House Majority Leader Steve Precourt is refusing to go along with a Senate deal on a local government sick-leave bill, casting some doubt on whether the Orange County-inspired measure can pass the Legislature by Friday.
Precourt, R-Orlando, urged House Republicans Thursday to reject a Senate amendment to the “pre-emption” bill, which would block local governments from enacting sick-leave policies like the one slated for a public vote in Orange County. The compromise language passed by the Senate would block local sick-leave laws for a year, until a task force could report back to lawmakers in 2014 on whether to draft a statewide policy. The Senate amendment also removed a broader prohibition on local governments from enforcing “living wage” laws on the books in Broward, Miami-Dade, Orlando and elsewhere.
The Senate passed SB 655 last week only after removing that “living wage” prohibition. But Precourt called the amendment a “carve-out” and House Republicans voted to refuse to concur with the Senate changes.
That means the bill bounces back to the Senate, where Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, will have to decide whether to push to pass it as-is, or amend it again and bounce it back to the House — which could kill it for the year.
The legislation was inspired and pushed by Walt Disney and Darden Restaurants after more than 50,000 Orange County residents signed a petition last year to ask voters whether to require that many businesses offer paid sick-leave to employees. The County Commission initially blocked the vote, but a three-judge panel later ordered them to put it on the 2014 ballot. But if the bill becomes law, that vote will be rendered meaningless.
Before House Republicans stripped the Senate language, Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, and other Orange County Democrats tried unsuccessfully to get Orange exempted from the bill entirely so that next year’s planned vote on a sick-leave policy would count.
“Orange County is leading the state with workers who can’t take a day off work if they or their children are sick,” Saunders said.
“The proposed ballot measure in Orange County may not be the right one for our community. It might not be the right one for our small and large businesses, but people in Orange County deserve the right to make this decision.”
But Precourt called the amendment “a carve-out for one county,” and urged lawmakers to vote it down. Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, countered that the whole bill was a response to Orange County’s sick-leave fight, “and ensnared a whole lot of other people in counties.”
“The residents of Orange County are very much in favor of having their voices heard,” said Rep.Victor Torres, D-Orlando.
The amendment failed on a voice vote.