A Republican senator looking to alter Florida’s newly adopted $15-an-hour minimum wage mandate defended his proposal on Monday amid a growing chorus of criticism.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said his proposal to amend the state Constitution to allow the Legislature to exempt convicted felons and people under 21 from the new minimum-wage requirements would help them get jobs in the future.
Brandes said studies indicate minimum wage requirements have a “disparate impact” on low-skilled workers, such as teenagers. He said he believes that “recently released incarcerated felons” also would be negatively impacted by the higher minimum wage, which is why he included felons in the proposal (SJR 854) filed last week.
“Those populations generally have an unemployment (rate) of 25 to 30 percent which is five or six times the state average unemployment rate. As the minimum wage rises, the evidence suggests it would get even harder for them (to get jobs),” he said.
But Florida AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin said Brandes’ proposal isn’t the answer to the goal of ensuring everyone can get hired.
“We understand Senator Brandes’ concern about these workforce segments, but denying them a new constitutional right to a near-living wage is not the way to do it,” Templin said. “It’s state-sanctioned discrimination.”
Despite opposition from business groups, Florida voters in November approved gradually boosting the state’s minimum wage, currently $8.65 an hour, to $15 an hour by Sept. 30, 2026. Under the constitutional amendment, the minimum wage will go to $10 this September and increase by $1 each year until it reaches $15.
The amendment was self-executing and did not need legislative action, though it authorized the Legislature to pass statutes to increase the minimum wage further or to increase fines for employers who violate the minimum wage.
Brandes’ proposal would allow the Legislature to provide a reduced minimum wage for workers under age 21, for workers convicted of felonies, for state prisoners and for “other hard-to-hire employees.” The proposal doesn’t define who those hard-to-hire employees are and would leave that up to lawmakers to decide.
A super-majority of the Legislature would need to approve Brandes’ proposal because it would be a constitutional amendment. If it clears the House and Senate during the upcoming legislative session, it would need to be approved by 60 percent of Florida voters during the 2022 elections.
Well-known Orlando trial attorney John Morgan provided much of the financial backing for last year’s ballot measure to raise the minimum wage. Morgan went on social media to criticize Brandes’ proposal.
“Many in Florida still hope for slave wages. The (ballot) initiative was clear and unambiguous. The people heard all the arguments and spoke loud and clear,” Morgan posted on his Twitter account last week. ”Just another example of why politicians are hated.”
Brandes said the exemptions in his proposal are only temporary, but the measure contains no time limits on how long someone could be excluded from earning the higher minimum wage — other than the possibility a worker could turn 21 and be entitled to a raise.
Brandes said his goal was to keep “low-skilled employees” working and said the proposal would give employers the ability to develop what he called “training wage” programs.
“We are asking the voters to let the Legislature consider these issues,” Brandes said. “Because without this, there really isn’t a mechanism to quickly and at scale address this problem.”
But Templin said Florida could ban employers from asking whether job applicants are convicted felons as a way to prevent discrimination that fuels unemployment.
Templin also said there is a “faulty assumption that many of us have that anyone under 21 is a high school kid from a good home working to earn money over the summer” and said the exemption for people under 21 is “horrible.”
–Christine Sexton, News Service of Florida
Just another way to help businesses profit over employees by another GOP.
Similar to Unemployment in FL, 3rd lowest in the nation. RickScott took care of that when he opted to give businesses a break over raising Unemployment.
Raise Unemployment and Raise Minimum wage. Trust me, nobody will get rich on either.
Deborah Coffey says
How Republican of him…still wishing and hoping for at least some slavery in America.
Michael Cocchiola says
Leave it to Republican legislators to defy the people’s will. They did it with voting rights for former felons and they’re trying to do it again. They just keep on digging downward.
Again, Republicans want to override what the voters decided. Just like the voting rights restoration. Maybe spend a little time studying how democracy works? This is disgusting. He has no right to change the law.
@Well heck, Jeff Brandes is just one of us
By THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE | Call it the Millionaire’s Club.
“…The wealthiest legislator in the House is Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, with a net worth of $11.8 million at the end of 2010. His family sold its ownership of Cox Lumber Co. to Home Depot in 2006 for an undisclosed sum…”
Yes sir – just like the rest of us…
Old Guy says
It’s sad that in Florida and some other states the only way to get some things done is by voter initiatives. This would just be the latest example where the will of the voters is ignored by the Republican controlled legislature.
R. S. says
Another pitch for slavery of ex-felons. This does not make life easier for returning citizens.
