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The South Florida Roundup

Florida companies and the 15-week abortion ban, and potentially higher taxes to fund Broward schools

disney.jpg
Courtesy of Disney

With the 15-week abortion ban being reinstated in Florida due to the state's appeal, how will companies handle helping their employees with abortions if they choose to do so? Also Broward County residents will vote in August to decide whether or not to increase their taxes to help keep funding teachers and schools.

Most abortions after 15 weeks are banned in Florida under a new state law.

Even with the 15-week limit, Florida has one of the least restrictive abortion law in the Southeast as tighter restrictions in neighboring states make their way through their systems.

Some companies have said they will pay the travel costs for employees in states with abortion restrictions to seek out the procedure elsewhere, including companies with a significant presence in Florida such as JP Morgan, Amazon and Disney.

Michael Elkins, founder and partner of MLE Law, said companies have to think about the states they're located in, if those states are banning or severely restricting abortions, and if they have an assistance law.

“Some of these laws have provisions where not only the person performing the procedure or having the procedure done could face consequences, but anyone assisting in the procedure could face the state’s consequences,” Elkin said.

However, this is where assistance laws may differ from what is said in Florida’s 15-week abortion ban. Florida’s law says “actively participate,” which is different from saying “providing assistance”.

“So if you’re reading that strictly, the term 'actively participate', I’m not sure is going to encompass a company potentially assisting with funding an abortion,” Elkin said.

There are political risks for companies that have said they will pay costs for employees in the state to seek abortions, Elkin said. We have seen Gov. Ron DeSantis call for a reconsideration of Disney's tax exemption due to the Reedy Creek Improvement District after Disney spoke out against the “Don’t Say Gay" Bill.

“We’ve seen this particular administration be very aggressive against companies that come out politically on different sides … but there’s a tension there though,” he said. “While Florida certainly has been aggressive, it doesn’t want to alienate its large employers as well.”

Property taxes and teacher pay, what is at risk?

Four years ago, voters in all four South Florida counties agreed to boost property taxes to raise money for public school teacher pay and school security. Voters will have to OK those higher taxes again this year in another referendum.

Miami-Dade and Palm Beach voters will decide in November.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said that since 2018, this tax has provided approximately $82 million dollars annually.

“It also provides funding for over 500 school safety personnel, and 100 mental health professionals as well,” she said.

The school board is not only asking voters to reapprove what they voted on in 2018, but to also approve a larger tax increase. The increase would be from 50 cents per $1,000 of home value to $1 per $1,000 of home value.

Cartwright said this increase is important because of some changes that have taken place. Before, they only had to split these funds with some public charter schools. Now they have to split these funds with every public charter school annually.

“So if we just simply went back out with what we are currently generating … what would happen is we actually would be generating less money than what we are currently right now,” she said.

According to an article by WLRN education reporter Kate Payne, BCPS officials said as many as 600 school staff jobs are at risk if voters vote no on this referendum.

Broward County and Monroe County voters will decide on the increases in August.

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Natu Tweh is producer of The Florida Roundup and The South Florida Roundup at WLRN.