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A D.C. Superior Court judge today ruled in favor of $15-an-hour minimum wage initiative.
The case, brought by former D.C. Chamber of Commerce President Harry Wingo, argued that the initiative was invalid because the terms of D.C. Board of Elections members who approved the language had expired.
In January, Judge Maurice Ross gave an oral opinion from the bench that indicated he was inclined to favor the plaintiff’s case. Had that been his official ruling, it would have called into question the validity of four years of BOE decisions, including the legalization of marijuana by ballot initiative.
After that opinion, D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General intervened, saying the case “has potential to ripple far beyond this lawsuit.” Though he had been leaning toward the plaintiff’s arguments, Ross said today that the brief filed by the District showed that there was clear precedent and intention for a valid “holdover” position until new members are appointed to BOE.
“The record, as I find, is that there were two board members who were in holdover status, who had been nominated by the mayor and properly confirmed, and even though their three-year term had expired, they are holdovers until their successors are nominated,” Ross said.
Though the decision is good news for the Raise the Minimum Wage committee, its members still have to wait to see if Wingo’s lawyers will file an appeal.
Delvone Michael, director of the D.C. chapter of the Working Families Party, said Wingo’s lawyers have not indicated whether they will file an appeal yet. Still, Michael is confident that the committee will be able to collect the more than 24,000 signatures needed soon to place the measure on the November 2016 ballot.
“I think the writing’s on the wall, everyone supports the policy,” Michael said. “It’s just a matter of time until we move forward and make 15 a reality.”
The judge’s decision comes a week after Mayor Muriel Bowser said in her State of the District address that she would send legislation to the D.C. Council this month that would raise the minimum wage to $15-per-hour by 2020.
In a D.C. Vote–Washington City Paper poll, 87 percent of D.C. residents said they would support raising the minimum wage.
Illustration by Lauren Heneghan