Nevada legislature refers minimum wage amendment to 2022 ballot

In November 2022, Nevada voters will decide on an amendment to increase the minimum wage for all employees to $12 by 2024. The state legislature voted on Friday to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would change the current minimum wage, which is set at two different rates depending on whether the employee receives health benefits or not. The amendment would also remove the existing annual inflation adjustments to the minimum wage, which are currently capped at 3% of the prior year’s rate, and allow the legislature to pass a minimum wage law setting the rate higher than the constitutionally mandated minimum.

In 2019, the Nevada State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 456 (AB 456), which enacted a minimum wage increase beginning in 2020 at a rate of $8.00 for employees that received health benefits and $9.00 for those who did not. The rate is set to increase incrementally until July 2024 when it reaches $11 and $12 for the respective employee tiers. 

As of January 2021, the minimum wage in Nevada was $8.75 for employees with health benefits and $9.75 for employees without health benefits.

Twenty-five states and D.C. increased or will increase their minimum wages in 2021. Across the country, the average state minimum wage in 2021 is about $9.59, up from $9.17 in 2020.

To refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot, a majority vote is required in both chambers of the Nevada Legislature in two successive sessions. The amendment was introduced as Assembly Joint Resolution 10 (AJR 10) during the 2019 legislative session. The amendment passed in the Nevada State Legislature along party lines with Democrats in the majority and Republicans in the minority. The Assembly passed the amendment in a vote of 28-12 with one Republican member excused. The State Senate passed the amendment in a vote of 12-8 with one Democratic member excused.

During the 2021 legislative session, the State Assembly passed the amendment along party lines with a vote of 26 Democrats in favor and 16 Republicans opposed. The Senate passed the amendment largely along party lines with a vote of 13-8, with one Republican joining the Democratic majority.

The amendment is the fourth ballot measure to qualify for the 2022 ballot. The legislature also referred a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the denial or abridgment of rights on account of an individual’s race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin. Voters will also be deciding two indirect initiatives that would increase gaming and sales taxes and dedicate revenue to education and tourism.

Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada voters approved 60.7% (51 of 84) and rejected 39.3% (33 of 84) of the ballot measures that appeared on statewide ballots.

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