Miami Beach’s audacious effort to give the city its own minimum wage law has crashed and burned in court for a second time, in an appeal.
The Miami Beach City Commission had voted unanimously last year to create a new citywide minimum wage proposed by 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 $8.10 an hour. Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, the Miami Beach minimum wage would have been set at $10.31 an hour, and then increase 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 in December last year, arguing that the wage ordinance violated state law, and the state of Florida intervened in their support. On March 27 this 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 appeal has now been decided against Miami Beach 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 appellate judges — Norma Lindsey, Kevin Emas, and Edwin A. Scales III — held unanimously on December 13 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.
“It is clear,” the appeal court observed in an opinion authored by Judge Scales, “that the relevant provision of the [constitutional] amendment contains no language expressly nullifying or limiting the statute’s preemption provision.”
Miami Beach, however, is not conceding defeat, and is going to seek another, higher appellate review.
“We are disappointed with the decision, but we have always known that the Florida Supreme Court would ultimately have to decide this case,” said Miami Beach City Attorney Raul J. Aguila. “We will immediately seek review in that court, and we are optimistic that the justices will accept the case and rule in our favor.”