Asserting a pro-business bent, the newly constituted Florida Supreme Court reversed its decision from last summer and announced that it won’t consider a case by the city of Miami Beach to raise its minimum wage to $13.31 by 2021.
On a 5-2 vote, the court announced Tuesday that justices would “exercise our discretion” and would no longer review the case.
The reversal impacts an issue vital to workers and the economy and suggests that Gov. Ron DeSantis’s picks for the Florida Supreme Court are already influencing the legal landscape.
The story goes back to 2016, when then-Mayor Philip Levine and the Miami Beach City Commission passed an ordinance calling for a local minimum wage to be set at $10.31 an hour in 2018 and incrementally increase to $13.31 an hour in 2021.
That’s currently higher than the statewide minimum wage of $8.46 an hour.
The proposal was immediately challenged by several of the state’s most powerful business groups, and later by former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.
In March of 2017, a Miami-Dade County judge sided with the business groups, ruling the city’s ordinance invalid and citing a 2003 state law that prohibits local municipalities from setting their own minimum wages.
Attorneys for Miami Beach then appealed the case to the Third District Court of Appeal, and then went on to the Florida Supreme Court. On a divided 4-3 vote last August, the justices agreed to take on the case.
However, three members of that Supreme Court are no longer there, having been required to retire last month because they reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
That allowed Gov. DeSantis to reshape the court in a more conservative leaning direction, as the three departing justices were all part of the liberal wing of the court.
Two of the newly appointed justices, Carlos Muniz and Barbara Lagoa, joined justices Charles Canady, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson in agreeing to toss the case.
Justice Jorge Labarga is the only remaining member on the court who voted to take on the case last August. He joined in dissenting against dropping the case by the third justice appointed by DeSantis, Robert Luck.
In setting the higher minimum wage in 2016, Miami Beach cited evidence and testimony that city workers could not make ends meet on what was then the state’s $8.10 minimum wage, which calculated out to $16,200 a year – not enough to get by in one of Florida’s most expensive cities.
“We want to thank the attorney general and solicitor general for intervening on our behalf in this case, as well as our coalition partners for their collaboration and commitment to ensuring Florida business owners remain free to decide how to best successfully run their own businesses,” said R. Scott Shalley, the Florida Retail Federation President & CEO.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court recognized the constitutionality of the statute that establishes one consistent state-wide minimum wage. This ruling provides economic stability across the state and protects the rights of business owners to pay wages that their local markets demand,” added Carol B. Dover, CEO / President of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.
A request for comment from the city attorney of Miami Beach was not immediately returned.