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Job one: Joe Gruters’ first task as RPOF chair is to find a new executive director to replace George Riley. Image via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

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Florida GOP backs E-Verify requirements, Democrats blast position

Republicans cite support for Ron DeSantis. Dems say decision sells out Florida economy.

The Republican Party of Florida Executive Committee passed a formal resolution Monday urging passage of E-Verify requirements. The Florida Democratic Party quickly condemned the move as blind loyalty to Gov. Ron DeSantis

The position stands in contrast to that of many members of the Florida Legislature. Most notably, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva both say this could place too much burden on employers. That falls in line with complaints from agriculture, hospitality and construction business leaders.

But DeSantis has made the language a priority for the ongoing Legislative Session.

RPOF Chair Joe Gruters, also a state Senator, said it’s important for the party to rally around DeSantis on the issue.

In a conference call with party leaders across the state, Gruters urged the party to put its weight behind the measure. He said it was important the party demand employers hire only those legally eligible to work in the United States.

“Our influence is diminished every day that goes by,” Gruters said. “I want to stress the importance of standing with our Governor and affirming what is already in our national platform.”

Gruters in 2016 served on the Republican National Committee board that drafted that platform. The national party position calls for the use of the national E-verify database to become mandatory for public and private sector employers.

Florida Democrats on Tuesday slammed the position and the logic that led party leaders to approve a resolution.

“Last night, the Florida GOP put their party over Florida’s economy and they sold out Florida businesses, immigrant communities, and their own values — all so they can pledge loyalty to the Republican Party of DeSantis and [Donald] Trump,” said FDP Executive Director Juan Peñalosa.

“The Florida Republican vote to endorse e-Verify ignored all of the major voices responsible for driving our economy: the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Industries of Florida, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, immigrant communities, and small business owners. They all oppose E-Verify because it will cripple our economy.  While Democrats stand with Florida businesses and immigrants, yesterday’s vote is more proof that Florida Republicans will put their Party over the people of Florida at every opportunity. Voters will remember in November.”

Fried, notably, is the only Democrat currently holding statewide office in Florida.

Notably, no one participating in a special meeting of the RPOF executive committee voiced objection to the policy. Stafford Jones expressed concern about the party passing any resolution involving measures being considered by the Legislature, but also said if DeSantis wants party support on the matter, he should get it.

Notably, Gruters also has a stake in the fight within the Legislature. In the Senate, the Sarasota Republican co-introduced an expansive E-Verify requirement with Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican.

Interestingly, Gruters also has sponsored a sort of compromise bill on the E-Verify issue. That legislation would require public employers to use the E-Verify system confirming eligibility on new hires, and for all businesses in Florida not using the system to keep documentation on new employees available for three years.

The resolution passed by RPOF executive committee members, though, makes clear it wants private sector employers to face the requirement to check employment eligibility for new hires.

Gruters told members he hoped the resolution would be the first of many and urged county Republican Executive Committee leaders and congressional district caucus leaders to bring identical resolutions back to members at home.

Ideally, he wants those county and district party entities to also pass resolutions favoring E-Verify requirements.

That, he said, will “give cover to various members trying to push this through.”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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