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In a Blow to Workers and Home Rule, Florida Moves to Forbid Living-Wage Ordinances

| February 22, 2013

Florida's wage-earners aren't on the Florida Legislature's radar. (iluvcocacola)

Florida’s wage-earners aren’t on the Florida Legislature’s radar. (iluvcocacola)

A bill preventing local governments and their contractors from offering higher pay or additional benefits passed its first House Committee Wednesday after debate over home rule, “jerk bosses” and “deadbeat dads.”

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, the measure (HB 655) would prevent cities and counties from demanding that companies bidding for local government contracts pay a certain wage or offer benefits better than existing state or federal law requires.

The proposal would expand on legislation passed a decade ago to prevent cities from enacting their own minimum wage levels for private employers doing business within their jurisdictions. The proposal would also extend the ban to other employee benefits such as paid sick leave.

The bill passed on a 10-7 party line vote in the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee.

The measure is backed by business groups including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida.

Opponents include the Florida League of Cities, the AFL-CIO and other unions and trade groups.

Backers said it would provide uniformity by preventing a patchwork of local ordinances while allowing local governments to provide whatever benefits they choose to their own employees.

“Local governments that provide that benefit to their employees will continue to be allowed to provide that benefit,” Precourt said. “What they can’t do is mandate that upon the private sector and private businesses.”

Critics countered that the bill was a business-backed effort to undo ordinances already on the books in a handful of cities and counties. They also pointed to an upcoming vote in Orange County, where voters next year are scheduled to decide whether private companies receiving government contracts should provide paid sick leave for their employees as a contract requirement.

“This is about democracy and about who really decides,” said Maria McCluskey, an Orange County resident who said she lost her after job after taking unpaid sick leave.

McCluskey, a member of Citizens for a Greater Orlando, was among more than 50,000 Orange County voters who signed a petition to put the issue of paid sick leave on the ballot. A three-judge panel last week overturned an Orange County Commission vote that kept the issue off the November ballot. It is slated to be voted on next summer.

In 2003, lawmakers prohibited local governments from establishing local minimum wages. That law didn’t, however, limit the authority of a local government to set a minimum wage for its own employees, employees of its contractors, or employers to which it provides direct tax abatements or subsidies.

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According to House analysts, several local governments –the cities of Gainesville, Miami Beach and Orlando as well as Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties — have since adopted so called living wage ordinances that require employers within their jurisdictions to provide employment benefits not spelled out in state or federal law.

Some speakers Wednesday questioned why Republicans would be so quick to circumvent local government control. Many also called unfounded the argument that higher benefits limit jobs.

“It’s been more than a decade since the law was passed,” Gainesville electrician James Engle said of that city’s ordinance. “If it was going to cause a problem, there would have been a problem. It hasn’t.”

Lawmakers on the panel sided up on the issue along party lines. In a twist, it was Democrats arguing against the bill on the issue of home rule and local control while Republicans cited the need for a statewide solution.

Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Spring Hill, said requiring employers to provide benefits such as paid sick leave insert government into a situation where it doesn’t belong.

“When you have needs, when you need assistance, it should be your family then it should be your community and your churches. The last step should be government,” Smith said. “We should not destroy or interfere with the free market system because of situations like jerk bosses or deadbeat dads.”

–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida

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9 Responses for “In a Blow to Workers and Home Rule, Florida Moves to Forbid Living-Wage Ordinances”

  1. Sad Times says:

    What a sad commentary…… Republicans decry the fact that low paid workers, etc. are part of the 47% that Romney spoke of….. but are unwilling to give them a decent salary so that they can climb out of that “47%” status.

    It makes no sense so me…. you’d think they would want workers to make a living salary…. so that they no longer have to be a drain on society and the government. Hey folks…. which way do you really want it?!

    • Legally says:

      Raise the minimum wage, you put business’ OUT of business, and cause the price of products and services to rise. Not surprising to me a Democrat is ignorant of Economics 101.

  2. P. Skelt says:

    This is not the only example. The Republicans in the Florida Legislature appear determined to eliminate home rule across the board in almost every aspect of life.

  3. Alex says:

    We voted in a Republican majority so we are receiving the result of the GOP ideology.

  4. Brighton Beach says:

    Florida is no place for working stiffs. That is the gospel truth.

    It’s getting to the point that your kids and pets need to work also
    to make the monthly bills. You’d better have a degree in some medical discipline
    to make it here, or have lots of money.

    The Florida sun ages people rapidly.
    The Florida employment mentality wears human-beings out.
    The Florida mentality kicks people to the curb after they’re spent.

  5. James says:

    This has nothing to do with the Republicans as I am one. We should not allow local governments to dictate what a private employer should or should not pay. I believe that wages should be raised to $9/hr but we should not dictate anything else.

  6. P. Skelt says:

    James, it has everything to do with Republicans. It is a bill proposed by a Republican and supported along party lines. Yes, your vote matters.

  7. wsh302@msn.com says:

    i could not agree with you more brighton beach, this is not an employer to employee friendly state. look at the driveways and you will see 4-5 vehicles in the driveway, several garbage containners, people living on top of each other in 1500 square foot homes and duplexes. my money did not come from this state and i am glad because if it did i would probably beliving in one of those situations i described above.

  8. Devrie says:

    Brighton Beach…

    What you say about pets and kids needing jobs is exactly why I believe an increase in minimum wage to a living wage would positively affect the employment rate.

    When I worked at the Community Action Agency to help low-income people, there were so many people who worked several jobs, but they didn’t make enough for their families. They were working over 60 hours a week. I thought that was such a shame. Working. Even more than minimum wage.

    What I find concerning is this:
    “A series of studies have been conducted in the past few years on the EITC’s effects on work behavior. These studies have consistently found that the EITC has substantial positive effects in inducing single parents to go to work. One of the most important of these studies finds that the proportion of single mothers who are in the labor force rose sharply between 1984 and 1996 and that the EITC expansions instituted during this period are responsible for more than half of this increase.”–http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1649

    While it’s great that the EITC helps people afford to work, I think the employers should be paying people enough to afford to work for them. If that means that business owners must expand more slowly, or be more efficient, or properly plan out their budgetary needs, then so be it. It’s the employer’s responsibility to pay people what they need to work, not the taxpayers responsibility.

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