Florida Supreme Court clears the way for a $15-an-hour minimum wage ballot measure

Minimum wage workers. PBS screenshot.

A court ruling has cleared the way for Floridians to decide next year whether they want to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The Florida Supreme unanimously ruled Thursday in favor of a ballot proposal which if approved by at least 60 percent of the voters next November would raise Florida’s hourly minimum wage of $8.46 to $10 by Sept. 30, 2021.

Annual September increases of $1 would eventually lift the wage to $15 an hour by 2026. Beginning in 2027, the Florida minimum wage would be adjusted annually based on an inflation index.

In a 5-0 ruling, the state’s highest court said the proposed state constitutional amendment complied with the “single subject” rule – intended to prevent logrolling – for citizens’ initiatives. Former Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck, who have been appointed to a federal appellate court, did not participate in the decision.

The court also ruled that the ballot language and summary were “clear and unambiguous.”

The court declined to rule on a financial impact statement that, under state law, must accompany the proposal on the ballot.

The court ruling is a victory for Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who is leading the minimum-wage campaign and who successfully led a 2016 ballot initiative that allowed medical marijuana in Florida.

In launching the minimum wage campaign in July, Morgan said he expected the ballot proposal to face “an uphill battle.”

“But just like there were hundreds of thousands of families with sick children or parents that needed medical marijuana, there are hundreds of thousands of Floridians earning the minimum wage that cannot afford to live in Florida,” Morgan said. “We must fight so that all Floridians can have the dignity of earning a fair wage for a hard day’s work.”

The campaign to raise the minimum wage will face opposition from Florida business groups – including the Florida Chamber of Commerce – and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“That’s going to cause big, big upheaval in the restaurant industry – it just will,” DeSantis told a business group earlier this year. “When you put that in the Constitution, we can’t just go back and say, ‘Oh, let’s tweak it, let’s do that.’ We literally would have to go back and do another constitutional amendment.”

The Florida Phoenix reported on DeSantis’ opposition in this story.

Here is a previous Florida Phoenix report on the minimum wage campaign.