Miami Beach

State of Florida joins lawsuit against Miami Beach’s minimum wage law

As statewide business groups sue Miami Beach over a mandatory citywide minimum wage ordinance, Tallahassee has joined the suit to defend the constitutionality of a state law that preempts cities from setting their own minimum wages.

Miami Beach city attorneys knew the ordinance was a direct challenge to state law when the city commission passed it last year, so they weren’t surprised when the Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Florida Chamber of Commerce filed suit in December.

In a statement Thursday, Mayor Philip Levine took aim at Gov. Rick Scott by saying that the state “has joined the special interests-backed lawsuit against the residents of Miami Beach who feel the pressure of wage stagnation.

“We know that wages have not kept up with the cost of living, which is felt more acutely in South Florida communities like Miami Beach,” said Levine, who is considering a run for governor next year when Scott will be term-limited out. “Our residents and workers are counting on their leaders to stand up for them after seeing Tallahassee continuously roadblock progress. So to the state, I say, see you in court.”

A Miami Beach city attorney discusses the reasons behind the mayor's plan to raise the minimum wage.

Levine proposed the ordinance, which was quickly lauded by labor unions and derided by business associations when it was unanimously approved by the commission in June.

Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a motion to intervene in the suit Dec. 27, according to Miami-Dade civil court records. On Jan. 23, circuit court Judge Peter Lopez granted the motion, which allows the state to defend the constitutionality of a Florida statute that prohibits local governments from setting their own minimum wages.

The state minimum wage went up from $8.05 to $8.10 an hour on Jan 1. Under the new ordinance, the citywide minimum will be set at $10.31 on Jan. 1, 2018, and increase a dollar a year until 2021.

City attorneys have argued that a 2004 constitutional amendment that set a state minimum wage higher than the federal wage allows municipalities to set their own minimums.

Levine’s promotion of the minimum wage ordinance marked an early swipe at Scott last summer, providing some of the first evidence that the mayor had his eye on higher office. Levine went so far as to buy radio ads touting the ordinance in California, where Scott was visiting to recruit companies to Florida.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech