A coalition of activists urged Floridians on Tuesday to oppose statewide legislation blocking local governments from adopting benefit provisions such as the pending paid sick time referendum in Orange County.
Union, religious and Hispanic groups, teamed with local elected Democrats, asked residents to lobby their lawmakers to vote against bills sponsored by House Majority Leader Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, and Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.
Critics say the measures would erode local control. They pointed to a recent statewide poll commissioned by their side that found 80 percent of likely voters support mandatory paid sick time.
“This is stealing a fair election,” said Peter Phillips executive director of PICO United Florida, which is tied to as many as 60,000 church congregants statewide. “That is not healthy for democracy when you do that.”
On Sept. 11, Orange County commissioners voted 4-3 to keep the paid sick time measure off the Nov. 6 ballot, despite more than 50,000 voter petitions requesting a vote. A three-judge panel later ruled the board violated its charter in delaying the vote.
The measure is now slated for the August 2014 primary ballot. But Precourt and Simmons are trying to block passage of it or any other local sick-time measures across Florida. Precourt’s bill also would nullify “living wage” requirements in place in Orlando, Gainesville and several South Florida communities. Both bills are pending in Tallahassee.
Proponents of the so-called pre-emption bills, which includes the Florida Chamber of Commerce, argue that local wage and benefit measures would create a regulatory patchwork unfriendly to business and cost jobs.
Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants, owner of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains, helped draft the legislation, the sponsors said.
Simmons said he supports a statewide solution on sick leave and an “assurance to full time employees that, upon a proper showing that they or an immediate family member is ill, they should be entitled to a reasonable amount of unpaid sick leave.” Simmons said his bill creates a task force that may urge lawmakers to “potentially” adopt sick-leave benefits.