Miami Beach

Miami Beach wants to set a mandatory minimum wage. A legal challenge is blocking that.

An appeals court has blocked a Miami Beach ordinance establishing a citywide mandatory minimum wage.

In an opinion filed Wednesday, the 3rd District Court of Appeals denied the city from setting a local minimum wage higher than the statewide minimum, a measure that sparked a legal challenge from statewide business groups.

In June 2016, commissioners unanimously voted to set a city minimum wage higher than the statewide minimum. Pushed by former Mayor Philip Levine, now a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, the city law was set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, when the city minimum wage would have gone up to $10.31, about $2 more than the statewide minimum.

When it passed, the city’s commissioners and attorneys knew there would be an ensuing legal battle. The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Florida Chamber of Commerce sued the city in December 2016 over the law, arguing that it is pre-empted by state law. Later, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a motion to intervene to defend the constitutionality of the state pre-emption law.

A Miami-Dade circuit judge struck down the Beach law in May. The Beach’s attorneys appealed.

Wednesday’s ruling sets the stage for an expected appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

City Attorney Raul Aguila said the city anticipated having to fight the case.

“We are disappointed with the decision today, but we have always known that the Florida Supreme Court would ultimately have to decide this case,” he said Wednesday. “We will immediately seek review in that Court, and we are optimistic that the justices will accept the case and rule in our favor.”

Originally intended to take effect Jan. 1, 2018, the suit puts that on hold.

“We cannot begin to enforce our ordinance unless and until the Florida Supreme Court reverses today’s decision,” Aguila said.

The East Coast Florida Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors released a statement Wednesday supporting the decision.

“Our members do not want local governments to intervene to pre-empt federal and state minimum wage laws,” said Peter Dyga, president and CEO of the business association.

Miami Beach’s attorneys have argued that a 2004 constitutional amendment that set a minimum wage higher than the federal wage allows municipalities to set their own wage.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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