Lawmakers Considering Two E-Verify Bills

As you know, the Florida Chamber has long advocated for Congress to fix our broken federal immigration system, preferring a comprehensive, federal solution to a state-by-state patchwork of proposed fixes. The Florida Chamber has also consistently opposed any measure that unreasonably burdens Florida businesses.


Both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate have primed two proposals for the consideration of their respective chambers, but the measures are still far apart. Senate Bill 664 was amended in the last committee stop with several new provisions. The House Bill has not changed since its last stop. Below is a summary of both bills.

SB 664HB 1265
Requires E-Verify for all government contractors and subcontractors?YesYes
Requires E-Verify for Florida Businesses?YesYes
Can Other Systems Be Lawful Under Certain Circumstances?Yes, under a “substantially similar” system as defined by Department rule.Yes, if employee can provide the same documentation required by the Form I-9.
Small Business Exemption?Yes, for businesses under 50 employeesNo.
What State Entities Have Access to My Employee’s Data?If your business does not use the E-Verify system, the following entities may ask, and businesses must provide, the complete copies of all records used to establish identity:
• Any state agency
• Any federal agency
If your business does not use the E-Verify system, the following entities may ask, and businesses must provide, any documentation relied upon for verification of identity:
• FDLE
• Attorney General
• State Attorneys
• Statewide Prosecutor
May the State Remove Business Licenses for Non-compliance?YesYes
Is a New Cause of Action Created Against Employers?No, this provision was removed during the committee process.No, this provision was removed during the committee process.
Are Safe Harbors for Liability Created for Law Abiding Businesses?YesYes
Can Anyone File a Complaint Against My Company?Yes, any individual with a “good faith belief” may file a complaint against a business alleging the hiring of unlawful workers.No

We have ten days left in regular session. If your business would be negatively impacted by these proposed bills, please contact Christopher Emmanuel at cemmanuel@flchamber.com soon.

Florida-Only E-Verify Proposal on Senate Committee Agenda Tomorrow

On February 18, the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will hear legislation mandating private sector use of the federal E-Verify program, Senate Bill 664. The text of the bill, which was amended to address several business-sector concerns at the last committee stop, can be found here.

An amendment has been filed to remove the agricultural exemption that was added in its first committee stop and additional amendments are expected as this legislation progresses. This is its second of three committee stops in the Senate. The House companion bill has not been heard yet, although that may soon change. The House bill has also yet to be amended and retains several anti-business provisions. The full text of that bill can be found here.

The Florida Chamber continues to have reservations on this Florida-only mandate, believing that comprehensive immigration reform must be done at the federal level rather than through a series of state-by-state fixes. We will continue to work with legislative leaders in both the House and the Senate to ensure that any law will not unfairly harm Florida’s competitiveness or economy.

Share Your Thoughts

Please let us know how SB 664 will impact your business. You can contact Policy Director Christopher Emmanuel at cemmanuel@flchamber.com.

Streamlined Permitting Bill Passes Senate Committee

A bill that will drastically reduce confusion and time delays in the wetland permitting process, while also maintaining the exact same existing environmental protections, passed the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee with the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s support.

For Floridians, this means a reduction in uncertainty and the significant wait times for permit decisions, while maintaining necessary environmental resource protections.

SB 1402, proposed by Senator David Simmons, allows the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to step into the shoes of the Army Corps of Engineers to issue Federal 404 wetlands permits under the existing federal regulations using the best science available.

Florida wins when we stand by long-term science-based solutions to Florida’s environmental issues. This legislation follows similar successful state efforts to assume federal permitting responsibilities for wastewater discharges and air emissions.

Environmental Permitting Summer School

To learn more about the governance, permitting and regulations pertaining to water, enroll today in Environmental Permitting Summer School on July 17-20 in Marco Island.

To Trade or Not To Trade

The Florida Chamber of Commerce was in Washington, D.C. recently addressing many issues including international trade. Trade and free trade agreements were one of the key issues during the presidential campaign. President-elect Trump was particularly emphatic in his opposition to the TPP and his calls for a review of NAFTA as well as our trade relationship with China.

For decades, free trade agreements have been part of our economic tool kit  and international trade is one of the leading factors attributed to Florida’s economic recovery. Two and a half million Floridians are employed thanks to international trade. Our record-breaking tourism numbers benefit from international visitors and there are thousands of foreign companies operating in Florida that employ Floridians.

 

So What Happens Now?

It is all but certain that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is no longer on the table. Our partners in the region still hope to revive trade talks with the U.S. and many are willing to reopen TPP and make revisions which might make it more palatable to the new administration. This weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Lima, Peru, the future of trade and the role the U.S. would play in Asia was a top concern. China and Russia issued a statement that they will push for a free-trade area in the Asia-Pacific region. Neither country was part of the TPP.

China is pushing to finalize its parallel free trade agreement in Asia, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes all the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries plus Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, India, but it currently excludes the U.S.

 

Not Anti-Trade. Pro “Good Deals.”

From our meetings in Washington, D.C., it was clear that it was too soon to tell regarding the fate of many trade issues. Reviewing trade policy will be one of the first tasks tackled by the new administration. Re-negotiating and/or withdrawing from NAFTA as well as pulling the plug on TPP were at the top of the list. Trade would not be off the table completely however, and there is a greater appetite for bilateral trade agreements over the larger multi-nation deals like TPP. Should the U.S. withdraw from NAFTA, the new administration has proposed it would negotiate separate bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada. China and currency manipulation were also topics discussed in D.C.

It is also important to note that in 2015, Congress granted the President Trade Promotion Authority – or “fast track” – power for the President to negotiate trade agreements and move them more swiftly through Congress until 2018 and it could be extended until 2021.

 

Fair Trade, Not Just Free Trade – Leveling the Playing Field

Much like during the campaign, the new administration has outlined that they will be working to ensure agreements are enforced and that our trade partners are not engaging in “harmful” practices. They will also be reviewing country of origin labeling and environmental and safety standards, as well as considering the impacts trade policy has on the middle class, manufacturing and workers, and foreign direct investment.

The Florida Chamber will continue to monitor developments and we will be working in the in the best interest of Florida’s businesses to support trade agreements that help our exporters access the global market place and provide our workers access to high-wage jobs.

These discussions and more will be a key part of the conversation at the Florida Chamber’s 2017 International Days, Feb. 14 and 15 in Tallahassee. Be sure to join us by registering today!