Florida Chamber Testifies in Support of Protecting Private Property Rights

October 6, 2015

The Florida House Criminal Justice Subcommittee today considered proposed legislation that creates a new government mandate providing gun owners with a new right to openly carry their gun on public and private property. Many businesses have contacted the Florida Chamber to say they are gun owners and fierce champions of their gun rights, but they are also private property owners and want their constitutionally enshrined private property rights equally protected. This legislation, as currently written, has fostered concern that these two fundamental rights are not adequately and equitably balanced, and instead creates a new government regulation on Florida businesses that would have politicians deciding what happens on privately owned property and businesses instead of property owners, employers and managers.

Today, Gary Hunter, a property rights lawyer for the Florida Chamber and owner of numerous firearms himself, testified in support of private property rights. Hunter voiced concerns that the bill could infringe on the property rights of business owners who want to retain their constitutional right and responsibility to decide what happens on their private property. Hunter’s comments were echoed by committee members, Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) and Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview). Rep. Spano expressed concerns that the bill did not allow private business owners, such as restaurateurs, to decide if weapons were not allowed in dining rooms.

Additionally, bill sponsor Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) expressed his willingness to work with the Florida Chamber to protect private property rights by amending the legislation to find an appropriate balance. The bill passed 8-4, and will be heard by additional committees in the near future.

 

Take Action Now

Over the coming days, the Florida Chamber would like input from your company’s General Counsel regarding this proposed legislation, HB 0163. Please contact Frank Walker, Vice President of Government Affairs at fwalker@flchamber.com or 850-521-1211 for more details.

NRA Renews Assault on Property Rights

April 26, 2010

Rather than offering constructive ideas on how to create jobs and stimulate the economy, the gun lobby in Florida is once again attacking the rights of property owners across this state.  Later today, the Florida Senate will consider a good bill on agriculture, but  the gun lobby is attempting to hijack it with an amendment that will throw open the doors to prolonged litigation and uncertainty for Florida property owners.

Senator Durell Peaden (R-Crestview) has filed an amendment to SB 2074 that would attempt to undo established property rights law in Florida and circumvent the Constitution.  After the original “Guns at Work” law was partially struck down by a Federal judge in 2008, we have been expecting the gun lobby to again try to steal the rights of Florida property owners.  For more on the current state of the law, click here.  However, it’s disappointing to see their latest attack on property rights, through a last minute amendment on the final week of the legislative session.

 

Take Action Now – Send a message to your Senator, Senator Peaden and Senate President Atwater today. Let them know how you feel about this proposal that will only lead to bigger government and more lawsuits.

Where We Stand: Guns At Work

November 21, 2008 l Download PDF

The rifle association continues to propose sweeping legislation that strips property owners of their private property rights. Commonly referred to as “Guns At Work,” this legislation would make it illegal for businesses and other private property owners to have policies prohibiting firearms on their private property. “Guns At Work” legislation eliminates a fundamental right of every private property owner provided for by the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution and the Florida Statutes.

Background

Claiming that the Second Amendment trumps all other rights, the rifle association is participating in a campaign to pass “Guns At Work” legislation across the country. Setting aside the rhetoric, the key policy question is this: Should business owners be able to decide if employees are allowed to bring a gun on a business’ private property? We believe private property owners have the responsibility to make this decision. After all, they can be sued for accidents and injuries occurring on their private property, even if committed by a criminal.

Businesses and their employees have been deciding this issue for themselves for hundreds of years and now, shockingly, the rifle association wants government to decide for us. The rifle association’s national campaign is a direct assault on the employer-employee relationship. Individual businesses and their employees should be allowed to decide what is best for their home and their workplace — just like they do now. The “Guns At Work” legislation creates a new right that does not exist and wrongly strips private
property rights from millions of Floridians, creates unnecessary government intrusion into basic property rights afforded by the Constitution and is a big-government solution in search of a problem.

No matter what proponents suggest, private property rights are the basis of the original Bill of Rights and should be jealously guarded and protected, particularly when we contemplate giving this fundamental right to government. While supporters of this legislation say employers are violating employees’ Second Amendment rights to carry a gun, they forget to mention one basic fact — the Second Amendment was written to protect the private citizen from government intrusion. Moreover, in the
context of employment, it is clear that employees may agree, as a condition of employment, to various policies waiving a wide variety of rights, e.g., policies on drug testing, manner of dress, political speech, etc. This is true because, as a general rule, the constitutional rights at issue are rights protected against intrusion by the government, not by private actors.

 

Solution

The Florida Chamber opposes government intrusion into the private property rights of Florida employers.

Florida Chamber Files Suit Against Guns at Work Bill

April 21, 2008

This afternoon, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation filed suit in federal court in Tallahassee against the “Guns At Work” legislation. We are taking this action to restore what 80 percent of Florida voters believe to be true — that a business owner should be able to decide if employees can or cannot bring guns on their property.

House Bill 503, which was signed into law April 15 by Governor Charlie Crist, violates the Takings and Substantive Due Process clauses of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and is in direct conflict with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

Together, the Florida Chamber and Florida Retail Federation are seeking the court to declare the new law unconstitutional and to enjoin the enforcement of this statute.

Business United Against Guns at Work Legislation, No Compromise Reached

Did You Know the NRA is on the Attack Again?

