Supreme_Court_Chamber_-_Kentucky_State_Capitol_-_DSC09186The Kentucky Supreme Court granted a motion on Thursday to hear the case challenging Louisville’s 2014 ordinance increasing its minimum wage to $9 an hour, which was upheld by Jefferson Circuit Court and the Kentucky Court of Appeals this summer before going into effect on July 1.

The plaintiffs in the case — the Kentucky Restaurant Association, the Kentucky Retail Federation, and Louisville manufacturer Packaging Unlimited — argue that state law does not give local entities the authority to increase the minimum above the statewide rate of $7.25 per hour, which also would burden business with compliance challenges. Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman ruled in June that state law only sets a floor for the minimum wage — allowing cities such as Louisville to retain the right to lift the wage — and citied other local ordinances such as smoking bans that vary around the state.

Six justices agreed to hear the case this morning, with only Justice Michelle Keller dissenting.

Stacy Roof, the CEO of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, told Insider Louisville that they were confident the Supreme Court would take the case, adding that a definitive ruling is needed.

“The reason that we’re doing this is because if Louisville can do it, any other city can do it,” said Roof. “And there are a lot of cities in Kentucky, there are a lot of counties, a lot of towns, and a lot of entities that can come up with their own laws, not just the minimum wage. So we want a definitive ruling, not just a Louisville ruling, that determines what they’re allowed to do. Because for our members, that can mean a whole lot of different laws all over the state if they have operations other than here.”

The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office will defend the city before the Kentucky Supreme Court, as they did in Jefferson Circuit Court, assisted by an opinion from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway stating that Louisville’s government had the proper authority to raise its minimum wage. Both offices declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case, saying they do not comment on pending litigation.

Louisville’s minimum wage increased to $7.75 per hour on July 1 and will incrementally rise to $9 an hour in 2017. After a veto threat in late 2014 by Mayor Greg Fischer — who argued that it would put local businesses at a competitive advantage — Metro Council lowered the proposed ordinance from its original form, which would have increased the city’s minimum wage to $10.10.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]