions Florida and Arizona – already index their hourly minimum wage to keep up with inflation. Polls also indicate strong support across the political spectrum for such a proposal.
And make no mistake, such a change is clearly necessary. Over the last 40 years, the inflation-adjusted value of the federal minimum wage has eroded by nearly one-third. While food and energy costs continue to increase, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has decreased dramatically. Even since the last time the federal minimum wage was raised in 2009, the wage of $7.25 has lost approximately seven percent of its value. This morning’s “Monday numbers” edition of the Fitzsimon File has more on the issue.
A “discharge petition” is a tool allowed under the rules that allows a senator to get a bill removed from a committee and placed the the Senate calendar for consideration without the approval of the committee chair — the person who usually schedules bills for a hearing. The trick, of course, is that the petition must contain the signatures of two-thirds of the Senate in order to succeed.
Let’s hope, for a change, that Parmon’s colleagues think for themselves on this matter rather than simply marching in lockstep with the Senate leadership. If they apply common sense rather than blind political loyalty, the state might just make a little headway on this important and long-neglected matter.