Cord Byrd amendment to Senate E-Verify bill shows House is still unwavering

Cord Byrd
But Tom Lee said the bill passed by the Senate has Ron DeSantis' support.

House members still want their own version of E-Verify legislation.

The chamber on Tuesday took up a bill already passed in the Senate. But Rep. Cord Byrd filed a strike-all amendment, which the House passed the same evening, to replace the bill with language he’s carried through two committees in the House.

“We’ve been very consistent all along the way where the Senate was changing at every step,” Byrd said.

The House version allows more alternative methods to verify employees can legally work in the United States, and lacks some controversial elements of the Senate like requiring a call to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if an employer knowingly hires undocumented workers.

Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican, sponsored the House version of E-Verify (HB 1265). The legislation marks the first bill requiring businesses to verify employment eligibility for workers to ever pass in a House committee.

Byrd originally filed legislation this year that would only apply to public employers, but that was amended before the first committee vote.

The bill, however, does not delegate as much oversight to the Department of Economic Opportunity as the current version the Senate passed.

Sen. Tom Lee’s bill (SB 664) allows, for example, for audits of companies and for outside individuals to report businesses suspected of hiring unauthorized workers.

The Thonotosassa Republican said the details of his Senate bill have been worked out with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office. The Governor has made passage of legislation a priority this year.

Lee’s legislation has seen substitute language in three committees and on the Senate floor. The recent change, Lee said, was to adopt provisions from the House bill like granting law enforcement agencies enforcement power, and allowing businesses already employing the I-9 verification system to keep doing so.

House Speaker José Oliva, however, made clear he’s not happy with the Senate version.

“Empowering executive agencies to have police powers and do random checks, that is something that is of tremendous concern,” Oliva said Saturday, as reported by WLRN.

“We are giving the agency the random ability to show up and do an audit, something about that doesn’t say American to me.”

Audits have never been part of the House version, Byrd said. And he respects the Speaker’s concerns.

“The Speaker made his position very clear on Saturday when he expressed concern over the ability for DEO to audit,” Byrd said.

Byrd anticipates the House will send the version passed out of that chamber’s Commerce and State Affairs committees to be approved and sent back to the Senate.

Democratic Reps. Anna Eskamani and Cindy Polo have also filed House amendments aiming to condition E-Verify on approval of federal comprehensive immigration reform, exempting home services, calling for a study on economic impact and dropping language referencing “unauthorized aliens.”

Jacob Ogles

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 [email protected]


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