E-Verify exemplifies the kind of issue that Republicans are more comfortable campaigning on than legislating — and 2020’s Legislative Session illustrates that conundrum.
Bills are alive requiring Florida businesses to use the federal employment verification system, albeit with more carveouts than last year’s Thanksgiving turkey.
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, passed the Senate Judiciary, but only after an amendment loosened requirements on small businesses and specifically excluded agriculture companies.
Alternative legislation filed in the House and Senate puts E-Verify requirements primarily on government employers.
A requirement that employers use the E-Verify federal database to check the status for workers has been a top priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis.
However, DeSantis (who in 2018 accused Adam Putnam of working behind the scenes to scuttle the E-Verify push for the sake of allied business interests) is not poised to get what he wants from the current legislation.
House Speaker José Oliva told reporters on Thursday that he would like to see a clean, carveout free E-Verify bill.
“I’m not sure that exempting certain industries is the right solution or sends the right signal,” Oliva said.
“I think that we’re watching it closely on the House side,” Oliva said after the House session about this “complicated matter.”
“We’re watching it very closely,” the Speaker added.
“I’m open to the idea of something passing that does not become an overburden for businesses,” Oliva continued, “and that helps to accomplish what I think the Governor would like to accomplish.”
“If in fact Florida businesses are made to be a certain policing arm,” Oliva said, “for the government, then yes it should be done equally.”
“But that’s in debate,” Oliva added.
Meanwhile, recent polling by St. Pete Polls shows Floridians favor E-Verify requirements more than 2 to 1.
The survey of active Florida voters gauged support for requirements on all private employers to the very employability of its workers.
The poll found just over 60% of respondents said yes, compared to just 28% who opposed such a regulation.
Notably, the question posed to voters represented a rigid requirement with no carve-outs for particular industries.
The News Service of Florida and Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski and Jacob Ogles contributed to this post.