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Arizona attorney general opposes minimum wage exemption for minor league baseball players

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes opposes a bill to exempt minor league baseball players from the state’s minimum wage law. 

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association say a collective bargaining agreement signed last year provides players with benefits that exceed the minimum wage. But the time players put in practicing on their own could conflict with reporting requirements in the state’s law, so they’re asking lawmakers for an exemption. 

LUCHA, a progressive advocacy group, has argued an exemption would undermine the minimum wage law voters approved in 2016 and will be open to legal challenges.

Mayes, a Democrat, agrees.

“The proposed carveout in HB2197/SB1093 contradicts the purpose of voter-protected legislation,” Mayes said in a statement. “In fact, rather than furthering the purpose of voter-approved legislation, it undermines it. … This carveout risks setting a harmful precedent, weakening the critical worker protections approved by voters.”

Gov. Katie Hobbs hasn’t said whether she opposes the bill. But she says she, like Mayes, is concerned it could violate constitutional protections preventing lawmakers from undermining voter approved laws.   

Identical bills that would approve the exemption have passed through committees in the Arizona House and Senate with unanimous Republican support. So far, Sen. Brian Fernandez (D-Yuma) is the only Democrat to vote in favor of either bill.

“I think in this case, [the players] decided to make a decision based on what they thought their needs were, and I don’t know their needs are,” Fernandez said. 

Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard acknowledged the bill may end up before a judge who will decide whether it conflicts with the minimum wage law. But he said he supports the proposal, because it is good policy and both MLB and the players union are backing it. 

“How often down here are we excited when all the parties get on board?” Mesnard said. “Here they are and we may actually mess that up. And if we do, the impact will be to the state on what is a tremendous asset and that’s Spring Training etc.” 

Similar proposals passed with bipartisan support in California and Florida last year.

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.