TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Two Florida state lawmakers re-introduced bills this week to restore local governments' power to set worker wages, benefits, and earned sick time, something that has been prohibited due to a law signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott in 2013.
One of the main things Florida Statute 218.077 did was prohibit cities and counties in the state from requiring employers to provide certain employment benefits, including sick leave but not including leave for reasons of domestic violence or sexual abuse.
Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) and Florida Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-Miami) have introduced dueling bills in the state's house and senate, both of which do one thing: repeal the 2013 law, Florida Statute 218.077.
In a release announcing the re-introduction of the bills, they wrote that COVID-19 has made worse the "many harsh and long-standing inequities in our state."
Rep. Guillermo Smith explained his reason to repeal the 2013 law in a statement:
“COVID has fully exposed the health, economic and racial disparities facing minority communities today. Now more than ever, Florida workers need access to sick leave benefits and living wages so they never have to choose between going to work sick or staying home without pay. HB 6031 puts the power back in the hands of local governments closest to the people to determine local sick leave and living wage policies that best meet the unique needs of their communities.”
The two also cited a recent Economic Policy Institute report that said that Black workers make up the majority of essential workers, and said that they are not being protected because of the 2013 law.
"These already vulnerable workers are frontline heroes who put their health and safety at risk to protect ours," said the release. "Yet despite their incredible sacrifices, many of these workers earn minimum wage, without access to earned sick time, hazard pay, or death benefits."
Sen. Taddeo's outlook on why the 2013 law needs to be repealed deals more with the minimum wage side of the bill.
"It is unconscionable that Floridians who work full-time, year-round, still live in poverty," said Sen. Taddeo. "SB 304 would help millions of families in Florida by preventing the state from preempting local governments the ability to increase wages to make decisions on what's best for their communities."
The bill, if passed and signed into law would take effect on July 1, 2021.