This article originally appeared in Family Values @ Work.
Home rule – guaranteed under the Florida state constitution — is a cherished conservative principle. It ensures the right of the people to determine and implement a public purpose at the grassroots level.
So when is home rule not okay with conservative politicians connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC? Apparently, when local elected officials or voters stand with working families rather than corporate lobbyists.
Local elected officials in Miami, Central Florida and Tallahassee rallied April 16 to oppose pending statewide legislation that flies in the face of home rule. One bill in the House would prevent local governments from writing laws regarding employee benefits. It would strip away measures already in place, including those banning wage theft and requiring a living wage, as well block legislators or voters from moving on local earned sick days measures such as the pending referendum in Orange County. The state bill focuses strictly on earned sick time.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, sponsors of the preemption bills got a little help from their friends — Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants, owner of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains — in drafting the legislation.
Those would be the same friends who let their fingers do the walking to assist Orange County Commissioners with texts on how to keep the earned sick time referendum off the ballot last November. That action, now known as Textgate, was a clear violation of the County Charter; a court has since ordered the referendum to appear on the August 2014 ballot.
Miami Officials Step Up
In Miami, City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado joined labor, faith and community groups on the steps of the historic Miami-Dade County Courthouse to send a message to Florida state legislators: Don’t trample on local control.
“I represent one of the poorest cities in the country,” said Mayor Regalado. “The living wage in the City of Miami has helped keep thousands of workers out of poverty and given them a chance to build a life of economic security for their families.”
City of Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower also spoke out against the preemption bills. “We fought hard for a living wage in the City of Miami Beach because I know how hard it is for workers to make ends meet,” she said. “Before I was Mayor, I was an average worker and know how hard it is to afford to live in the City of Miami Beach.”
She urged Miami-Dade residents to take swift action and call their legislators to tell them that local residents working with local leaders know what’s best for their own cities.
Mayor Daisy Black of the Village of El Portal, and City of Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora also spoke. They were two of 22 local elected officials who signed a letter released at the press conference to the Florida state legislators urging them not to preempt local control.
Other speakers included Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of the Haitian Women of Miami, and Tony Fransetta, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, who described the economic benefits to their communities of having living wage and wage theft ordinances.
Voters Overwhelmingly Oppose State Power Grab
The bills are not only bad for the economy – they’re bad for elected officials. According to a statewide poll conducted April 5-7 by Public Policy Polling, the vast majority of likely Florida voters strongly oppose legislative efforts to keep cities and counties from being able to enact protections for workers in their own communities. A majority of voters don’t trust the state legislature to make the right decisions for their local communities.
In Orlando, 40 people turned out to hear Orlando City Commissioner Daisy Lynum, Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph, Eatonville City Council Member Alvin Moore, a representative from Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office and Congressman Alan Grayson’s office.
Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph said the legislation favors big business and special interests over local leaders and low-income workers.
“Big business, most of them out-of-state, incorporated in Delaware, so you might as well call it the Delaware Chamber of Commerce, is coming into Florida trying to stop our citizens from deciding what kind of community they want to live in.”
Those in attendance belonged to Organize Now, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Community Business Association, PICO United Florida, and other local groups.
Orange County voters, already robbed once after getting more than the 50,000 signatures needed to get earned sick time on the ballot, refuse to be robbed again.
In Tallahassee, victims of wage theft and faith leaders joined Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez at a press conference urging legislators to stop SB 1216 and HB 1125. They argued that the bills would not only ban local wage theft ordinances but would place new impediments in the current, ineffective process for victims to recover stolen wages.
Participants emphasized that both of these bills are an attempt to overstep home rule at the expense of workers and their families, law-abiding businesses, and local economies.