Florida voters on Tuesday approved gradually boosting the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, while narrowly rejecting a proposal that would have overhauled the state’s primary-election system.
The hike in the minimum wage will be phased in through Sept. 30, 2026, but it will represent a significant move in a state heavily dependent on tourism and the service industry for jobs. It was put on the ballot with the financial help of well-known Orando trial attorney John Morgan.
As of 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, the minimum-wage measure, Amendment 2, had support from nearly 61 percent of voters, above the 60 percent threshold needed for passing. It will increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021, and then increase it by $1 each year until Sept. 30, 2026, when it will be $15 per hour. Currently, the minimum wage is $8.56.
Business groups that opposed the measure conceded defeat late Tuesday. NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said an October analysis showed that 20 percent of small businesses were unsure if they would remain operational in the next six months.
"This makes 2021 a greater challenge for small businesses. Throw it on, we'll see if this breaks the camel's back," Herrle said.
Florida is the eighth state to adopt a $15 minimum wage, and supporters said it is needed to improve the standard of living of many workers.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was quiet about where he stood on the proposed constitutional amendment until right before Election Day, when he issued a statement in which he said now is “not the time” to increase the minimum wage, warning that its passage would be bad for Florida businesses and the state.
Meanwhile, about 57 percent of voters supported Amendment 3, which, if passed, would have eliminated Florida’s closed primary elections in state races. That was below the 60 percent threshold needed for approval.
The proposed amendment would have allowed all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislative seats, governor, and Cabinet seats, regardless of party affiliation. The two candidates who captured the most votes would have moved on to the general election under the proposal.
Voters on Tuesday rejected an attempt to make it more difficult to amend the state Constitution in the future. Amendment 4 sought to require amendments to be approved by voters twice before taking effect. But it was receiving just 47 percent support Tuesday night.
Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters, issued a prepared statement lauding the result.
“Over the years, the citizens’ initiative process has enabled Floridians to advance important public policies when politicians in Tallahassee have been unwilling to do so,” Webber said. “The ability to amend our constitution is a right guaranteed to the people of Florida, and tonight voters demonstrated that we’re not going to give it up lightly.”
But Andrew Wiggins, senior director of political affairs and coalitions advocacy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said proposed constitutional amendments are not only used to change policy but also are used to drive people to the polls He said that while the minimum wage amendment was meant to draw out progressive voters, Amendment 1, which changed the Constitution to make clear only citizens can vote, was designed to appeal to more conservative voters. Amendment 1 easily passed Tuesday night.