Bill that would loosen decades-old child labor restrictions advances over Democrats’ objections

'This bill gets government out of their way to choose the path that is best for them.'

A bill that would remove all work hour restrictions on 16- and 17-year-olds — including the prohibition on overnight shifts on school nights — received lawmakers’ approval at its first committee stop over Democrats’ objections.

Rep. Linda Chaney’s bill (HB 49) went before the House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee. It proposes to roll back decades of state restrictions on child labor. The St. Pete Beach Republican portrayed it as an effort to boost teens’ long-term well-being, citing research that shows kids in states with looser child labor laws have better graduation rates. That includes even blue states such as Illinois, New Jersey and others.

Kids want to work, she said, noting that teen workforce participation has dropped precipitously since Florida adopted its current guidelines in the 1930s.

“This bill gets government out of their way to choose the path that is best for them,” she said.

Currently 16- and 17-year-olds are prohibited from working more than eight hours on school nights and more than 30 hours each week when school is in session.

Wednesday’s committee hearing started with Republican Committee Chair Tyler Sirois setting a time-certain for a committee vote and limiting public comment to one minute. Chaney said she was surprised that the measure would provoke so much controversy. The bill’s guidelines would align Florida with 24 other states and the federal government, she said.

“I thought it was going to be one of those easy bills,” she said. “If there is concern about this bill, then there should be concern with our federal government.”

The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association is for it. The Florida PTA is against it. Opponents raised the alarm that it would hurt children from low-income families particularly. Some blasted lawmakers for seeing an opportunity to replace the immigrant workers that have left the state since legislators passed more restrictive laws policing undocumented workers.

The committee also heard from a 16-year-old teen who wanted to work more than the 30 hours he’s currently working at Martial Arts Academy.

“I feel like they should be given the freedom to choose what they want … careerwise and their path,” said Logan Schoenberg, 16, after decrying the effects of his required 30-minute break every four hours.The earlier you start, you know, the better off you’re going to be with experience.”

But Democrats said changing the law would open up opportunities for exploitation and lead to children neglecting their studies.

“There’s going to be so much time for them to be an adult,” said Rep. Susan Valdés. She invoked a familiar theme that Republicans sounded as laws were passed restricting LGBTQ materials in schools. “Let kids be children.”

Rep. Jeff Holcomb of Spring Hill evoked his experience entering the workforce at 12 years old and blasted the commentary as “grandstanding.”

A companion to the bill has not emerged in the Senate.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • rick whitaker

    December 13, 2023 at 3:34 pm

    sounds like the gop aholes are trying to replace the immigrants they run off with kids to wash their dishes and clean their motel rooms. how maga of them.

  • Earl Pitts "The "Ronald's" Un-Official Campaigne Manager" American

    December 13, 2023 at 4:27 pm

    Basically America these are kids that are already lost and headed for a short life-span in the life of crime.
    The Conservative way involves:
    Getting these kids into a good job early in life so they wont have time for the “Wilding In The Streets” which the Dook 4 Brains Left needs the wilding in the streets to happen if they have any shot at retatining the White House, Senate, and House.
    We passed the Mom & Dad raise their own kids years, and passed the Grandmom raises the kids years, and morphed to The Kids Raise The Kids stage.
    The only way that will work is to put the kids to work earlier in life. Work them until they are too tired to go out wilding in the streets. Pay them so good they wont think of a life of gangster crime.
    The left wants to keep these lost kids in school as long as possable to ruin their lives so the leftist politicians can profit from their ruined lives as long as possable and have a longer time to convince your Beloved young men to have their weiners chopped off and wild in the streets all night long.
    Everyone can relax their sphincters secure in the “Sage Wisdom” and Truth of me, Earl Pitts American.
    Bottom line America the only way to save our youngsters – after all the damage the left has inflicted upon them in public schools is to put their young @ss’es to work ASAP making good enough money so they can tell the leftist’s to €FF OFF.
    This “Sage Wisdom” Truth Update is brought tobl you by Earl Pitts American

    • rick whitaker

      December 13, 2023 at 5:31 pm


  • rick whitaker

    December 13, 2023 at 5:31 pm


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