Shelby County Commissioners voted down a “wage theft” ordinance Monday, Jan. 14, on third and final reading.
The proposal failed on a 5-7 vote with very little debate among commissioners but a just about even split among 23 citizens who spoke on the issue before the commission voted.
Steve Mulroy, who sponsored the measure, had the vote of every Democratic commissioner except Melvin Burgess, who was absent, and James Harvey, who switched from his earlier votes in favor of the measure.
Even with all seven Democratic votes, Mulroy needed two Republican votes to get the nine-vote majority required for passage.
Mulroy couldn’t even muster seven votes to delay the final vote until Burgess was in attendance.
The ordinance drew opposition from the local hotel-motel, restaurant and hospitality industries who said it would create new bureaucracy for small business owners to deal with.
Just before Monday’s commission meeting, the Greater Memphis Chamber came out against the proposal.
“If passed, the wage theft ordinance will require valuable time and financial resources to even refute meritless claims,” the chamber statement reads. “Additionally, we believe that in the competitive marketplace of recruiting new companies to our area, this type of legislation can give the misimpression that we are over regulating business and industry.”
Mulroy said he worked with small business owners in the hospitality industry with amendments offered that would have deleted any fines or court costs and specified that the burden of proof was on the worker making the complaint. He said all of those compromises were rejected. They were also voted down Monday.
Mulroy also said that he will probably bring a similar measure back for consideration at some point.
A similar ordinance that would apply to the city of Memphis is being considered by the Memphis City Council and is tentatively set for a final vote at the first council meeting in February.
In other action, the commission approved the agreement between the Shelby County Trustee’s office and the city of Memphis for Trustee David Lenoir to collect city property taxes for the city.
The agreement means the county general fund will see an increase of $625,000 in revenue.
The commission also approved an $850,000 contract with Southeast Mental Health Center to provide detoxification and mental health services for suspects who are arrested. The program amounts to determining if a prisoner who is behaving erratically has a mental health issue or is intoxicated and from that determination whether there is a long term problem.
And the commission approved a $1.4 million contract with Standard Construction Company for a set of asphalt paving and resurfacing projects in Shelby County. The funding comes from Shelby County gas tax funds.
So does another $30,000 approved by the commission for the acquisition and closing costs of right-of-way land for the Raleigh-Millington Road bridge over the Loosahatchie River in north Shelby County.