The Florida Senate passed a response to Orange County’s sick-pay battle Friday — a measure that would prevent local governments from adopting leave policies until after a state study.
The bill (HB 655) cleared the Senate 25-13, after several South Florida Democrats living in counties with more stringent “living wage” laws voted for the bill but were later allowed to change their votes.
“The people should decide which direction local government will go,” said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, one of four Democrats who accidentally voted for the bill before voting against it.
The bill now heads back to the House, which will have until May 3 to concur with changes made by the upper chamber or to send it back.
The measure would render moot a 2014 referendum in Orange County over whether to require that many businesses offer paid sick leave to workers.
More than 50,000 Orange County voters tried to place the earned sick-time measure on the Nov. 6 ballot last year, but the County Commission voted to keep it off. Afterward, a three-judge panel ordered the board to put it on the 2014 ballot. But even if the sick-time ordinance passes then, the bill would preempt Orange from adopting it.
“We cannot have a patchwork of local governments trying to impose upon private employers a set of requirements for employee benefits,’ said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who is carrying the Senate version of the bill. “This is a situation that cries out for uniformity across the state.”
Supporters in both chambers have argued the Orange fight has inspired them to at least temporarily preempt the “patchwork” of local government sick- and medical-leave policies in order to provide “certainty” to businesses.
Simmons’ language would still require a task force to study the issue and report back next year on whether to allow local governments to adopt their own policy, or to set a uniform statewide policy for employee benefits.
Simmons pushed through an amendment Thursday to delete any preemption of what are called “living wage” ordinances adopted by Broward, Miami-Dade, Orlando and Gainesville. Those laws require government contractors to offer workers higher wages to their workers.
But House Majority Leader Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, has so far refused to go along with the Senate’s weaker language, and companies such as Walt Disney and Darden Restaurants have been pushing Precourt’s version of the bill.