• Twenty one states and Washington, D.C. will see their minimum wage rise this year, according to the latest tally from Ballotpedia.
  • Blue states represent most of the largest increases, with New Jersey, California, New York, and Massachusetts all increasing their minimum wage by at least $1.00.
  • Cities and states in Florida and Alabama are clashing over which level of government has the final authority to decide what the regional minimum wage will be.

Across the country, 2019 is shaping up to be a big year for minimum wage changes at the state level. A total of 21 states as well as Washington, D.C. are poised to see increases to their minimum hourly wage ranging from $0.05 in Alaska to $1.40 in New Jersey, according to the latest analysis from Ballotpedia.

Blue states lead the way, with New Jersey beginning the first of a series of increases that will raise the state minimum wage to $15.00 by 2024, starting with a bump to $10.00 this July and continuing with an annual $1.00 increase for the next five years. California and New York are also raising their respective minimum wages from $11.00 to $12.00 this year as part of a step increase that will eventually bring them to $15.00. Elsewhere on the coasts, Massachusetts is increasing its minimum wage from $11.00 to $12.00, Maine raised its minimum wage from $10.00 to $11.00, and Oregon and Washington state each implemented $0.50 increases, bringing their minimum wages to $11.25 and $12.00, respectively.

Following in the vein of New Jersey, California, and New York, Illinois fast-tracked a bill that would raise the state minimum wage from its present rate of $8.25 to $15.00 by 2025. Introduced on February 6, the state legislature passed the “Lifting Up Illinois Working Families Act” on Friday, and Governor J.B. Pritzker signed it into law today.

The impetus for these minimum wage increases is split fairly evenly between voter-approved ballot initiatives and legislative bills, with 11 coming from voters and 10 (not including the Illinois bill) originating in statehouses. Two of the latter bills, however, are the result of legislators and ballot initiative campaigns finding a compromise.

In additional to the state level, certain regions of the country are poised to see big minimum wage hikes as well. New York City, following in the footsteps of Seattle (where the minimum wage reached $15.00 for small employers this year), headlines this category with the largest minimum wage increase anywhere in the country: $13.00 to $15.00. The city of Portland, Oregon is also implementing a significant increase from $12.00 to $12.50.

The trend of rising minimum wages has hit roadblocks elsewhere in the country as cities and states clash over which level of government has the final authority to increase the minimum wage. In Florida, for instance, the state Supreme Court deferred to a district court of appeals ruling striking down an ordinance in Miami Beach that established a significantly higher minimum wage than the state level. The ruling was based on a statute in state law stating that “a political subdivision may not establish, mandate, or otherwise require an employer to pay a minimum wage, other than a state or federal minimum wage.”

“The Florida Supreme Court’s decision does not bar other Florida municipalities from establishing their own respective minimum wages,” Jennifer Williams, a member at the law firm Cozen O’Connor, wrote in Lexology. “However, the ruling certainly establishes that any such ordinances very likely would be struck down on preemption grounds just like the city of Miami Beach.”

In other words, the state has the final say.

In Alabama the clash between city and state authority was even more pronounced. In 2015 the city of Birmingham passed a local law that would have raised the minimum wage to $8.50 in 2016, and then to $10.10 in 2017. The state legislature, however, passed a statewide minimum wage law preempting such laws in local cities. Birmingham citizens joined with the NAACP to take the issue to court against the governor and state attorney general on the grounds that it discriminated against minorities. A federal court dismissed the claims, but upon appeal the three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit found that the state’s law did in fact discriminate against Birmingham’s black citizens. The case has since been granted a rehearing request, vacating the previous decision. This means the entire Circuit Court of 12 judges will review the claims as well as the district court’s dismissal.

“Reading the tea leaves of the decision suggests that the court will alter or revise the panel’s previous ruling in some way, but that is far from certain. Stay tuned for what will be a significant ruling related to Alabama’s minimum wage law and the discrimination allegations,” Keith Anderson, a partner at the law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, wrote in Lexology last week.

“For now, however, the minimum wage in Birmingham is still $7.25 an hour,” he added.

Read more about each state’s minimum wage laws here at Ballotpedia.

Image Credit: “New Jersey State House, Senate chamber” by Niagara is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.