Florida lawmakers weigh rules on union dues, ballot measures

This April 23, 2019, file photo shows the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File) (Copyright 2019 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature enters the second week of its 60-day session Monday as it dives deeper into the process of winnowing the thousands of bills before it.

Among the bills before lawmakers in the next week is a measure unionists consider a union buster. The Legislature will also move to close a loophole that exempts some sexual offenders from having to register with authorities. And they will revisit the threshold for ballot measures to win passage.

The union bill is coming before the House Government Operations Subcommittee, its first committee stop in the House. The Senate version has to get through one more committee before it heads to the full floor.

The bill requires government employers to confirm that employees consent to have union dues taken out of their paychecks. But there's a wrinkle: Authorization would have to be renewed every three years or every time a new contract is negotiated.

The bill’s author says some employees are having dues deducted without ever having given permission. Union leaders argue that the legislation is unnecessary because Florida is a “right-to-work” state, which means workers already have to consent in order to pay dues to the union that represents them.

In the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, lawmakers in the coming week are considering a key change in sexual offender laws.

Sexual offenders released from prison are supposed to register with authorities. But a court had ruled that sexual offenders don’t have to register if they hadn’t finished paying off any restitution they might owe.

In other words, you’re not legally obligated to register as a sex offender until you’ve paid your debts.

That’s the same reasoning Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative Republicans have used to keep some felons from voting.

Another legislative committee is considering whether to make it more difficult to pass a ballot measure.

Current law has the threshold at 60 percent, but a proposal is seeking to require that approval be set at at two-thirds of all ballots cast. That would be a high bar.

Some recent constitutional amendments would have failed under the proposed new threshold — such as last year’s measure to eventually raise the hourly minimum wage to $15. That measure barely won passage in November with nearly 61% of the vote — and would be about 6 percentage points below the proposed, tougher standard.