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Bob Rommel’s employment preemption bill heads to final House committee

Local governments and LGBTQ advocates have flagged the bill while business groups support it.

A House panel advanced Rep. Bob Rommel‘s sweeping employment preemption package Tuesday along party lines

The bill (HB 305) would override local governments’ wages, hours and benefits ordinances, but opponents fear the broad language could preempt human rights protections and other local laws. A similar bill last year was amended to explicitly exclude human rights protections from the proposal’s scope.

“If I thought that this bill would hurt anybody in any manner in any form, there’s no way I’d have filed the bill,” Rommel said.

But the Naples Republican said he stripped that language this time around for conciseness because he argues it wouldn’t preempt human rights ordinances, including “Ban the Box” laws.

“The scope is too big, Bob,” West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones told Rommel.

Equality Florida has flagged the proposal as anti-LGBTQ over concerns it could override ordinances protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Joe Saunders, the group’s senior political director, said the “broadly defined conditions of employment” open the door for the that possibility.

“Even the perception that Florida is moving down a path that states like North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and others have gone down has led to devastating economic consequences,” he said. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t take steps like we took last year to ensure that that threat is not real.”

The Florida AFL-CIO’s legislative and policy director, Rich Templin, said the legislation combined 17 terms into one preemption bill. In past years, many measures included in the language were shot down as individual preemption laws.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve been fighting preemptions since before it was cool,” Templin said. “This is the biggest, most sweeping preemption package I have ever seen.”

“You will be hurting popular initiatives back home, and everybody has to answer for that when they get there.”

Warren Husband, representing the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said his group supported the bill last year, with the human rights exception, and continues to support it this year.

“We have many operators that operate all over the state, and disparate requirements in all localities would be a real problem for us in terms of operation.”

The Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, also backed the bill.

Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said local governments passed the employment ordinances because of perceived problems or gaps in state and federal law.

“One part about this bill that’s really concerning for many of us is that it doesn’t solve any problems,” Eskamani said. “It repeals problem-solving at the local level for the sake of what really does sound like some special interests in this space who just have a preference on how they want to operate this business.”

The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee passed the bill 10-5 Tuesday. It next heads to the House Commerce Committee.

Sen. Joe Gruters has filed the bill’s companion (SB 1126) in the Senate. That measure has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Unlike most bills which operate on a delay, Rommel and Gruters’ legislation would immediately go into effect upon being signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering the Texas House of Representatives for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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