By LLOYD DUNKELBERGER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Cities and counties would not be able to require contractors to provide certain benefits and wages to workers on state-funded public works projects under a bill approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The committee voted 11-7 to advance Sen. Keith Perry’s bill (SB 534), which would pre-empt local ordinances involved with worker pay, benefits and training if the public works projects, such as a road or school building, had 50 percent or more funding from the state.
Perry, a Gainesville Republican who founded a roofing company, said the legislation was aimed at eliminating “excessive mandates” on small businesses trying to compete for public contracts. He noted pre-emption would only occur if the state was paying the “lion’s share” of project costs.
The House voted 77-40 on Wednesday to approve a similar bill (HB 599).
ABC of Florida, which represents commercial and industrial contractors, supports the legislation. Carol Bowen, a lobbyist for the group, said in a survey of four to five local governments, they estimated the law would only impact 10 to 15 percent of public works contracts.
But Eric Poole, a lobbyist for the Florida Association of Counties, opposed the legislation, saying it would pre-empt ordinances that were supported by local community members and enacted after workshops and public hearings.
“Whether it’s 10 percent or 1 percent, it’s a pre-emption. It’s a pre-emption against home rule,” Poole said. “These are ordinances that the counties have thoughtfully put together.”
J.B. Clark, a lobbyist for the Florida Electrical Workers Association, called the bill “an attack” on the home rule powers of local governments.
“Workers are also collateral damage in that, when those home rules are lost,” Clark said.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who supported the bill, questioned Poole over whether counties should be able to mandate that public works contractors hire certain numbers of ex-felons.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat who opposed the legislation, said cities and counties should be able to set requirements that help local workers, including ex-felons and low-income residents, get jobs.
“I don’t see anything wrong with that,” she said.
Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who voted for the bill, said the state should not “be micromanaging the business of local government.” But he said there are limits to home rule, and there is a difference when public works projects use state funding, saying lawmakers have a responsibility for those expenditures.
With Thursday’s vote, Perry’s bill has cleared its last Senate committee and is ready to go to the Senate floor.