'Time To Let The People Decide': Ruling Puts Raising The Oklahoma Minimum Wage In Voters' Hands

The Oklahoma Supreme Court says that raising the state minimum wage is up to voters. The citizen-led initiative now needs 92,000 valid signatures before it can be placed on a ballot.

Tuesday, March 5th 2024, 5:27 pm



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The Oklahoma Supreme Court says the people should decide on whether to raise the minimum wage. State Question 832 will let voters decide on whether to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2029.

The State Chamber filed a petition to block the question, arguing the proposed rates don't reflect the cost of living increase in Oklahoma. But the Chamber lost the challenge. 

Now supporters can start collecting signatures. 

“The supreme court decision was a big win for direct democracy. It allows people a direct say in the influence of government policy,” said State Rep. Mickey Dollens (R-OKC).

State Question 832 looks to raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next 5 years. Now, it is up to the people of Oklahoma to decide the outcome. 

“Now the real work begins,” said Rep. Dollens.

Rep. Dollens says citizen-led ballot initiatives go through an extremely difficult process. 

“Very rarely do proposals that organizers put forward at the citizen level make it all the way through to become state law,” said Rep. Dollens.

In fact, Dollens says less than six percent of citizen proposed state questions actually become law.

Organizers have 90 days to get five percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election for the question to be put on a ballot, where it goes to a vote of the people.

In this case that number is about 92,000 valid signatures.

“Putting your name on the petition doesn't mean you're in favor, it just means that you would like for the citizens to have more say in their state government,” said Rep. Dollens.

If supporters get the signatures in time, the governor will decide when to put the state question on the ballot.

“I know that organizers in the minimum wage state question are shooting for the November ballot,” said Rep. Dollens.

Amber England with Raise the Wage Oklahoma, said in a statement: “We've officially cleared a major legal hurdle in this historic effort to gradually raise the wage for hundreds of thousands of hard-working Oklahomans.”

England went on to say, “Politicians for far too long have ignored this issue while families struggle to make ends meet and we know the only way to give hard-working Oklahomans the pay raise they deserve is by letting voters decide this issue for themselves at the ballot box.”

“It's one of the best things we have going to keep a check and balance on the legislature,” said Rep. Dollens.

The State Chamber of Oklahoma President and CEO Chad Warmington issued the following statement:

“We are disappointed by the court’s decision to let SQ 832 proceed without providing any justification for the reasoning behind the decision. The six justices making this ruling failed to perform one of the most basic duties of their job by refusing to even author a majority opinion that addresses the serious constitutional arguments we raised in our legal challenge. The Court’s ruling ran counter to its own precedent that was directly on point in this case. By failing to provide reasoning that either explains why that precedent is no longer valid or explains why that precedent does not apply to this state question, the Court has sewn confusion and uncertainty in this area of Oklahoma law.  
"We commend the three justices who seriously grappled with the questions at hand in their written opinions—two agreed with our position and one did not, but all three took seriously their role as justices on the highest court in Oklahoma. The subject at hand is of great consequence to our state, and the people of Oklahoma deserve insight into the logic used by the court’s majority to reach this conclusion. Justice Rowe was spot on in his dissent, saying that the court desired “to have its cake, by allowing the petition to proceed – and eat it too – by blatantly defying our precedent.
"The work has begun related to SQ 832. We look forward to a vigorous campaign to educate Oklahomans about the disastrous policy that will crush working families through price increases on the heels of record inflation and put corner stores and family farms out of business.”

Full statement from Amber England, Raise the Wage Oklahoma: 

“We've officially cleared a major legal hurdle in this historic effort to gradually raise the wage for hundreds of thousands of hard-working Oklahomans. Politicians for far too long have ignored this issue while families struggle to make ends meet and we know the only way to give hard-working Oklahomans the pay raise they deserve is by letting voters decide this issue for themselves at the ballot box.
“The cost of gas, groceries and housing just keep going up while wages for hard-working Oklahomans have largely stayed the same. Everyday Oklahomans understand the importance of gradually increasing the minimum wage so that people who work for a living can earn a good living and keep up with inflation.
“We look forward to delivering a victory for all the hard-working Oklahomans who desperately need a win at the ballot box. It’s time to let the people decide.”
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