Gov. Ron DeSantis is backing the Senate in a heated fight over E-Verify, a move that could tip the scale in a contentious immigration battle as the 2020 legislative session draws to a close.
Senate President Bill Galvano said his chamber is ready to consider legislation that was negotiated between Sen. Tom Lee, who is sponsoring the bill, and what he called the “plaza level,” referring to the governor’s office that is located on the first floor of the state Capitol.
“It was negotiated with the plaza level and I also weighed in to make sure we were on the same page,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, told reporters Tuesday.
The negotiations resulted in a Senate bill (SB 664) that would require all public employers — including school districts, state agencies and public universities — to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check the legal eligibility of new workers.
The Senate proposal would also require private employers with at least 50 employees to use the federal system, or one that the state Department of Economic Opportunity deems is “substantially equivalent” to E-Verify.
Smaller businesses would be exempt from the mandate and would have the option to keep using an “I-9” form, which the federal government uses to verify applicants’ identities and eligibility to work.
Galvano said he is “comfortable” with the Senate’s bill, which is being championed by Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who is a former Senate president. Galvano added that the Senate did not take up the measure during Thursday’s floor session to allow the House to have “discussions and work it through.”
House bill sponsor Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday he has no plans to amend his proposal before its scheduled consideration on the floor on Friday.
Byrd’s bill (HB 1265) would require all public employers to use E-Verify, but would give all private employers the option to use an I-9 form. However, the bill would require private businesses that benefit from taxpayer-funded economic incentives to use E-Verify.
DeSantis, who made an E-Verify requirement a cornerstone of his 2018 campaign for governor, favors the Senate’s approach, according to his staff.
Byrd declined to comment on the governor’s office preference.
For months, DeSantis has asked the Republican-dominated Legislature to send him a bill that would require all public and private employers to use E-Verify.
The measure the governor’s office negotiated with the Senate goes beyond an E-Verify requirement. The bill would also give the Department of Economic Opportunity, which is part of his administration, the power to conduct random audits of private businesses to determine if they have hired undocumented immigrants.
The Senate bill would also require private employers to provide verification documents to federal and state authorities upon request.
Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, has filed a long-shot amendment that would remove all of DEO’s authority from the Senate bill. He has expressed concern that the bill would force the state agency to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about private businesses’ issues.
Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a co-sponsor of the Byrd’s E-Verify bill, told the News Service on Thursday that he also prefers the Senate plan.
“Both versions have room to improve. The Senate version is currently better but the ‘50 or less employees’ carve-out should also be removed,” Sabatini, R-Howey in the Hills, said.
As the House prepares to consider its measure, Galvano said he is willing to continue negotiations on E-Verify, if the House decides to diverge from what the Senate is proposing.
“At this point I am comfortable with our bill, but if we want to see something be successful, which we do, then negotiations continue,” Galvano told reporters on Thursday.
The two chambers have to reach a consensus before the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled to end on March 13 but may run into overtime.
With the backing of Republican leaders, the chances of passing an E-Verify proposal in the Senate appear to be improving. At the beginning of the 60-day legislative session, Galvano balked at the governor’s proposal.
“It is something that the Florida Senate — or at least this administration — does not endorse,” Galvano told the News Service in December.
“Let me put it this way,” he said at the time. “I don’t support having the requirement that everyone (use) E-Verify. It’s putting an additional responsibility on non-government officials.”
–Ana Ceballos, News Service of Florida
Gary Meonward says
Can’t take a library book out without a library card…can’t get said library card without proof of identity. Yet something as important as e-verify is a problem??? Bass ackwards!
Make every employer use E verify. Stop the illegals from working here and getting paid under the table. Under 50 employees co ears millions illegal of workers that can still be employed.
Jim O says
Interesting… It sounds like a version of BACK ROUND CHECKS, only for Florida workers. Humm…
The article states that the E-Verify system is to check the legal eligibility of new workers. Kind of like getting a gun?
You know, making sure everything is on the up and up. What could be the problem with it?
@Zero plus zero equals zero, a lot of nothing
So all the pricks who support the stupid wall can keep on paying bottom dollar wages to people they terrorize with the threat of arrest and deportation; While they (the prick employers) cheat on paying workers compensation taxes, unemployment compensation taxes, payroll taxes, employer’s health insurance contributions, retirement funding , etc, etc. And the invisible people harvest the crops, clean the rooms and make the beds of the hotels, man the kitchens, roof the homes and lay the sod lawns of money grubbing retirees who moved here – firstly, and lastly – to avoid taxes for anything.
Oh, and the current massive, and worldwide, contraction of economic activity, rising fascism, non secular fueled fanaticism and murder, destruction of the only planet you have? Don’t worry – be happy, resident rump, and its Mini Me clone desantis, have it all under control…
E-Verify should be mandatory for employment anywhere in the United States of America PERIOD.
Ask yourselves why Trump and the GOP, who had control of Congress and the WH, didn’t pass E-verify? Trump used executive power to build his wall, why not to institute E-verify? The answer is pretty simple…money. They know it would destroy much of the economy that relies on cheap illegal labor. The stock market would tank if all companies that employ illegals lost that cheap labor. Of course they’ll blame Obama, Democrats,unions etc etc for it but when they had the opportunity to do something they did nothing. It’s all about the money folks. Like them or not illegals are here to stay as long as a buck can be made off them. It’s well documented Trump knowingly employed many illegals at his hotels.
Sounds GOOD to me .