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'Outraged' Miami-Dade politicians tell Scott to veto 'unconscionable' sick-time bill

More than a dozen local politicians from Miami-Dade County—including Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado—say they are “outraged” that the Florida Legislature wants to pass down another mandate on local governments.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Regalado and other local mayors, commissioners and council members, say HB 655—a ban on local “sick time” ordinances—is a “Tallahassee power grab.”

“Preempting local governments from exerting local control is bad public policy,” the letter states, before telling Scott to veto the bill. It also says: “It is unconscionable that legislators would pass a bill that diminishes the quality of life for our residents.”

HB 655 bans local governments from mandating that private employers provide sick-time leave and other benefits to their workers. If Scott signs it, it would stop Orange County from moving ahead with a ballot initiative that would mandate businesses to provide sick time benefits.

Initially, the bill would have also struck down “living wage” ordinances currently on the books in places like Miami-Dade County and Miami Beach. Those ordinances require companies that contract with the local government to pay wages that are higher than the state’s minimum wage. During the legislative process, lawmakers stripped out the language that would have affected the Miami-Dade ordinance. It passed the House 76-41 on a partyline vote, with the support of Miami-Dade’s Republican House members.

But local politicians in Miami-Dade, both Democrats and Republicans, are unhappy with the Tallahassee mandate that would tie their hands in the future.

The Miami commission voted unanimously in April to officially urge the Florida Legislature to abandon the preemption effort.

“I hate to see the state telling us what to do,” said City Commissioner Willy Gort during a meeting in April. “We’ve got our home rule that we have to provide, and we can make our own rules.”

Gort signed the letter to Scott, along with other local officials, including: Miami-Dade Commissioners Barbara Jordan, Jean Monestime, Sally Heyman and (former commissioner) Natacha Seijas. Local mayors also signed on, including: Luigi Boria of Doral, Philip Stoddard of South Miami, Cindy Lerner of Pinecrest and Daisy Black of El Portal.

Several other religious and community organizations also signed the letter.

Lawmakers have said that local laws create a patchwork that hurt businesses, and a statewide standard needs to be created for things like sick-time and wage benefits. HB 655 creates a task force to recommend a statewide solution.

But local lawmakers say they know best how to address problems in their own communities.

In the letter to Scott, the local officials quote an April 30 editorial board meeting with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, in which he states: “I think as much as possible, you ought to push the decision down to the local level, as much as you can, just like I don’t like the federal government to do a lot of mandates.”

Scott office did not immediately say whether the governor has responded to the letter. Scott "will review" the bill, a spokesperson said. 

The bill, which passed the Legislature on May 2, has not yet reached Scott’s desk.

Read story on Florida’s efforts to preempt local governments this year, here: Does Tallahassee dictate too much to cities, counties?

Read the letter to Scott here