Cherokee Nation raising minimum wage

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — The Cherokee Nation, one of the largest Native American tribes in the country, is raising its minimum wage by 50 cents, Chief Bill John Baker announced Monday. 

Baker signed an executive order last week to boost the minimum wage for tribal employees to $9.50 over the next two years. 

The tribe’s current minimum wage is $9 per hour. 

Employees with more than one year of service earning minimum wage will jump to $9.50 per hour on Oct. 1, which is the first day of fiscal year 2015. Workers with less than one year of service will see a staggered increase over the fiscal year. 

Nearly 400 Cherokee Nation government employees will benefit from the increase, which amounts to more than $1,000 per year, the tribe said. 

“We recognize that while the cost of goods and services has risen, wages have not, so we’re doing something about that. This wage increase will help more Oklahomans put food on the table, and rest easier about how to make ends meet,” Baker said in a statement. 

“It will also allow our employees more discretionary spending, which boosts the local economy.”

The increase will not impact Cherokee Nation Businesses, which oversees the tribe’s gaming and business enterprises. 

The minimum wage for those employees is currently $9.36 an hour. Baker is calling on the Cherokee Nation Businesses’ board of directors to consider increasing the minimum wage as well. 

The federal minimum wage is $7.25. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are seeking to increase it to $10.10 hourly by 2016.


Fallin announces higher ed board appointments

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Mary Fallin has announced the appointments of five regents to the governing boards of several Oklahoma colleges and universities.

Fallin announced the appointments Monday.

Fallin named Poteau attorney Belva Barber to the Carl Albert State College Board of Regents, and McAlester business owner Loise Washington to the Eastern Oklahoma State College Board of Regents. 

Other appointments announced Monday include Rita Combs of Bixby to the Langston University Board of Trustees, Oklahoma City banker William Croak to the Rose State College Board of Regents and Ardmore professor Kirk Rodden to the University Center of Southern Oklahoma Board of Trustees.

All of the appointments require Oklahoma Senate confirmation.


Brief in Okla. gay marriage ban lawsuit expected

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Lawyers face a Monday deadline to file a brief outlining an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that overturned Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage. 

A brief from the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith is expected to lay out arguments in defense of the state’s marriage ban. It’s the first step in the process that will lead to an April 17 hearing before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

A federal judge in January struck down Oklahoma’s 2004 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

“Exclusion of just one class of citizens from receiving a marriage license based upon the perceived ‘threat’ they pose to the marital institution is, at bottom, an arbitrary exclusion based upon the majority’s disapproval of the defined class,” U.S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote. 

“It is also insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships.” 

Kern’s ruling said that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it precludes same-sex couples from receiving an Oklahoma marriage license. The ruling was blasted by Oklahoma’s Republican governor, attorney general and other elected officials. Kern immediately stayed the effects of his ruling, anticipating an appeal.

Kern’s ruling was one of several in the past few months to strike down or void part of such a ban.

A similar appeal out of Utah is being heard by the 10th Circuit. Utah state attorneys filed their opening arguments earlier this month, saying the optimal environment for raising a child is with a mother and father. 

A federal judge there had ruled in December that the voter-approved ban was unconstitutional. 

More than 1,000 gay couples got married in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay in the case, halting the marriages during the appeals process. Oral arguments in the Utah case are scheduled for April 10.


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