A South Florida appeals court delivered a second blow Wednesday to one of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s signature projects, when a 3rd District Court of Appeal panel ruled state law prevents raising the city’s minimum wage.

The appeals court reaffirmed the lower court’s opinion, that a state “preemption” law bars local governments from establishing minimum wages.

The effort to raise the wage started in May 2016 when Democrat Levine, who officially joined the governor’s race last month, announced he would test a 2005 Florida law that bars cities from setting their own minimum wages. He wanted Miami Beach to require a minimum of $10.31 an hour in 2017, with a dollar increase per year until it reaches $13.31 in 2020. Florida’s current rate is $8.05 an hour. A few weeks later, the City Commission as a whole unanimously agreed to it. See the ordinance here

But Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi — with the Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce — filed a challenge to the ordinance in December. They said it was a direct violation of a 2013 law signed by the governor forbidding municipalities from assigning their own minimum wage.

In March 2017 Judge Peter Lopez agreed with the state, invalidating the city’s Living Wage Ordinance in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Miami Beach’s appeals case centered on a 2004 constitutional amendment that created a higher minimum wage in Florida than the federal wage. The city argued that the 2004 ordinance gave it permission to set a different minimum.

Wednesday’s eight-page ruling, written by Appeals Court Judge Edwin Scales and joined by judges Kevin Emas and Norma Lindsey, said, “Certainly, had the drafters of (the constitutional amendment) wanted to restrict the Legislature’s ability to prohibit a municipality from adopting its own minimum wage ordinance, they could have employed clear and direct language to achieve that purpose. For whatever reason, the drafters of the provision chose not to incorporate such language in the text of the amendment and we decline city’s invitation to do so by judicial fiat.”

Sunshine State News was unable to reach Levine Wednesday night to discuss the city’s next step. But the mayor was resolved from the beginning to take the case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.

In an email to the Miami New Times after the lower court ruling, Levine said, “While I am extremely disappointed in today’s ruling against Florida families, we expected that this case would ultimately end up before the Florida Supreme Court. Our legal team is working on a swift appeal to ensure that the will of Floridians expressed through the 2004 state constitutional amendment on minimum wage is fully implemented.”

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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