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Constitutional amendment for higher minimum wage sought

CARSON CITY — Backers of raising Nevada’s minimum wage filed a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that would abolish the state’s existing two-tiered system and gradually increase the rate to $13 an hour.

The initiative filed with the secretary of state’s office by the Committee to Raise the Minimum Wage in Nevada would set a rate of $9.25 an hour beginning in late 2018 if the measure is enacted. It would increase by 75 cents an hour each year after that to $13 in 2024.

After that, the rate would be adjusted annually, either by a similar increase in the federal minimum wage or the cost of living as published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, whichever is greater.

Provided the initiative survives any potential legal challenges, supporters will need to collect 55,234 signatures by June 21 to qualify for next November’s ballot.

Voters would have to approve it in 2016 and 2018 for it to take effect.

Nevada voters last approved a minimum wage law in 2004 and reaffirmed it in 2006. The existing law in the state constitution calls for an annual review of the minimum wage and adjustments based on any increases to the federal rate or the cumulative increase in the cost of living as published by bureau.

Existing law also allows employers who offer health insurance to pay a minimum wage $1 less than those who do not offer coverage. Critics, however, claim some employers skirt the law and get away with paying the lower wage by offering plans that don’t even qualify as health care coverage.

They also argue employers must provide coverage, not just offer it, to get the discounted rate.

A dozen or more lawsuits have been filed against various employers over the issue.

Nevada employers are allowed to pay $7.25 an hour instead of $8.25 if they provide insurance. Those rates have been in effect since 2011.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @sandrachereb

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