Key committee adds more members for minimum wage debate

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As the Los Angles City Council considers proposals to increase the hourly minimum wage, the council's president added two more members to a key committee weighing the measure. 

Council President Herb Wesson added himself and Councilman Paul Koretz to the Economic Development Committee as it debates a proposal from Mayor Eric Garcetti to increase the minimum wage to $13.25 an hour by 2017. They're also considering a second proposal from four council members to raise it even further, to $15.25 an hour by 2019. 

In an interview with KPCC, Wesson said he expanded the committee from five members to seven to get a "wide variety of ideas" and to “eliminate complaints and concerns” about the process.

"It should be a methodical process," he said. 

Last month, the Los Angeles City Council approved raising the minimum wage for employees of non-unionized hotels to $15.37 an hour. Pro-business interests complained the process was rushed.

"We got our instructions about what questions to address just two weeks before the vote, and we were surprised to learn that the council intended to vote on the day after we turned in our final analysis, which suggests none of the members spent time looking at our findings,"  Economist Chris Thornberg, who wrote one of three studies on the proposed hotel wage, wrote in a scathing column published by the Los Angeles Times.

The newly expanded Economic Development Committee voted Tuesday to hire an outside firm to study the economic impact of increasing the minimum wage. The study will also look at unintended consequences and whether there should be exemptions for small businesses and non-profits. 

Wesson said the committee may hold community meetings on the wage proposal before the study is completed to "take temperature of folks."

The study is due back on Feb. 1, after the mayor and some city council members had wanted the wage increase to take effect.

Councilman Curren Price, chair of the Economic Development Committee, said he was "pleased" with the expansion. He's in favor of raising the minimum wage, as is Koretz. Wesson hasn't come out one way or the other.

"Something this significant deserves robust discussion and that has to include a bringing diverse voices to the table," Price said, "We need to hear from everyday Angelenos, not just the lobbyists and advocates."

The other members of the Economic Development Committee are Council members Price, Nury Martinez, Paul Krekorian, Gil Cedillo and Jose Huizar. 

Asked whether it's unusual to change the size of a committee for one policy issue, Wesson replied: "guess it is."

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