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California Lege Raises Minimum Wage to $15

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - Just hours after hurdling through the California state Assembly on party-line vote, a bill to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour hurriedly passed the state Senate Thursday in a 26-12 vote.

The contentious measure backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, labor unions and state Democrats now sits on Brown's desk just three days after being introduced.

Brown - who is currently in Washington for a multinational nuclear summit - said he will sign the bill in Los Angeles on Monday.

Supporters touted Senate Bill 3 as a path to prosperity for the poorest Californians, calling it more viable than two competing ballot initiatives being pushed by the state's largest labor unions.

Once signed by Brown, California's minimum wage will rise incrementally to $15 per hour by 2022, the highest in the nation.

State Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, said he prefers Brown's proposal over a ballot initiative because it gives the governor the ability to pause wage increases and allows small businesses an extra year to reach the $15 per hour mandate.

"This represents a compromise that I believe is prudent. It's one that has a graduated pathway," Monning said.

The deal allows the governor to temporarily freeze mandatory wage increases if the state's economy struggles to add jobs or if there is a predicted budget deficit. Neither of the ballot measures included "freeze-out" provisions and called for a $15 per hour minimum wage by 2021.

Lawmakers split along party lines as SB 3 passed both houses without a Republican yes vote. The minority party claimed the proposal was crafted in closed-door meetings while lawmakers were on spring break and that they didn't have time to discuss it with small business owners.

Republicans said the pay raise, which could benefit more than five million Californians, would be a "job killer" and a "death sentence" for entry-level jobs and asked for a regional approach.

"Our job in this building should be to help people climb the economic ladder, not cut off the bottom rungs," said state Sen. Ted Gains, R-El Dorado. "That is exactly what will happen if we shove through an unprecedented cost increase on businesses."

State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said it was important that voters not decide the issue in November and to prevent "external forces" from making the decision for the Legislature.

"It's pragmatic, it is smart decision-making. It is our responsibility as elected officials to take on the controversial issues," de Leon said of the unusual act of the state Senate voting on the bill on the same day as the Assembly.

Brown, who signed a bill raising California's wage floor to $10 per hour in 2013, has on several occasions warned about the negative impacts of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. He opposed a similar proposal last year, and the California Department of Finance concluded that raising the wage to $13 per hour would boost the state's payroll by more than $1 billion and slow employment growth.

Prior to the Senate vote, the bill was debated for more than two hours in the Assembly chambers before passing 48-26.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, said the proposal is a "responsible path forward" and that studies continue to show that raising the minimum wage can lift Californians out of poverty.

"The bottom line is if you work full-time, your family shouldn't live in poverty," Rendon said.

Assemblyman David Hadley, R-Torrance, said SB3 will eliminate jobs in several industries, specifically for workers who receive tips.

"It is an absolute certainty that this bill will destroy some good jobs," Hadley warned.

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, supported the measure but derided her colleagues for rushing it through the legislative process.

"I don't have time to go before my chamber. I don't have time to go before my farm bureau. I don't have time to go and hear from people," Eggman said..

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