Emergency legislation to be introduced next week in the Jacksonville City Council would pay city employees up to $4,000 for travel related to medical procedures unavailable locally.
As major corporations review helping their employees to travel to escape bans on abortions, Democrat Reggie Gaffney wants to offer the same incentive for city workers.
Ordinance 2022-401 contemplates “up to $4,000 in travel expenses annually for any medical treatments (including medication, procedures, or operations) related to reproductive rights if that medical treatment is not available within 100 miles of the employee’s home and virtual care is not possible.”
“Reproductive rights as used herein means the rights of an individual to decide whether to reproduce and have reproductive health,” the language continues. “This may include an individual’s right to plan a family, terminate a pregnancy, use contraceptives, and gain access to reproductive health services.”
The bill as filed contemplates a start date of July 1, and as introduced, it would have referral to four of the five standing committees of the Council if it went through the normal process. The bill also would be contingent on collective bargaining, though it’s hard to imagine a union resisting a benefit voluntarily conferred by an employer.
Gaffney offered a statement on the bill Friday: “As a man of faith, using this would not be my personal preference. However, as a legislator I represent all people and I will fight for their freedom and their right to have options, and every woman deserves this option. That is why I’ve filed this bill.”
We have reached out to Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican who has not historically spoken out in favor of reproductive rights, to see where his administration is on the proposed legislation. Of note, Gaffney’s brother, Johnny, endorsed Curry for Mayor in 2015, and works in the Mayor’s Office.
The Jacksonville City Council has a Republican supermajority, which may complicate passage of this bill, and may also prevent the desired one-cycle consideration. It would take a 2/3 vote for the Council to take the bill up on a one-cycle basis.
“Emergency one-cycle passage of this legislation is requested. The nature of the emergency is that the Council desires to establish this new employee benefit as soon as possible to provide a resource for employees given uncertainty in federal and state law as to reproductive rights at this time,” the bill language reads.