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Legislature moves to end local ‘living wage,’ sick time laws

The Florida Legislature voted Thursday to preempt local governments from enacting “living wage” laws and “sick time” ordinances.

HB 655 passed the Florida House in a 75-43 vote, largely along party lines. 

The bill is viewed as a direct challenge to Orange County, where residents gathered enough signatures to put a “sick-time” measure on the ballot. 

That measure would require many businesses to provide paid sick leave to their employees. If HB 655 is signed into law, it would largely render the Orange County ballot vote moot.

Other counties—including Miami-Dade and Broward—would also be affected because they already have “living wage” ordinances. 

Those ordinances require companies that contract with the county to pay wages that are higher than the federal minimum wage, and sometimes provide certain benefits. 

If HB 655 is signed into law, those “living wage” ordinances would be preempted by the state. That means workers in Miami-Dade County currently earning $12 or more per hour under the living wage law could see their pay drop down to the statewide minimum wage of $7.79 per hour.

Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, slammed the bill as a “slash-and-burn” approach. 

“The bill we have before us goes very, very far,” he said. “This is a destructive bill, with far-reaching unintended consequences.” 

But Republican lawmakers said the bill would stop Florida from having a “patchwork” of laws in its 67 counties, and create consistency for businesses. 

‘This bill provides consistency with regards to benefit packages across the state,” said Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta. “It levels the playing field.”

A similar bill in the Senate is less restrictive, focusing specifically on medical benefits.