The Center Square
By John Haughey
September 30, 2021
(The Center Square) – About 125,000 Florida minimum-wage workers received a $1.44 raise in their hourly pay Thursday as a voter-improved constitutional amendment went into effect.
Under Amendment 2, passed last November by a 60.8% margin, Florida’s $8.56 an hour minimum wage goes to $10 an hour and then increases $1 annually through 2026 when it will be $15 an hour.
But one Florida lawmaker is reviving his failed 2021 attempt to create a “minimum training wage” below the state’s minimum wage which he says will help teens and low-skilled workers enter the workforce.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, Wednesday pre-filed Senate Joint Resolution 382, which would allow some businesses to pay certain employees a “minimum training wage” for six months.
The resolution calls on lawmakers to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot asking voters to approve a “minimum training wage.”
To get on the ballot, SJR 382 would need to be approved by at least 60% majorities in both chambers. For it to become law, more than 60% of voters must endorse the proposed constitutional amendment.
A House companion has not as yet been pre-filed for the 60-day 2022 legislative session, which begins Jan. 11.
During the 2021 session, Brandes filed SJR 854, which would provide reduced minimum wages for workers under age 21, those convicted of felonies, state prisoners and “hard-to-hire” employees.
SJR 854’s proposed exemptions from Amendment 2 spanned about 1 million Florida workers between ages 16-and-20 and job applicants among the state’s 1.5 million felons.
SJR 854 did not define “hard to hire,” nor recommend an alternate wage scale and – along with its House companion sponsored by Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota – never advanced out of committees.
Brandes’ 2022 version, SJR 382, omits provisions from SJR 854 that specify which workers would qualify for the “minimum training wage.”
Under the proposed resolution, a state-commissioned study will be conducted every three years to determine what the training wage will be. or it could be based on the federal temporary training wage of $4.25 per hour for workers under 20, or 75% of the minimum wage.
Employers would be able to pay workers who qualify for the training wage for six months before being required to pay the state’s minimum wage.
Brandes maintains the sub-minimum training wage will allow employers to hire people who don’t qualify for certain positions but can develop the needed skills over six months to merit a higher wage.
“This simply provides more flexibility, that’s why 32 states and the Feds offer a training wage, to maximize opportunities for employment,” he tweeted Wednesday in exchanges with critics and proponents of his proposal.
“I’m giving you my best ideas to secure Florida future prosperity and provide employment for as many as possible,” he continued. “This market will not always be this good for employees and when it turns and we have a high minimum wage, some employees will have a difficult time finding employment.”
Brandes told Florida Politics that the training wage would be optional and said while it would be “a great tool,” he doubted it would be used extensively, at least initially.
“It may not be needed today, but we want to have the option of having it available in the future,” he said. “Most businesses aren’t going to use it. The simple truth is, even these temporary training wage jobs aren’t widely available. Today, even if you implement a temporary training wage, you’re not going to attract employees at below $10 an hour virtually at any job.”