Justices reject quick decision in minimum wage fight

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request by the city of Miami Beach for quick action in a battle about the legality of a local minimum wage.

The city this month asked the Supreme Court to “expedite” consideration of its challenge to a lower-court decision that blocked the minimum wage.

But the Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision Thursday, turned down the request. Chief Justice Charles Canady and justices Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga and Alan Lawson were in the majority, while justices Barbara Pariente and R. Fred Lewis dissented.

The one-page order did not explain the court’s reasoning.

The underlying case stems from an ordinance that Miami Beach passed in 2016 to phase in a higher minimum wage. The ordinance had been planned to set the minimum wage in the city at $10.31 an hour this year, with annual incremental increases to $13.31 an hour in January 2021.

The statewide minimum wage this year is $8.25 an hour. But opponents such as the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association challenged the legality of setting a local minimum wage.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed with the opponents, leading Miami Beach to take the case to the Supreme Court.

The city asked the Supreme Court to rule by Jan. 1, which could allow a higher minimum wage to take effect at the start of the new year if the city wins the case. But attorneys for the state and business groups objected to speeding up consideration of the case.

“Petitioner (Miami Beach) fails to demonstrate that this case merits special treatment,” Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office argued in a brief. “Every time this (Supreme) Court reviews a lower court’s decision, a party has lost and is dissatisfied with the status quo. This is no less true of cases involving the validity of a state law or local ordinance, or cases that otherwise are of public interest. Petitioner’s basis for its request boils down to an assertion that whenever a law or ordinance is enjoined by a lower court and this (Supreme) Court grants review, it should rush the briefing and decision-making process and prioritize the timing over the quality of its decision.”