Supreme Court Clears Way for Minimum Wage Amendment

Supreme Court Clears Way for Minimum Wage Amendment

By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Voters will decide in November whether to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, after the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously approved a ballot proposal.

The proposed constitutional amendment, spearheaded by Orlando attorney John Morgan, had received enough petition signatures to go on the 2020 general-election ballot but still needed a sign-off from the Supreme Court.

Justices said in a 16-page opinion that the measure meets legal tests, including that it is limited to a single subject. It will appear on the ballot as Amendment 2.

“The proposed amendment clearly addresses only one subject, raising the minimum wage, and it does not substantially alter or perform the functions of multiple branches of government,” the opinion said. “Although it may affect contracts entered into and wages paid by each branch of government, these effects are incidental to the chief purpose of the amendment, which is not to alter or perform any governmental function.”

The proposal, which would need approval from 60 percent of voters to take effect, would increase the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021 and increase it by $1 each year until it hits $15 an hour on Sept. 30, 2026. The minimum wage is $8.46 this year.

Morgan, who also led a ballot drive in 2016 that broadly legalized medical marijuana, issued a statement Thursday saying he is ready to fight “to give every Floridian the dignity of a fair wage.”

“Now, the sprint to reverse decades of inequality really starts — and let me tell you — this is going to be a tough challenge,” Morgan said. “But just like voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of medical marijuana in 2016, I’m confident that we will do the same in 2020. I’m confident because Floridians are compassionate and know that giving every worker a fair wage means not just lifting up those who would directly benefit but lifting up our broader economy when hardworking folks have more money to spend.”

But the proposal, which will be on the ballot at the same time as the presidential election, has drawn criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis and groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Critics argue, in part, that increasing the minimum wage would raise costs for businesses and lead to job cuts.

“We fully expected it to be confirmed (by the Supreme Court), but that doesn’t make it a good idea,” Edie Ousley, vice president of public affairs for the Florida Chamber, said in an email Thursday. “This ballot measure will actually hurt the very people its proponent claims it will help. In fact, Florida could very likely lose nearly half a million jobs by 2026, and we’ve seen estimates that are higher than that. This is the poster child for a proposed constitutional amendment masquerading as a turnout weapon to impact the presidential election.”

The Supreme Court is not supposed to consider the merits of proposed constitutional amendments but looks at issues such as the wording of ballot titles and summaries — the wording that voters see when they go to the polls. Justices weigh issues such as whether proposals would be misleading and whether summaries meet a 75-word limit.

Thursday’s opinion said the minimum-wage proposal “clearly and accurately identifies the subject matter, and it complies with the word-count requirement.”

“Likewise, the ballot summary is clear and unambiguous and complies with the word-count requirement,” the opinion said. “Indeed, the ballot summary is nearly identical to the language of the proposed amendment itself, and it explains in a straightforward and accurate manner how the proposed changes … would affect the existing system —  by raising the minimum wage incrementally on an annual basis to a certain point and then resuming the existing system of adjusting the minimum wage annually for inflation.”

The minimum-wage proposal is the first initiative that the Supreme Court has approved for the 2020 ballot, though several other proposals are pending. Those proposals include issues such as revamping the state’s primary-election system and deregulating the electric-utility industry.

8 Responses to "Supreme Court Clears Way for Minimum Wage Amendment"

  1. Florida’s economy depends more on the hospitality industry… probably more than any other state. A $15 minimum starting wage for unskilled workers (including16-18 year olds) means marginal restaurants (profit wise) will close, hotel prices will increase, and other entertainment venues will be at risk. Anyone want to guess how much this would reduce Florida tourism? and Florida’s tax income?

    When the market is not allowed to set prices, the business usually fails.

  2. From a macro standpoint (e.g., a federal- or state-level perspective), wages and unemployment/employment are unrelated. For years now, Florida has had an indexed minimum wage, which has increased over the past decade. During that same time, unemployment has been declining and its corollary, employment, has been increasing. From a micro standpoint (e.g., a city-level perspective, such as the previously mentioned Seattle experience), the results may be different because there may be an alternative to the city, such an adjacent city or county.

  3. This is already a PROVEN failure of an idea. Seattle did the same thing back in 2017 and “incrementally raised” the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Result: Small businesses and restaurants started closing one after the other, and many simply packed up and left Seattle. Bye-bye, jobs. Or, bye-bye hours for workers – resulting in REDUCED weekly pay. Now Florida wants to try the same failed path. What Liberals (especially those in any government position) can never understand is that every business has to make profit to remain in business. Force arbitrary increases of labor costs on a business, and it reduces profit to the point where the business can no longer function. So – the business closes, leaves the city or state, or reduces hours and jobs so the point that the business can survive.
    From USA Today, hardly a conservative-leaning publication:
    “A report from the University of Washington (UW), found that when wages increased to $13 in 2016, some companies may have responded by cutting low-wage workers’ hours. The study, which was funded in part by the city of Seattle, found that workers clocked 9% fewer hours on average, and earned $125 less each month after the most recent increase. ”

    And the same result from Forbes Magazine:
    “extreme wage hikes have encouraged widespread automation, layoffs and business closures – eliminating job opportunities for those who need them most.”

    Go ahead Florida, follow Seattle. Then watch hundreds, if not thousands, of small businesses and restaurants close their doors, reduce hours and jobs, or leave the state for places with more sense. Liberal states always drive their citizens away: New York, Illinois and California have lost hundreds of thousands of citizens in the last 5 years, and that trend is increasing. Sadly, many are coming to the Southeast U.S. and voting for the same failed liberal ideas and policies that ruined their home states.

  4. OK, keep the proposal that would need approval from 60 percent of voters to take effect, to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021 BUT, make it where we Vote on each $1 Raise there after. A lot of Businesses will get hurt with the Raises because they will have to raise EVERYONES Pay by that much or risk losing good seasoned Employees.

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