Minimum wage hike foes want state high court to toss measure

The push to raise the minimum wage - and the pushback from opponents - figures to be a big issue in Arizona and elsewhere this election.

(Courtesy photo)

The push to raise the minimum wage - and the pushback from opponents - figures to be a big issue in Arizona and elsewhere this election.

PHOENIX (AP) – Opponents of a voter initiative raising the state’s minimum wage from $8.05 to $12 an hour by 2020 on Wednesday asked the Arizona Supreme Court to overrule a trial judge’s decision that said they filed their challenge too late.

Lawyers for the Arizona Restaurant Association said in a court filing that if Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joshua Rogers’ ruling stands, a voter initiative that doesn’t have enough signatures will be before voters in November.

They argued that Rogers was wrong when he ruled last week that initiative challenges must be filed within five days of qualifying signatures being filed, including weekends. The opponents say he shouldn’t have counted weekend days.

Rogers threw out more than 53,000 signatures on backers’ petitions but said because opponents filed their challenge too late they’ll still count. Without them, Proposition 206 won’t have the needed 150,642 signatures needed to make the ballot.

“Yet, according to the trial court, Arizona’s voters should be forced to cast their votes for a deficient initiative – one besieged with statutory noncompliance - because the lawsuit was brought within five business days after petitions were filed, as opposed to five calendar days,” attorney Roopali Desai wrote.

The association alleged many of the signatures were invalid because signature-gatherers weren’t qualified.

Rogers ruled that indeed scores of people who collected signatures didn’t qualify and he would have thrown out their petition sheets.

But they stand because the lawsuit was filed too late.

The attorney for the Arizona Healthy Working Families Initiative said last week he believes Rogers got it right.

“The judge’s opinion is very well thought out on this issue,” said Jim Barton. “If it doesn’t say, then it’s calendar days. That’s the rule.”

The initiative would increase the minimum wage to $10 next year and then to $12 by 2020. It also would require large employers to provide five days of sick time a year and small employers three days.

The high court is also being briefed on an appeal of another judge’s ruling that that threw out a challenge to an initiative an initiative that would legalize recreational marijuana.