While the results are still unofficial, and the margin is razor thin, Florida businesses may soon need to budget for an employee pay hike after voters cast more than 6.3 million votes in favor of a $15 / hour minimum wage hike by September 2026.
Constitutional amendments require a supermajority vote of 60 percent or better to succeed. As of press time, the minimum wage increase, known as Amendment 2, had won approval from 60.8 percent of voters with 98 percent of all precincts reporting. There is only a slight chance the measure could still fail, as the overwhelming majority of ballots have been counted.
The effort was backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan, who helped finance and headline an ad campaign in favor of the measure. Florida’s business community, especially the state’s restaurant owners, vehemently opposed the measure, arguing that the coronavirus pandemic had already destroyed the industry and they could not afford to start paying employees a higher wage.
Restaurant closures have already taken a heavy toll on jobs in the state, and restaurant owners and operators are arguing that the amendment’s passage will only deepen the damage, causing more closures. They also argue that those Florida restaurants that manage to survive the pandemic and wage hikes will follow the lead of restaurants like CaliBurger, investing in robotic replacements like Flippy the Burgerbot, that can easily outcompete human laborers at a fraction of the cost.
If the vote count for Amendment 2 remains above 60 percent, then business owners in Florida will have until September 30, 2021 to increase employee pay to $10 per hour from the current minimum wage of $8.56 per hour.
After that, the state’s minimum wage will increase by $1 each year on September 30th, until 2027, when there would be an annual adjustment to the state minimum wage based on increases to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.
Voters also approved Amendment 1, which changes the Florida Constitution so that it now reads “only a citizen” of the U.S. who is 18 years old or older can vote in Florida. Current language simply reads “every citizen may vote.”
Florida voters narrowly rejected Amendment 3 that would have established a top-two open primary system in the state, a measure that was opposed by both Democratic and Republican party leaders. The “All Voters Vote” amendment fell just shy of the 60 percent requirement, taking 57.01 percent.
Amendment 4, also known as “Keep Our Constitution Clean,” would have required future constitutional amendments to face voters twice in subsequent elections. It fell far short on Tuesday, failing to even achieve a majority at 47.53 percent of all votes cast.
The last two measures passed easily. Amendment 5, which extended limitations on homestead property tax assessments, secured over 74 percent approval, while Amendment 6 earned approval from 89.7 percent of all voters, extending ad valorem tax discounts for spouses of certain deceased veterans who had permanent, combat-related disabilities.