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Groups seeks to raise state minimum wage

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An organization called Raise Oklahoma wants a statewide election to raise Oklahoma's minimum wage.

The group filed an initiative petition Thursday in the secretary of state's office, less than two months after a state House committee rejected legislation to raise the minimum wage higher than the federal level of $5.15 per hour.

The petition proposes raising the minimum wage by $1 an hour, beginning Jan. 1, and by $1 more per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2008.

According to the petition, the minimum wage would be raised after 2008 based on the annual percentage change in a consumer price index compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Raise Oklahoma has 90 days to obtain at least 117,101 valid signatures of registered voters.

Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, author of the minimum wage legislation, confirmed he is associated with the group that filed the petition.

He said the core group of Raise Oklahoma has between 50 and 100 people.

Oklahoma City resident Chris Heldenbrand, who filed the petition, said the organization is a grass-roots group that includes members ranging from some labor unions to advocacy groups.

It also includes some people who belong to the Democracy for America group in Oklahoma City, which is affiliated with a national organization dedicated to supporting progressive political candidates, Heldenbrand said.

The federal minimum wage, which Oklahoma uses, hasn't been raised since 1996, Morrissette said. Other states that have increased the minimum wage have had a growth rate twice that of states that haven't raised it, he said.

The State Chamber will oppose this proposal, said Mike Seney, senior vice president of operations for the organization.

``This is an issue that needs to be resolved on a federal basis so it applies across the board to all states,'' Seney said.

A state with a higher minimum wage than other states indicates that the state is not business-friendly, Seney said.
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