Louisiana State Capitol _lowres

ADVOCATE FILE PHOTO --- Louisiana's State Capitol, standing at 450 feet tall, is the tallest capitol in the United States.

The effort to increase the minimum wage in Louisiana appears to be dead for the third year in a row, after bills that aimed to set the state's first-ever minimum rate higher than the federal rate were shot down in the State Capitol this week.

The House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on Thursday voted 9-3 to reject an attempt to set a $15 an hour minimum wage in Louisiana, beginning in 2019. The Senate rejected an $8.50 an hour minimum wage proposal on Tuesday.

The minimum wage in Louisiana is the federal $7.25 an hour rate.

"It's an issue of economic justice," said Rep. Joseph Bouie, a New Orleans Democrat who sponsored House Bill 192. "Unfortunately, as a nation and as a state we are once again neglecting our responsibility to the people we serve because we refuse to recognize that people should receive a fair wage for work."

Several minimum-wage earners filled the committee room and implored the panel to advance Bouie's legislation.

Juwanna Newman, of New Orleans, told the committee of her struggles living paycheck-to-paycheck and providing for her one-year-old daughter with her minimum wage jobs at McDonalds and a nursing home.

Minimum wage, equal pay legislation shot down in Senate; Gov. Edwards calls it 'a step backwards'

"We can't survive off of $7.25," Newman said. "We don't make enough, we don't have enough. We come to ask y'all to help us, because we can't do it. We need y'all to help us."

Business groups have opposed minimum wage increases in Louisiana.

Dawn Starnes, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said that the market should dictate wages.

"It's an issue that we take very seriously," she said. "At the end of the day, they want to pay heir workers what they can afford."

Renee Amar, of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, argued that increased wages would ultimately result in increased costs for goods and services.

"That's for me and you and that's for the minimum wage workers as well," she said.

Minimum wage, equal pay bills advancing to Senate floor at Gov. John Bel Edwards' urging

The House committee also rejected in a 9-4 vote another bill that sought to require companies that contract with the state to pay men and women equally when they are doing the same jobs and with the same amount of experience.

"Economic justice, that's all we're asking," said Bouie, who also sponsored the equal pay legislation. "The issue is equal pay for equal work."

The measure, as well as a Senate bill also rejected Tuesday, would have required state contractors to follow the the Equal Pay Law that currently applies to state workers.

Opponents said they worried implementation of such a law could create onerous regulations on businesses.

"Business owners are being made out to be the bad guy," Starnes said. "They don't want to constantly live in the fear of being sued for whatever new law you put on the books and that's where we are."

Increasing the minimum wage and equal pay have been among Gov. John Bel Edwards' legislative priorities in this session and the two prior. They were also campaign issues for the governor, a Democrat.

How they voted:

To increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour: House Bill 192 (3): Reps. Hunter, James and Pierre.

Against (9): Reps. Amedee, Bagley, Crews, Falconer, Horton, McFarland, Miguez, Seabaugh, Simon.

To require state contractors to pay men and women equally (4): Reps. Jefferson, Cox, James and Pierre.

Against (9): Reps. Amedee, Bagley, Crews, Falconer, Horton, McFarland, Miguez, Seabaugh, Simon.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.