Tip pooling and fuels tax

Tip pooling bill on edge of grave

Fails in conference committee; Will it rise again?

Hike in fuels tax clears Senate; pension bill in limbo

A bill allowing restaurant owners to establish and manage tip-sharing pools may be dead for the session – or maybe not. Meanwhile, more money for Wyoming roads will be coming soon in the wake of the passage of a 10-cents-a-gallon hike in fuel taxes. Servers in the state have been watching the tip pooling measure. The Senate on Wednesday approved House Bill 112 Tip distribution policies, engrossed, but tacked on two amendments. Both addressed criticism that the bill imposes a wealth distribution plan on tipped employees and paved the way for employers to use tips taken in by one server to bring the earnings of other servers up to the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. Sen. Drew Perkins, SD29, R-Casper, authored one of the amendments to make the bill, as he said, more capitalistic. His change gave servers the right to “opt out” of an employer’s tip pooling plan. Several critics noted that server could expect fewer and less desirable work shifts. A second amendment added on Third Reading by Sen. Curt Meier, SD3, R-LaGrange, aimed to prevent employers from using the tip pool to pay the “offset” necessary to assure that all employees make at least $7.25/hour. The language was criticized as vague and off the mark when debated on the floor but Meier made his intention clear and the amendment was approved. The Meier amendment became the linchpin of compromise efforts in the conference committee. The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff, HD16,

Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff

R-Jackson, accepted the Perkins amendment but called the Meier amendment “circular” and said it would make the tip pooling unworkable. She said employers already use voluntary tip pools to bring the pay of some employees, such as bussers and drink servers, up to the federal minimum wage, Federal law allows employers to pay a base minimum wage of$2.13/hour to tipped employees. If their total tips do not make up the difference between the base minimum and the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, the employer must make up the difference. The payment is known as the “tip offset.” Petroff said employers already use shared tips to pay that difference, essentially taking wages from one employee to ensure that a second employee’s pay meets the federal minimum. Sen. Phil Nicholas, one of the Senate members of the conference committee, complained that the bill “sanctions the food industry to run roughshod over everybody.” When fellow Sen. Leland Christensen noted that 47 other states allow tip pooling, Nicholas challenged him to show a statute from another state that does the same thing as HB112. The bill puts the state in the position of enforcing the federal minimum wage law, Nicholas said. “It’s not the state’s responsibility to enforce federal law,” Christensen made a motion to approve a compromise leaving the Perkins amendment in the bill but removing the Meier amendment. Petroff supported the motion but Perkins, Nicholas, Rep. Patrick Goggles, HD33, R-Ethete, and Rep. Mike Madden, HD40, R-Buffalo, opposed it. “We’ve finished it,” Madden said as the conference committee adjourned. Madden said later that he believes the bill is dead. Christensen indicated Thursday evening that an effort may be made to resume the discussion with a second conference committee.

Other bills

Fuels tax hike approved –The Senate passed HB 69 Highway funding on Third Reading on an 18-12 vote. With no amendments on the bill it was immediately signed by the House Speaker and Senate President as House Enrolled Act 38. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

ROLL CALL

  Ayes:  Senator(s) Anderson JD S02, Anderson JL S28, Burns, Christensen, Craft, Emerich, Esquibel, F., Geis, Hastert, Hines, Johnson, Landen, Nicholas P, Nutting, Ross, Rothfuss, Schiffer and Von Flatern.   Nays:  Senator(s) Barnard, Bebout, Case, Coe, Cooper, Dockstader, Driskill, Hicks, Meier, Perkins, Peterson and Scott.   Ayes 18    Nays 12    Excused 0    Absent 0    Conflicts 0

Pensions –A bill originally aimed at strengthening three of the state’s pension plans also must go through a conference committee to address major differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. House Bill 250 Public employee retirement plans originally directed the state to pay for increasing contributions to the pension funding formula. The Senate added amendments requiring state and other public employees to pay half those contributions. A conference committee has been appointed but as of late Thursday afternoon, no meeting had been scheduled.  

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