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Nancy Smith

Miami Judge Tosses Philip Levine's Minimum-Wage Hike

March 28, 2017 - 2:00pm

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has lost the first round of his clash with Gov. Rick Scott and his fight to raise the city's minimum wage to $13.31 per hour. Circuit Judge Peter R. Lopez issued a ruling Tuesday declaring Miami Beach's Living Wage Ordinance invalid.

Not that Levine cares. The flamboyant mayor is now assured he'll have the state's attention all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, if necessary. And more important, probably all the way to the 2018 election. It's a hey-voters-look-at-me opportunity for the man who would be governor of Florida.

It all started in May 2016 when Levine 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.

I Beg to Differ

Levine even shouted long distance at Gov. Scott, "I'll see you in court." 

You go testing a law, invoking Scott's name and you automatically raise the ire of the governor and attorney general. That's the reality. And Scott and Pam Bondi have a posse when they believe fiscal responsibility is challenged: The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce also filed a lawsuit in December challenging the Miami Beach ordinance. They said it is a direct violation of a 2013 law signed by the governor forbidding municipalities from assigning their own minimum wage.

Lo and behold, that's what Lopez wrote in his Tuesday ruling: "The city's wage ordinance is not valid under 218.077 Fla. Stat., which preempts local minimum wages."

Levine then issued an email to the Miami New Times: "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."

Miami Beach lead counsel Robert Rosenwald has said the city will file an immediate appeal.

"The court simply got it wrong," Rosenwald said. He called the decision a "heartbreaking loss for all of us and for the people of the state of Florida but ultimately the policy of the people allowing higher local minimum wages will stand."

In February Miami Beach residents were complaining in emails and Facebook postings that Levine was using the minimum wage issue to raise his profile so he could run for governor -- and getting the City of Miami Beach to pay for it. They were convinced he wasn't running for another term as mayor because he couldn't win, that Miami Beach residents dislike his antics that much.

Probably the most prominent city resident to speak out on her unhappiness over Levine's leadership has been Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez told me, "He began the $1 billion Miami Beach Convention Center without getting voter approval for the hotel to go with it," she said. "Then, when he tried to get voters to approve it, his referendum failed. Now the residents don't trust us with anything ... (the convention center) might never be as useful as we'd hoped."

Miami Beach earned international attention for its ambitious, $400 million campaign to save the vulnerable oceanfront city from the ravages of rising tides and climate change. It included building dozens of pumping stations, raising roads and sea walls, and upgrading the stormwater system -- oh, yes, and in the process raising residents' stormwater fees by about $7 a month.

"What you may not realize is that about 30 percent of the money spent and work done raising roads and installing stormwater systems was done around the mayor's property," Gonzalez says. "Go look at the the corner of Alton and 10th Street (Levine's business location) and Sunset Harbour (where he owns commercial properties) and you'll see the work is done and the property is safe and dry. It's just so obvious."

But Gonzalez said the real reason she was speaking out was because the mayor wants taxpayers to pay for his lawsuit -- his opportunity to elevate his profile, nothing else. "He told Scott, 'See you in court,'" she said. "Now, I'm for raising the minimum wage, too, but this is about our mayor putting on a show to aid his campaign at the expense of every taxpayer in this city. We just can't have it."

The mayor insisted during a February City Commission meeting that residents knew there would be some expense in the legal challenge and they were OK with it. But so far, he said, the legal work had been handled mostly in-house, minimum expense to taxpayers.

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


ABOLISH THE MINIMUM WAGE LAW! We can't legislate morality, remember? It only helps Wall Street and mediocre workers, hurting good workers and the unemployment rate. We aren't guaranteed that a sole breadwinner supports the household when human history shows more than one was the norm. Teach negotiation skills and home economics more in schools. Minimum wage laws increase the illegal immigration demand for human trafficking, worsens unemployment, gangs and drug culture. NO min wage would: -Reduce high school dropouts, improve student test results; - Make employers compete for best workers; - Workers would work where better rewarded for good work; - Reduce illegal immigration, human trafficking, welfare dependency, gang and drug violence (especially if welfare is also cut). - Bring back factories from overseas. Illegal immigrants taking 12 million jobs has caused high black and youth unemployment, more gang violence, more black incarceration costs, more ruined lives. In Europe, some nations without minimum wage (Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark, Norway) have lower unemployment and illegal immigrant rates, compared to U.S. Germany had no min wage law until Jan. 2015, and was doing fine before. Italy rescinded their law after unemployment got too high. But their neighboring nations (France, Greece, Spain) encourage welfare instead, have more illegals, more underground economy, crime like the U.S. => net loss. Other developed economies with no min. wage laws: Iceland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Qatar. See Wikipedia: List_of_minimum_wages_by_country

