Miami Beach

Miami Beach commission gives first approval to minimum wage increase

Miami Beach mayor proposes minimum-wage hike in defiance of Florida law

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

The creation of a citywide minimum wage in Miami Beach got initial approval Wednesday from the City Commission.

Last week, Mayor Philip Levine proposed establishing a local minimum wage that would be higher than the current state-mandated minimum of $8.05. Under the proposal, employers in the Beach would have to pay $10.31 an hour starting July 2017. The rate would increase a dollar a year until it reached $13.31 in 2020.

Although the commission unanimously approved the ordinance during an initial vote, some want to refine the law before it goes to a second and final vote June 8.

“I would like enough time to study this further. I don’t want to rush this into two readings and make it law,” said Commissioner Ricky Arriola. “I worry about our small businesses that struggle to get by.”

I think if we move forward, we need to look at small businesses.

Commissioner Joy Malakoff

Members of the business community, particularly in the Beach’s large tourism and hospitality industry, expressed reservations about the ordinance, saying the city should consider creating an exemption for small businesses and a perhaps a longer timeline for rolling out the new minimums.

Peggy Benua, general manager of the Dream South Beach Hotel, said a fast increase could hurt the hotel industry.

“Wage increases proposed at the federal, state or local level must not be too high or fast for the industry to absorb them,” she said.

By contrast, Commissioner Michael Grieco said he’d like to explore raising the minimums.

“I’m wondering whether or not we can potentially increase these numbers,” he said.

Florida law preempts counties and cities from setting their own minimums, but the Beach’s attorneys are arguing that a 2004 constitutional amendment approved by voters gives local governments the power to do so.

The city stands on firm legal ground. if it is taken to court, said Robert Rosenwald, first assistant city attorney. “We would expect that the city would prevail,” he told commissioners.

The proposal will go to the commission’s finance committee for more discussion before the commission’s final vote.

Levine has widely promoted his proposal — even going as far as to buy radio ads in California days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited the state to recruit companies. During the visit, Scott criticized the state’s high taxes and labor costs.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech