By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said his bill prohibiting local governments from requiring companies to provide benefits is “the right thing” to do — though advocates for the poor and most of the public believe his bill is harmful.
The House version of the bill has already passed and Simmons’ companion bill awaits passage in the more moderate Florida Senate.
If passed in both chambers, HB 655 would prohibit local governments in the state from implementing laws that extend paid sick leave benefits to workers and would prevent local governments from requiring companies to pay workers a living wage. The bill is similar to others backed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, which is behind many pro-business and anti-worker legislation throughout the country.
Currently, the Senate version of this bill does not eradicate living wage ordinances, such as those in place in Miami-Dade County, Orlando and Gainesville. However, it would halt implementation of a sick-time measure in Orange County that will be on the 2014 ballot.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, most voters dislike Simmons’ bill and favor legislation that requires businesses to provide employees with sick time benefits. A poll conducted by the Democratic-leaning PPP Polling found that most Floridians approve of sick time and living wage laws.
Eighty percent say they strongly (65 percent) or somewhat (15 percent) support a law to ensure “the right to earn a set number of sick days that would allow them to take time off when they are sick or need to take care of a family member — without being fired or losing a day’s wages.”
Sixteen percent don’t support that; the rest were unsure, according to the Public Policy Polling results.
When asked if they back local “living wage” laws now in place, 72 percent said they support them, while 18 percent do not. The rest didn’t know.
… The poll also found lopsided support for preserving local government control on such issues. When asked if they back “the right of local governments and voters to make their own laws,” 41 percent strongly supported it, another 19 percent said they somewhat did, while 27 percent said they opposed it.
Unions, Democrats and advocates for the poor, such as PICO United Florida, which is backed by hundreds of churches around the state, have led opposition to Simmons’ bill.
Despite the unpopularity of the Simmons’ bill, however, the Altamonte Springs Republican stands by it.
Simmons, who represents Volusia and Seminole counties, says it doesn’t really matter to him what public polling shows on the issue.
“I make my decisions based upon what I believe to be the right thing, and not necessarily the popular thing, to do,” Simmons said by email recently. Simmons said businesses that he’s heard from desire uniform rules on benefits, and that’s more important.
The Sentinel reported previously that Simmons — and the state House sponsor of the bill — said “they worked with companies such as Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants to draft their bills because they want statewide uniformity in wage and benefit rules.”