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Local heat, fair wage ordinance preempt bill passes Florida House

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A bill that could invalidate local minimum wage and heat ordinances has passed the Florida House.

The measure blocks local governments from passing labor requirements for contractors. Under current state law, local municipalities cannot pass minimum wage ordinances. But they can create requirements for businesses looking to take on public contracts. That includes stipulating the businesses must pay a living wage or give a certain number of water breaks if there is a heat wave. Several cities and counties like Gainesville and Miami-Dade have those rules.

But the Florida House voted along party lines to ban those types of ordinances, preempting all contractor regulation to the state.

Democrats like Orlando Representative Anna Eskamani opposed the bill during the vote and debate.

“I celebrate local governments that want to champion that, who go up against the special interests. Because that is who is against it, right? Our large corporate actors or large special interests who don’t want to deal with that type of red tape which I see as just safety,” she said on the House floor.

But Republicans believe local labor ordinances create a piecemeal regulation environment for business. Naples Representative and business owner Bob Rommel said that makes Florida a worse market for employers.

“The reason we here are trying to preempt the 360-some municipalities having 361 different rules is so we can have continuity in business. Without continuity in business, businesses will not come to Florida. People will stop coming to Florida,” he said.

Miami Democratic Representative Ashley Gantt disagreed. She said a priority in local regulation should be creating the best outcomes for workers and families in the community, not just creating the optimal business environment.

“Private companies do not have an unmitigated right to do business with the government. So, the notion of free market doesn’t hold muster when we are talking about people being able to afford to pay their rent, pay their mortgage or even provide food or groceries for their families,” she said.

Naples Republican Representative Tiffany Esposito said her bill will help employees by creating the conditions for employers to thrive.

“The businesses are the ones that provide those jobs. The businesses are the ones who provide the dollars in order for people to put food on their tables. We have to protect jobs if we want to have the economic prosperity that we continue to see in Florida,” she said.

While the House is trying to prevent both labor and heat regulations, the Senate’s bill is smaller in scope. It only preempts heat ordinances. Time is running out for them to reach agreement.

Tristan Wood is a senior producer and host with WFSU Public Media. A South Florida native and University of Florida graduate, he focuses on state government in the Sunshine State and local panhandle political happenings.