The compromise language passed 76-41 by the House Thursday 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-drafted compromise also removed a broader prohibition on local governments from enforcing "living wage" laws on the books in Broward, Miami-Dade, Orlando and elsewhere.
The bill is a watered down verison from one that would have originally blocked local governments from also imposing higher wage-requirements for goverment contractors. The Senate passed SB 655 last week only after removing that "living wage" prohibition. But House Majority Leader Steve Precourt earlier Thursday called the amendment a "carve-out" and urged House Republicans to refuse to concur with the Senate changes.
After the Senate sent its version of the bill back, the House relented.
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.
"I looked at it as kind of two-thirds a loaf, not just half," Precourt said. "Pre-empting the government mandates on the private sector was the major initiative."
Earlier Thursday, 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.