The Florida Senate is considering changing its policies related to legislative employees who take time off to work on their boss’ campaigns, according to a memo sent to Republican senators and staff by the Senate Majority Office on Monday afternoon.
“The revision will result in removing the option for Senate employees to take a leave of absence without pay while employees are working for compensation or receiving reimbursement or benefits from a political campaign” pursuant to requirements in the recently reaffirmed federal healthcare act, the memo said.
That would mean the end of the common practice of legislative staffers taking unpaid time off to perform political work around election season in even-numbered years.
The changes would be reflected in section 1.36 of the Florida Senate Administrative Policies and Procedures, which governs employee policy related to political activity.
The memo cited a provision in the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, that employers “continue providing healthcare coverage to employees regardless of employment status” as the main reason for the change.
The move would affect dozens of consultants and aides who work for lawmakers in Tallahassee as well as back in their districts in a dual administrative-political capacity.
Asked about the proposed change, Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta issued the following:
“Under current Senate policy, the President approves a leave of absence for political work or other reasons on a case by case basis. While employees are on a leave of absence, the Senate does not pay for their health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, the Senate would be required to pay for health insurance for all employees approved for a leave of absence, regardless of the reason for the leave of absence.
“President [Andy] Gardiner does not feel that the state should cover the cost of health insurance for those working on a political campaign. Moving forward, the President will not approve a leave of absence for political work. Leave of absences for other reasons will still be considered on a case by case basis.
“Employees who decide to work on a political campaign would instead terminate their employment with the Senate during the time they are employed by the campaign. They would be eligible for COBRA during this time period.”