The Florida Supreme Court has agreed in a split decision, by a 4-3 vote, to decide the City of Miami Beach’s second appeal of a lower court’s decision declaring invalid the city’s proposed local minimum wage law.
Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara J. Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy A. Quince, and Jorge Labarga voted on August 29 in favor of considering the appeal. Chief Justice Charles T. Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson dissented.
Miami Beach will have to serve its initial appeal brief by Sept. 18 and the state of Florida and various business groups opposing the wage law will have 20 days to respond with their own briefs.
The Miami Beach City Commission had voted unanimously in June of 2016 to create a new citywide minimum wage proposed by then Mayor Philip Levine that was higher than both the state and federal minimum wages.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, while the Florida state minimum wage is now $8.25 an hour. Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, the Miami Beach minimum wage would have been set at $10.31 an hour, and then increased a dollar a year until 2021, when it was supposed to reach $13.31, a 65% increase.
However, the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, among other business groups, took the city to court, arguing that the wage ordinance violated state law, and the state of Florida intervened in their support.
On March 27 last year Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Peter R. Lopez ruled that the Miami Beach ordinance violated a 2003 Florida statute that prohibits municipalities from adopting their own minimum wage laws and was therefore invalid.
The city’s subsequent appeal was then decided against Miami Beach last December 13 by a three-judge panel of the Florida intermediate Third District Court of Appeal, which upheld the ruling by Judge Lopez.
“Section 218.077(2) of the Florida Statutes is a preemption statute that expressly prohibits political subdivisions of the state from establishing a minimum wage,” the appeal court concluded.
The Third District held unanimously that the Florida Constitution authorizes the state legislature to preempt municipal powers by statute. They also categorically rejected the city’s principal argument that Article X, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution, a citizen initiative approved by the state’s voters in 2004, had implicitly nullified the statute’s preemption provision and therefore the statute was unconstitutional.
First Assistant City Attorney Robert F. Rosenwald Jr. said that Miami Beach was “thrilled” the Florida Supreme Court has accepted the case.