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PolitiFact Florida On Levine's Guns and Minimum Wage Claims; Putnam on 'Illegal Aliens'

Jun 29, 2018

We check out two claims from candidates for governor with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said fellow Democratic candidate Philip Levine passed resolutions during his time as mayor of Miami Beach banning assault weapons and raising the minimum wage -- even though both never had any chance of being enforced.

And Republican candidate Adam Putnam claims that Florida taxpayers “pay tens of millions of dollars a year to feed and house criminal Illegal aliens."

Let's first look at a claim by Gillum, who said this about fellow Democratic Philip Levine during a recent debate:

Under Levine, Miami Beach "passed a resolution to ban assault rifles, which was not enforceable and never enforced. He passed a resolution to raise the minimum wage, which actually no one got the benefit of because it was not enforced."

Here's PolitiFact Florida checking on the truthfullness of that statement:


Gillum’s claim is largely accurate. Miami Beach passed a resolution urging lawmakers to adopt an assault rifle ban, but it wasn’t a ban. It was a resolution that carried no legal authority. As for the minimum wage increase, Miami Beach passed an ordinance to gradually increase it to $13.31 per hour by 2021, but it was struck down by the courts before it went into effect.

Assault rifle 'ban'

On July 13, 2016, the Miami Beach Commissioners adopted a resolution urging Congress and the Florida Legislature to lobby for assault weapons bans. It also urges the Florida Legislature to lift the preemption policy that prevents local governments from enacting gun control ordinances.

The resolution had no legal authority, though. That’s because resolutions, according to the Florida Statutes, are a statement of position, not an official legislative action of a governing body like a law.

"A resolution of the city commission of the city of Miami Beach, Florida, calling upon the federal and state-elected officials to collaborate with local officials and first responders to prevent mass shootings… ," the resolution heading says.

So rather than an actual ban, the resolution was really more of a call to action for lawmakers to consider banning assault weapons. It did not impede Miami Beach’s access to them.

The resolution wouldn’t have survived. Under Florida law, any local officials who try to enact gun regulations that are more restrictive than state law face fines up to $5,000 or even removal from office. Florida cities, including Miami Beach, have sued Gov. Rick Scott so they can enact tougher local gun regulations.

Minimum wage

In June 2016, Miami Beach Commissioners voted to gradually raise its minimum wage in the city from $8.05 to $13.31 per hour by 2021. The increase would have been enforced basically starting January 2018 and gone up every year until reaching the 2021 threshold.

The law never went in to effect, though. Florida Circuit Court Judge Peter Lopez ruled in March 2017 that Miami Beach's minimum wage law was pre-empted by a state statute preventing local minimum wages from exceeding the state rate.

A panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld Lopez’s ruling, but Miami Beach (along with other cities) asked the Florida Supreme Court to review the December 13 appellate court ruling.

So, Gillum is right that no one really got the benefit of it.

The one thing worth noting is that Gillum could have been more precise in describing the action Miami Beach took. Gillum said it was a resolution, but it was an ordinance. This means that the minimum wage increase, unlike the assault weapon resolution, would have been enforced had it not been struck down.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

On the Republican side of the race for governor, candidate Adam Putnam claimed during a recent interview on Fox News that Florida taxpayers "pay tens of millions of dollars a year to feed and house in our prison system criminal illegal aliens."

But does the state even keep  track of that number inmates? Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

Putnam campaign spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice said that there are two ways to calculate the "tens of millions" dollar figure he is referring to.

The problem, though, is that his calculation for "illegal immigrants" includes inmates who are not U.S. citizens but are in the country legally.

Putnam’s team multiplied the total state Department of Corrections budget ($2.3 billion) by the percent of "criminal illegal aliens" in Florida’s prisons, which Putnam said was 4.8 percent. That 4.8 percent of Corrections budget is roughly $110 million.

In the second calculation, Putnam multiplied the average cost to incarcerate an inmate for a day ($55.80, according to the Florida Department Of Corrections) by the number of days in a year. Then he multiplied that total ($20,367) by the number of "criminal illegal immigrants" in Florida prisons, which he said was 4,754.

That works out to around $96.8 million.

But terminology matters. Putnam is referring to that 4,754 figure as all "illegal aliens," but in fact the state prison system labels them simply "aliens."

That might sound like a small difference, but it isn’t. The term "aliens" actually refers to all people who are not U.S. citizens, those who arrived both legally and illegally. The state of Florida only keeps a count of all aliens.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, "the vast majority of alien inmates" are released to ICE for further immigration processing, including possible deportation.

It's possible undocumented immigrants make up a good share of the "alien" population, but Putnam still would have no way of knowing the exact numbers.

Even if we had the right numbers, experts told us that fixed costs for the prisons mean reducing the population yields uncertain cost savings. Eliminating a small percentage of inmates doesn’t mean the overall prison budget can be reduced by the same percentage.

We rate this claim Mostly False.