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Wednesday, 17 July 2019 23:42

Florida Minimum-Wage Drive Inches Closer To Ballot Featured

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Proponents of a prospective constitutional amendment to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026 gathered more than 100,000 signatures in June and are nearly half-way to qualifying for the 2020 ballot.

But with new petition-gathering rules approved by lawmakers in May going into effect July 7, Florida For A Fair Wage’s campaign will have to meet more strident standards between now and Feb. 1, 2020, to secure the 766,320 validated signatures necessary for the measure to be presented to voters in November’s general election.

In addition, those same newly imposed rules will also require the proposal to undergo a more robust Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) review by state fiscal analysts.
Such a review could produce indefinite results, similar to the way a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study released Monday projects raising the federal hourly minimum wage to $15 by 2025 would lift 1.3 million out of poverty but cost 1.3 million jobs.

According to the state’s Division of Elections, as of July 10, Florida For A Fair Wage had gathered 341,189 signatures, nearly 103,000 more than the 239,000 it had on June 1.
Championed by Orlando attorney John Morgan – who also spearheaded the ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana in 2016 – Florida For A Fair Wage has received more than $3 million in contributions.

Nearly all of that money – including $812,963.45 in May and $812,340 in June – came from Morgan’s law firm and much of it, more than $800,000, was paid to a California petition-collection firm.

As of July 7, however, out-of-state “professionals” are no longer permitted to gather petition signatures as part of a slate of rules adopted by the Legislature in the waning minutes of this year’s legislative session.

The new rules essentially extend the state’s voter registration system for absentee ballots to petition-gathering, requiring every citizen initiative organization sponsoring a signature-drive have its own numbered, serialized petition provided by county elections offices.

They require petition-gathers to register with the state and have a permanent Florida address, effectively barring out-of-state entities from ballot campaigns. The bill prohibits signature gatherers from being paid on a per-petition basis.

As a result, petition-gatherers say they’ll now need at least 1.1 million signatures to ensure 766,320 are verified, and will need to finish collecting by the end of 2019 to give elections supervisors the required 30 days to verify them before Feb. 1.

And if the FIEC review is as inconclusive as the CBO analysis, the proposal could also face tough sledding in the realm of public perception.

According to analysis by the nonpartisan CBO of the federal Raise the Wage Act, gradually doubling the $7.25 hourly federal minimum wage by 2025 would boost pay for 27 million workers, lifting 1.3 million households out of poverty, but also potentially triggering the loss of 1.3 million jobs.

According to the analysis, which used data from 11 studies published in the past four years:

• The $10 option would raise wages for 1.5 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $10 per hour. Another 2 million who would otherwise earn slightly more than $10 per hour “might see wages rise as well.” The option would have little effect on employment in an average week in 2025. There is a two-thirds chance the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 100,000 workers. “This option would have negligible effects on the number of people in poverty.”

• In an average week in 2025, the $12 option would increase wages for 5 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $12 per hour. Another 6 million otherwise earning slightly more than $12 per hour could see wages rise as well. But the option would cause 300,000 other workers to be jobless. There is a two-thirds chance the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 800,000 workers. “The number of people with annual income below the poverty threshold in 2025 would fall by 400,000.”

• In an average week in 2025, the $15 option would boost wages of 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $15 per hour. Another 10 million otherwise earning slightly more than $15 per hour might see wages rise as well. But 1.3 million other workers would become jobless, according to CBO’s median estimate. There is a two-thirds chance the change in employment would be between about zero and a decrease of 3.7 million workers.“The number of people with annual income below the poverty threshold in 2025 would fall by 1.3 million.”
The CBO report, only the second to focus on the impact of a $15 minimum wage, comes as Congress prepares to vote on increasing the federal minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade.

John Haughey
The Center Square

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