Senate Bill 2106 would create a guaranteed hourly wage for tipped employees of 130 percent of the current Florida minimum wage, or $9.98 an hour. Because Florida’s minimum wage is indexed for inflation, the guaranteed wage would rise each year if and when the state minimum wage was increased. Employers could opt in to provide the hourly guarantee. In exchange for providing the hourly guarantee, the employer’s obligation with respect to state minimum wage law would be satisfied. (Federal wage laws would still apply).
We’ve assembled a few facts below that provide a richer picture of SB2106 and its impact.
- Fact: Senate Bill 2106 would create the highest state wage guarantee in the region and the country
- The highest state wage guarantee in the country is currently $9.04 an hour in Washington State. Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina all have a wage guarantee of $7.25 an hour.
- SB 2106 would create a wage guarantee that’s 30 percent higher than Florida’s current minimum wage, and 10 percent higher than the highest current wage guarantee in the country (Washington State).
- Fact: The constitution of the state of Florida permits legislation (such as SB2106) that creates a more generous wage guarantee than set by current law
- Title X, Section 24, of the Florida constitution says the following (emphasis added): “This amendment provides for payment of a minimum wage and shall not be construed to preempt or otherwise limit the authority of the state legislature or any other public body to adopt or enforce any other law, regulation, requirement, policy or standard that provides for payment of higher or supplemental wages or benefits, or that extends such protections to employers or employees not covered by this amendment.”
- By adopting SB 2106, the Florida legislature would simply be creating a law that provided for the payment of a higher minimum wage than the one guaranteed under current law
- Fact: Senate Bill 2106 would provide for a stable hourly wage guarantee to tipped employees
- Tips can vary based on the time of year or the business cycle. Advocacy groups in particular have been outspoken about this, criticizing the “erratic” nature of tips in the service industry.
- This legislation gives employers the options to provide a stable hourly guarantee that’s 30 percent higher than the current state minimum wage. Employee advocates should be strongly supportive of this effort.
Destination Resort Casinos
HB 487/SB 710
With Legislators looking for budget solutions in these hard economic times, some seem willing to gamble with “Destination Resort Casinos.” Regardless of what it’s called – gaming or gambling – it still boils down to one issue – is this what we want Florida’s future to look like?
THE REAL NUMBERS: After three meetings and much lobbying from the gambling industry, a panel of economists for the State Revenue Estimating Conference could not come up with a firm number on how much the State will make from the mega resorts. The estimates were “too squishy,” they said, and the variables too uncertain, and the ambitious timeline to susceptible to delay.
“It’s a choice of either saying it’s indeterminate or put a number down and say it’s highly uncertain,” commented Don Langston, economist for the State House of Representatives.
The FRLA is not alone in its position against gambling. All Florida Cabinet members, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation is against the expansion of gambling.
Florida is considered one of the most family-friendly destination locations in the world. Are we ready to swap the motto of: “Share a little Sunshine,” with “What happens in Florida, stay’s in Florida?”
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is opposed to the expansion of gambling.
Online Travel Companies
HB 1393/SB 1888
For several years now, competing interests have been warring in Florida and across the country over how taxes should be calculated on hotel rooms sold over the internet.
The dispute revolves around how hotel rooms that are sold through online travel companies (OTCs) should be taxed. Internet companies such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz currently pay taxes only on the wholesale rate (which is the rate they pay the hotel), rather than on the retail rate (which is what they charge the customer). Since the customer pays taxes on retail rates, the online travel companies consider the difference between the two rates the price of the service they provide.
Hotels, who currently pay taxes at the retail rate, argue that online travel companies have an unfair advantage over bricks-and-mortar companies. The Florida Association of Counties estimates that counties are losing $20 million a year in hotel-tax revenue due to the discrepancy.
This issue has appeared before the Legislature for the past 3 years. The FRLA believes that our state policies should not put hard working Florida hotels at a disadvantage.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association opposes any policy that would provide online travel companies a special tax advantage.
HB 511/SB 668
Florida has made great headway in reducing workers’ compensation insurance costs. Florida went from having the 2nd highest rates in the nation in 1998, to the 10th lowest rates in 2010.
