State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said he may abandon his bill that would block local governments from adopting mandatory sick time benefits, such as one pending in Orange County, and go for something broader.
Instead, Simmons said he may largely substitute his bill for a companion House measure that would not only block local adoption of mandatory sick days for workers, but would also kill local wage measures that exist in Orlando, Gainesville, and several South Florida communities.
House Majority Leader Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, is sponsoring the House measure.
“I discussed the differences in the two bills with Rep. Precourt [Tuesday],” Simmons said by email. “Since we both agreed to discuss the matter with our presiding officers, it is premature to speculate how we will ultimately resolve the differences.”
When asked later if the House bill had ever been heard by a Senate committee, Simmons said: “I believe the House Bill is sufficiently similar so as to permit it to be heard in the Senate.”
Critics say this latest legislative twist mirrors the questionable way paid sick time was handled in Orange County. Orange leaders blocked a paid sick time referendum from going to voters last fall, and a judicial panel later ruled that they violated their own charter in doing so.
"Senate President Don Gaetz committed that bills would not be brought to the floor if they hadn't been heard in committees. And Sen. David Simmons committed not to allow House Majority Leader Steve Precourt's HB 655 to be merged with his," said Stephanie Porta, the executive director of Organize Now, a lead paid sick time propenent. "This isn't just making a bad bill worse. It's breaking faith with Florida families, law enforcement officers and religious leaders who have worked in good faith with Sen. Simmons."
A coalition of union, religious and Hispanic and gay rights groups have teamed with Democrats to urge Floridians to call lawmakers and ask them to oppose the legislation. But it’s not clear they can stop either bill in a Republican-controlled capital.
Critics say Precourt’s bill would erode the local control that Repubilcans profess to admire, and it's also at odds with public sentiment. They point to a recent statewide poll commissioned by their side that found 80 percent of likely voters support mandatory paid sick time.
Supporters of the Precourt bill include Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants – the parent company of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains. Those are the same interests that lobbied Orange commissioners to block the paid sick time referendum from the Nov. 6 ballot.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business interests argue that local wage and benefit measures create a regulatory patchwork unfriendly to business and ultimately cost jobs.