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The Nevada Legislature building. Photo by David Calvert.

Members of the Nevada Senate have adopted two measures that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2024, changing state law and possibly amending the state Constitution through a ballot question.

Senators voted 13-7 on Friday to approve AB456, which would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage for the first time in a decade. The measure passed out of the Assembly on a party-line 28-12 vote on May 28, and now heads to Gov. Steve Sisolak — who has previously said he supports raising the wage to $12 over several years.

Republican Sen. Keith Pickard joined Democrats to support that measure but voted against AJR10, which makes a similar increase to the wage but removes the two-tier wage system where employers that offer health insurance to employees can pay a lower wage. He said he did not like that the measure enacted a change in the Constitution.

“Market flexibility should be maintained and we entirely lose that if we put it in the Constitution,” he said. “I am opposed to this not because I don’t believe we shouldn’t be paying a decent wage for work performed. I think I demonstrated that just a moment ago. But this is not the way to do it.”

AJR10 — which was introduced just last Wednesday — passed 12-8 on party lines.

Sponsored by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, AB456 would raise the minimum wage to a tiered $9 or $8 an hour (depending on whether an employer offers health insurance) by July 1, 2020, with the wage raising by 75 cents every year until 2024, ending at a maximum wage of $12 (or $11 if an employer offers health insurance).

But that tiered system would be removed under AJR10, a proposed constitutional amendment that would set the state minimum wage at $12 by 2024 regardless of employer-offered health insurance, and requires an increase if the federal minimum wage also increases. That measure must be approved by the 2021 Legislature and then by voters in the 2022 election to be included in the state’s Constitution.

The measure passed on a 28-12 vote in the Assembly on Tuesday.

The last increase to the state’s minimum wage came in 2006, when voters approved a ballot measure setting the minimum wage at $6.15 an hour with the tiered system for employer-offered health insurance and tied to increases in the federal wage floor or cumulative cost-of-living increases. The current minimum wage has not been raised since 2011. Effective minimum wages have increased in at least 27 states and Washington D.C. since January 2014.

In 2017, Democratic lawmakers approved two bills raising the minimum wage including a Senate effort to bump the wage to $12 per hour over five years, but both were vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

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