For years The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has been an advocate for a workers’ compensation policy that yields an equitable system at affordable rates.
As such, The FRLA is continuing to advocate for legislation that will close a statutory loophole that some physicians are using to charge exorbitantly high rates when they dispense repackaged drugs to injured workers. Because the pharmacy providers are not permitted to collect the exponentially higher rates that the physicians unfairly collect, unpredictable cost fluctuations are caused. The cost fluctuations drive up workers compensation pharmacy costs.
Legislation filed this year, HB 511 and SB 668, would clarify that all drugs are subject to the same statutory fee amounts regardless of where the drug is dispensed. If this Legislation is approved, Florida will see an immediate savings of $62 million in workers’ compensation rates.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association supports measures that will produce fair and reasonable workers compensation insurance at affordable rates.
For two years, State lawmakers have pushed back significant hikes in the State’s unemployment compensation taxes, however, businesses across the state are scheduled to get a sizeable tax rate hike in 2012.
Skyrocketing unemployment began to deplete the State’s unemployment compensation trust fund in 2009, causing Florida to borrow money from the federal government. The taxable wage base was scheduled to increase from $7,000 to $8,500 that year, but business groups persuaded the Legislature to delay any increases in the wage base for two years in hopes the economy would turn around and spark new hiring.
Unfortunately, Florida has endured sustained high levels of unemployment and the minimum tax rate per worker is scheduled to jump from $72.10 per employee to $170.00 (minimum rate). The maximum rate (high risk-experience) jumps from $378.00 to $459.00. Since 2009, Florida has been forced to borrow $2.4 billion from Washington to keep the trust fund solvent.
Approximately 46,000 Florida employers pay the annual tax that is based on each business’ employment history over the past three years. Businesses with no layoffs – nearly half the total – pay the minimum rate while those with the worst records pay the maximum rate.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association supports measures to stabilize and eventually lower the cost of unemployment compensation tax rate increases.
Each year prior to 2006, many school districts around the state began to push their school year start dates further into the month of August. Then the inevitable happened, one school district decided to start its school year in July.
It was at that point that parents around the state started to complain. It was also at that point that many hospitality businesses started to notice a reduction in sales and bookings. Studies were performed and a significant and disturbing pattern was uncovered.
Florida families generally take their last vacation immediately prior to the school start date in their community. As school start dates around the state continued to eat into the month of August instead of the traditional start of somewhere closer to Labor Day, hospitality businesses began to experience a drop in numbers and attendance.
In 2006, legislation was proposed and passed that clearly stated that the school year start date could not begin any sooner than 14 days prior to Labor Day. This was a compromise between parents, businesses and educators. Educators claimed the need for additional days to prepare students for exams, and parents and businesses were satisfied that if the school year start date was fixed so that it was predictable constant in the future, both sides would be winners.
Now there are a few bills that threaten to unleash school districts to be able to set a school start date at practically anytime. These bills, if passed, will have a significant impact on both your bottom line and state revenues.
HB 1315/SB 1638
The United States Congress has not passed major legislation addressing immigration since 1986, when it made it illegal for employers to knowingly hire undocumented workers.
Many states believe that our nation’s immigration policy must be revamped, so they are implementing their own immigration policies. Immigration reform has been lobbied extensively for years in Tallahassee and Washington DC.
Since the start of 2007, state legislators from across the country have considered nearly 7,300 bills and resolutions to reform immigration. Many worry that laws similar to Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah are sending the wrong message. Every state that has passed “immigration reform” has immediately been sued in Federal court.
New state laws passed in 2011 address nearly every facet of immigration, including how states should handle identification for undocumented immigrants, whether employees should use the federal E-verify system to ensure legal status and whether schools must verify students’ immigration status. Due to the questionable legal status of most of the immigration bills, The FRLA believes that federal lawmakers should address this issue not the states.
FRLA supports a consistent federal policy that avoids unnecessary, costly or regulatory burdens on business. Florida must protect its economy and its welcoming reputation to all visitors.
Florida is not like other states. Is Florida willing to endure the costly litigation that every other state passing immigration bills has had to fight? Will this solve the real problem?
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association believes that working with the federal government on a national solution is the best way to resolve Florida’s immigration issues.