This is another example of our representatives (Republicans) thwarting the will of the voters-remember how they vivisected Amendment 4 which gave felons the right to vote?
Let’s make it harder for teenagers to save for post high school training and for felons who are returning to society to earn a living wage. (Insert sarcasm)
We will remember in November 2021 and 2022.
Jason B says
Never fails .. every time the majority of Florida voters do anything, the Republicans come along behind them and try to mess it up. They tried to bog down the implementation of medical marijuana, they tried (and largely succeeded) in preventing felons (overwhelmingly people of color) from exorcising their right to vote, and now they’re trying to do it with the minimum wage increase. I truly hope we remember this when the midterms come up in 2022 ….. it’s way past time to clean house.
Concerned Citizen says
I don’t understand all this concern over convicted felons recently.
These people chose to make poor choices that put them where they are at. Quite simple if you don’t want to live the life of a felon don’t commit the crimes. And a good number of these felons have committed crimes that leave victims dealing with it for the rest of their lives. So what about victims rights?
There are plenty of us out there who have lived honorable lives and are still struggling day by day. Without special handouts and free passes. And sone of us in that bunch have served our country.
B From PC says
Well put. I agree 100%
Oh sure and maybe we can make the felons sit at the back of the bus while we are it. So much nomsense comes out of Florida
Really the under 21 idea makes sense the Felon part IDK some actually will try to get back on track and its yet another obstacle. The folks up Capital way will decise one way or the other.
Felons who have paid their debt to society should NOT be now used as the new slave labor. They are adults who are required to pay rent and taxes, etc., just like everyone else. Just how are they suppose to become upstanding citizens if they cannot support themselves? The majority of felons also people of color. . . because of our unjust judicial system. Therefore, this smacks of just more systemic racism! Typical thinking in the Florida Republican legislature!
Raise minimum wage except for felons while prices inflate that’s a great way to lead them to a better life..looks like they will have to keep doing illegal shit just to survive🤦🏽♂️
Failed GOP Coup says
Republicans hate Democracy
In other news, the Biden administration is still keeping migrant children in cages, where is all the uproar?………better tuck that in, again, it’s showing.
Sunshine fiscal republican says
What should we do with the now orphaned children this mess has created?
Been in office 2 weeks and how so petty of you. It will take his 4 year term to clean up after the Trump shit show dumpster fire Wait until 2022. You havent seen anything yet. PS Just keep WINNING
Again. . . another attempt at deflection, with another “whataboutism” . . . You know what, at least President Biden (after less than 20 whole days in office) is working on getting the kids . . .horrifically ripped from their parents by trump. . . reunited with their parents or guardians:
President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed executive orders to launch a long-awaited task force to reunite families separated at the border under the Trump administration, as well as begin a review of a Trump-era program that has forced tens of thousands of people to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed.
It’s part of Biden’s latest effort to undo former President Donald Trump’s immigration legacy and offer a sharp change in rhetoric on the issue. But the contents of the three executive orders are a reminder that undoing Trump’s policies and crafting new ones will take time. The new orders mostly call for policy reviews, planning and recommendations on next steps — not new policies to implement in the immediate term.
“I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden said after signing the orders in the Oval Office.
Trump took more than 400 immigration-related executive actions while in office. Meanwhile, Biden on his first day in office released a comprehensive immigration reform plan and signed several immigration-related executive orders to stop further construction of the border wall, emphasize commitment to preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and end Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.
“Fully remedying [Trump’s] actions will take time and require a full government approach,” a senior administration official said in a briefing with reporters on Monday night.
“But President Biden has been very clear about restoring compassion and order to our immigration system and correcting the divisive, inhumane and immoral policies of the last four years,” the official said, adding that Biden’s action, so far, was “just the beginning.”
On Tuesday, Biden signed an executive order that starts a family reunification process, one of his signature campaign promises. The Trump administration oversaw the separation of more than 5,500 families — and estimates show that the parents of more than 600 children have still not been located.
The task force will first work to identify all children separated from their parents at the border under Trump, according to the executive order text. The focus will be on children separated under the previous administration’s “zero tolerance policy,” which formally lasted from April to June 2018, and families separated under earlier pilot programs will be considered, as well.
It will then make recommendations to Biden and federal agencies on steps they can take to reunify families. Some of those options include: granting them “parole,” which, if granted, allows noncitizens to either enter or remain in the U.S. for specific reasons or issuing visas. The task force can also recommend offering trauma and mental health resources. And it will provide reports and recommendations on steps to prevent family separation policy from happening again. The first report is due in 120 days.