Florida Republican Seeks To Exclude Felons From State’s Minimum Wage Increase

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According to The Orlando Sentinel, a Republican state senator has responded to the $15 an hour minimum wage increase approved by Florida voters in November by seeking to limit the ability of certain groups to participate in the gains.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, unveiled a Senate resolution Wednesday that would modify the $15 wage amendment to allow the Legislature to set a reduced pay rate for workers under age 21, those convicted of felonies, for state prisoners and for “other hard-to-hire employees.”

In an interview Thursday, Brandes said the change would allow the Legislature to help struggling workers find employment.

“The goal here is to create an extra rung of the ladder for them,’’ he said, using a “training wage” that would phase out after the worker gets some experience on the job.

Brandes claims that the groups he has listed will benefit from being excluded from the wage increase, because keeping them at a lower pay will incentivize employers to hire them.

The Sentinel noted that “the resolution drew immediate fire from Orlando attorney John Morgan, who largely bankrolled the citizens initiative for the $15 wage.”

His amendment increases the minimum wage to $10 an hour on Sept. 30 with annual increases until it reaches $15 on Sept. 30, 2026.

“This proposed resolution is a patently unconstitutional attempt to undermine the will of the voters, who resoundingly voted to ensure all of Florida’s low-wage workers are paid enough to live and work with dignity,” Morgan said in a statement Thursday. “If the legislature continues to subvert the will of the people with this naked attempt to replace working families with child labor, I will sue the state. And I will win — again.”

However, Brandes argued that his proposal is “absolutely constitutional,” according to the report, saying “that the training wage would only be used in limited circumstances for teenagers, ex-felons and others who traditionally can’t find employment.”

As a possible example of how it could work, he said the initial lower pay could be set for a specific number of hours or days on the job before it went higher.

The proposal (SJR 854) is filed for consideration during the legislative session that will start March 2. If passed, it would need the approval of 60% of the voters on the 2022 fall ballot because it would change the state Constitution.

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Image credit: Screengrab / TrippScottFlorida / YouTube

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