Isn't this the guy that is against rentals that according to him affects the hotel industry???? He wants what he calls a living wage (I'll get back to that later) for individuals making min. wage but doesn't want ordinary people to have the right to free enterprise? This clown is talking out of both sides of his mouth. Now this living wage BS. first off, min. wage is just that its an entry point for individuals to understand what work is about and, the bonus is you get to be promoted if you are good at what you do "show up for work" and are clean! Wow, rocket science explanation, no its what many fail to do. Furthermore, with the influx of illegals coming into the country who don't speak English, or have proper identity, or here's the real kicker, the skill sets for making more money, what are we doing throwing away our money for the purpose of some mayor who has very little know edge of the real world? Min wage is just that its a min. wage for min. skills and work. The real money is when you become an asset to your employer. At that time you will get more money for your services. Employees that perform their jobs well are assets to their employer's. The characterizations of business owners as slave owners to min. wage jobs is incorrect and holds a racial overtone coming from the so called sanctimonious left that feel they are the all becoming to how the world turns. Quite frankly, most of you couldn't start a business and be successful due to your outlook that someone owes you something attitude. Employees that are good workers advance to a higher position or management depending on how they manage their work. You don't get paid for just showing up for work unless you're in a government job. How do I know? I've been a successful businessman for many years. The voice of experience speaking.

Swampfox, you're absolutely right...minimum wage is purposely not a living wage, because minimum wage is just what it means...minimum pay for people with minimum skills...this was originally for kids so that we could get some pay while learning how to show up on time, to be properly dressed for work, and then learn the duties for our wage is something else all together and they shouldn't be mixed...if people are earning minimum wage, it's only because the skills necessary for the job are, guess what, minimal!...if the liberals who want to give our hard-earned dollars - a so-called living wage - to people with no skills, go for it...start your own business and pay your employees what you will...but business people are the job creators and you can always go and work for anyone that will hire you...and by the way, business people are the ones that all the liberals come to to get donations for their mostly good causes in the before you go bashing business, remember that we're the ones who donate money and services to worthwhile causes in our local communities

What you fail to understand Barney is that 92% of all employment in this state is at or below the poverty level regardless of skills or education. You either need an economics lesson or just need to understand that partisan politics is ruining this country...

Both sides are wrong. The FL minimum wage is a joke and not a livable wage for anyone. However, since ordinary people don't send checks to PAC's and campaigns like big businesses, lobbyists, federations and chambers do, they won't get a dime, either. Things need to change on both sides of the fence, but we no longer even have an independent party due to a spelling glitch...classic.

Whether he wins or loses, what a great start to a gubernatorial campaign. His first battle cry, "I tried to get you a living wage but the powers that be don't want you to have it."

Thank you Attorney General Pam Bondi and Governor Rick Scott. The fight to keep Florida from becoming a second California never ends. It takes courage and guts to keep up the fight...and win! My husband and I had a mom and pop business in California for 20 years. I have stories to tell. Florida MUST hold the line against "wonderful" sounding policy and programs that will bankrupt this state. Setting or raising a minimum wage is just another step in the wrong direction for any state.

I agree Ms. Siebert with your assessment...that's why the Florida legislature preempted local government from doing anything in conflict with the state Constitution which already mandates what the minimum wage will be...this is nothing but grandstanding by Levine, so that he can run for Governor...we DON'T want to be like California!

Right, leave it up to businesses to decide how much to pay their workers, taking every dime out of their own pockets. Not likely. People need to learn history about early US workers. Barely more than slaves.

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nancy smith

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