Florida Democrats have filed legislation to more than double the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour, an eye-popping figure they hope will spark an outpouring of activism aimed at pressuring the Republican-controlled Legislature to act.
The legislation, SB 6, is sponsored by Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami), who for years has tried unsuccessfully to raise Florida's minimum wage of $8.05, currently set slightly above the federally-mandated minimum of $7.25 an hour, to $10.10.
More than two dozen other states have higher minimum wages than the federal standard.
Increasing the state minimum wage; prohibiting an employer from paying an employee at a rate less than the state minimum wage; removing the limitation restricting application of the state minimum wage only to individuals entitled to receive the federal minimum wage; deleting obsolete language, etc.
Minimum wage workers, many of whom staff fast food establishments, have long complained of what they say is the inadequacy of their paychecks to meet the necessities of daily life. A so-called "living wage" is what Angel Vega, who works the counter at a seafood restaurant, says he deserves.
"I feel like that would help a lot of people, you know what I mean, and get their own place and start saving," Vega said. "It would be much better, especially with the hard work, especially hard labor and all that. That would do pretty good."
The Republicans who control the Florida Capitol, however, say a higher minimum wage would amount to a pass-along cost consumers would have to bear in the form of higher prices on goods and services. They also contend it could serve as a government-created disincentive for businesses to move to Florida.
"I absolutely believe that if we can allow the free market to work, it's got to be a fair market, but if we do that, the costs come down, quality goes up, service goes up," Gov. Rick Scott has said of his economic development philosophy.
With opposition from the majority party, the Democrats spearheading the minimum wage legislation say public support will be critical to its chances during the 2016 legislative session, which begins in January.