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House committee gives OK to minimum wage exemption for amusement parks

House committee gives OK to minimum wage exemption for amusement parks

Dustin Hurst
March 11, 2010
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March 11, 2010

The House State Affairs Committee joined with the Senate in approving a measure that would exempt amusement parks from the federal minimum wage.

The exemption already exists, notes the bill's sponsor, Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, but only in federal law.  Hill said a constituent in his district, the owner of Idaho Bear World just outside of Rexburg, tried to claim the exemption last summer, but was informed that the business didn't qualify under laws in Idaho.  Idaho Department of Labor (IDL) sent an auditor to the park to enforce the state's law, Hill told lawmakers.

The current exemption rests in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.  Hill said that IDL should have informed the Legislature of the discrepancy in the past, but that a miscommunication probably prevented it from becoming known.

"I don't think it was on purpose," said Hill.

According to Hill, Idaho Bear World is a popular place to work for high school students in Madison County.  "I don't know a student who goes to Madison High School who doesn't want to work there," Hill commented.   He estimated that the park hires between two and three dozen high school students for its operations each summer, though those hirings could be impacted by 2009's minimum wage increase because it could bring in older and more experienced workers looking for the higher pay.  The exemption could help to keep the doors of the park open, because while seeing an 39 percent increase in labor costs due to the pay increases, the park's revenue dropped by about 40 percent due to road construction in the area and other economic factors.

The bill now heads to the full House for a vote.

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