Bill to raise minimum wage advances in Senate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A bill to raise the minimum wage in Tennessee by a dollar to $6.15 an hour advanced in the Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate Commerce, Labor and Agriculture Committee voted 5-2 to move the measure along to the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee, where it must be approved before it can reach a floor vote.

Democratic leaders in the House, where the party holds a majority, are pushing for passage of the increase.

Bill sponsor Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, called raising the minimum wage "a moral issue," that would help about 40,000 state residents who earn the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. That rate has not been raised since 1997.

"Is it too much to ask for a minimum wage that lets a worker make $12,972 a year?" Henry asked.

The vote came after about 90 minutes of testimony from representatives of business groups, who called the measure a "jobs killer bill."

Opponents of the bill said raising the minimum wage would mean a loss of jobs, fewer hours for minimum-wage workers and higher prices as employers pass the wage hike on to consumers.

Republican Sens. Jim Bryson of Franklin and Tim Burchett of Knoxville questioned whether exemptions to the state minimum wage for farm, nursery and tip-earning workers leave the bill with any impact. Both voted against it.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage above $5.15. Washington's is the highest at $7.63.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)