Lexington could be poised to become the second city in Kentucky to increase the minimum wage.
After months of debate and back-and-forth, the Urban County Council voted 8-6 Tuesday to put on its Nov. 5 agenda an ordinance that would increase the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour over three years.
The ordinance must get two readings. A final vote could come in November.
The compromise ordinance would not tie future minimum wage increases to the consumer price index and exempts tipped employees.
A previous ordinance had included both measures. Council member Jennifer Mossotti, who sponsored the ordinance, said she thought it wouldn't pass if those provisions were included.
"I thought keeping the $10.10 minimum was more important," Mossotti said. "It was a concession that was made. I can't say that I was real happy about it. But it was a concession that had to be made."
Mayor Jim Gray would not say after Tuesday's vote if he would veto the ordinance. Gray, however, said he would listen carefully to the council's debate. Gray said he thought the issue should be addressed by the federal government.
"I share the frustration with the council that this issue has not been addressed by Congress," Gray said.
Those who voted in favor of putting the compromise ordinance on the council's agenda were Mossotti, James Brown, Susan Lamb, Jake Gibbs, Shevawn Akers, Peggy Henson, Vice Mayor Steve Kay and Angela Evans.
Voting against were Amanda Bledsoe, Russ Hensley, Bill Farmer, Fred Brown, Jennifer Scutchfield and Kevin Stinnett.
Some of those who voted against the measure said they thought the city didn't have the authority to raise the minimum wage. Last year, the Louisville Metro Council voted to increase its minimum wage to $9 over the next three years. Business groups challenged the law, and that legal challenge is before the state Supreme Court.
"I don't think a local government can make this law," Scutchfield said. "We will see a lawsuit over this."
Bledsoe said there were too many questions about how the ordinance would be enforced. If a business — such as a catering company from an adjoining county — were to work in Fayette County for a one-time event, would it have to comply with the ordinance?
Those who voted for the ordinance said they thought raising wages was the right thing to do.
"What we know is that 20,000 people plus will get an immediate benefit from this," Kay said.
Attempts were made Tuesday to amend the ordinance but those efforts failed, including an amendment by Hensley to exempt all small businesses as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Kay countered that the definition of a small business could be too broad and include businesses that have more than 100 employees. Kay said he thought the amendment was an attempt "to gut the ordinance." That amendment failed 8-6.
Under the compromise ordinance, the minimum wage would increase to $8.20 an hour on July 1; $9.15 an hour on July 1, 2017; and $10.10 an hour on July 1, 2018.
The council began discussions about raising the minimum wage in March. It has held multiple public hearings. Last month, Lamb proposed a compromise that would cap the minimum wage at $9 over the next three years.
Lamb and Mossotti met over the past week and came up with Tuesday's compromise ordinance.
Jesus Gonzales, a waiter, thanked those on the council who voted for the minimum wage increase but said he was disappointed tipped employees were exempted.
"This is hard for me. I definitely support a $10.10 wage increase, but I am a server, so cutting the tipped workers to me is not right," Gonzales said.
Mossotti said after Tuesday's meeting that she was cautiously optimistic the eight council members who voted Tuesday to put the issue on the agenda would continue to support the ordinance when it comes up for a final vote.
"It feels great," Mossotti said of Tuesday's vote. "I am hopeful that it will pass."