NRA Bullies Legislators to End Employment at Will

April 26, 2007

 

Free enterprise is under attack in Florida from an unlikely group. After years of pushing for less government, individual responsibility and free enterprise, the National Rifle Association now seeks to undermine Florida’s employment at will doctrine. If HB 1417/SB 2356 passes, Florida will experience an increase in workplace-related litigation, and businesses will be deprived of their right to manage their employees.

In Florida, employees are free to quit their jobs for any reason, and employers have the right to terminate employees at any time for any reason as well. This is known as “employment at will.” The employment at will concept protects Florida businesses from frivolous lawsuits alleging they did not have “just cause” to fire an employee. The Legislature can create exceptions to employment at will for protected classes, and has done so with regard to race, sex, and national origin.

This bill creates a new protected class of employees, and shields them from termination or even discipline for a range of conduct. Who would be in this new protected class? Here are just a few examples:

  • An employee with an AK-47 chained to his or her motorcycle;
  • Daycare employees with sexually explicit pictures on the dash boards of their cars; • An employee with an Adolf Hitler poster in his rear windshield;
  • Employees carrying hazardous chemicals in their vehicles.

The NRA wrote this legislation to be so broad that this new protected class includes nearly anyone on the business’s property. And even if the racist, anti-Semitic, or pornographic material offends another employee, this bill prohibits the employer from taking any disciplinary action. Furthermore, an employer would even be banned from searching an employee’s car if the employer believes the employee has stolen something from the business.

A business’s right to set reasonable working conditions would be stripped away by this legislation. If an employee agreed with a business that certain materials were hazardous or offensive and not appropriate for the workplace, this bill would invalidate that agreement. The business would no longer have control over its workplace or conditions of employment.

This legislation bans zero tolerance policies on violence, causing employers to lose the right to discipline employees for fighting. In the event of a fight between employees, a business would be required to try to determine which employee started the fight, and which employee was engaging in self-defense. The employee that the business believed started the fight could then sue his employer, taking every personnel decision in Florida out of the hands of the business and into courtrooms across the state.

This bill in fact gives every terminated or disciplined employee in Florida a new cause of action for suing his or her employer. Harassment, fighting, and contraband will be protected under law, while businesses will suffer an erosion of their rights and an onslaught of litigation. HB 1417/SB 2356 is an attack on businesses and free enterprise, and an assault on common sense.

Guns At Work: Frequently Asked Questions

April 25, 2007

Is the Florida Chamber Anti-Gun, Anti-Second Amendment? The Florida Chamber is strongly pro-gun and pro-Second Amendment.

The Florida Chamber currently allows guns on its property and has hunters and gun owners throughout its management, board and members.

Why Did The Florida Chamber fight against 2nd Amendment Rights?

We didn’t. HB 1417/SB 2356 entitled the Individual Personal Property Act prohibited employers from having policies that limit any “legal products” on their property. Marion Hammer, NRA, stated in committee “This is not about the 2nd Amendment.” She along with Rich Templin, AFL-CIO, testifi ed that the bill was about “privacy rights.”

If NRA supported this bill, isn’t it an important gun issue?

The NRA teamed with the AFL-CIO and the Trial Lawyers to support what they called a “privacy rights” bill and actively attacked businesses and property owners for trying to retain their current right to decide who and what come on their property. In the original bill, explosives and pornography would have been allowed in plain view at day care centers and churches.

Why did the NRA sell out to unions and trial lawyers to push a bill that allowed union promotional materials and pornography on someone else’s private property?

We have no idea, but we’re glad the legislature voted 10-4 to stop this big government intrusion into private property rights.

Didn’t big businesses bully legislators into voting against this bill?

The Florida Chamber membership is 80 percent small businesses. And 95 percent of our membership felt that the current law allowing property owners to decide to allow guns was the way it should be.
Even gun owners throughout Florida think that property owners “should be able to decide what things are brought onto their property.” If you don’t like the rules a homeowner sets on his/her property then don’t go there.

House Panel Defeats Gun Bill as NRA Vows to Try Again

April 19, 2007, The Palm Beach Post

TALLAHASSEE — Two days after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, a Florida House council took the unusual step – at least in recent years – of killing a pro-gun bill.

The measure, which would let people keep guns in their cars at work, was forcing Republican lawmakers to choose sides between two interests they often support: the gun lobby and the business community. On Wednesday, as advocates nationwide ramped up demands for more gun control, members of the House Environment and Natural Resources Council were forced to vote on a measure variously known as the “Take Your Gun to Work” bill and the Individual Personal Privacy Protection Act.

Council members voted 10-4 against the bill (HB 1417), which would have allowed gun owners to keep their weapons locked out of sight in their vehicles in their employers’ parking lots or on other properties, such as shopping malls and convenience stores.

State law allows employers and businesses to establish policies banning guns from their property.

A similar Senate bill had been approved in two recent committees by votes of 7-1 and 8-3 and was ready for the Senate floor. But now the House can’t take it up, which means it won’t pass this session.

Mark Wilson, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest business lobbies opposing the bill, said after the vote that his organization made a decision not to bring the massacre into the discussion.

”That just wasn’t going to be part of the debate,” Wilson said.

Only one person spoke Wednesday about the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 dead- and that was in an effort to delay the vote – but it obviously resonated.

“All anyone has to do today is turn on CNN,” said Rep. Baxter Troutman, R-Winter Haven, vice chairman of the council. “I just think this subject today … is highly inappropriate.”

But the council chairman, Rep. Stan Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, required the vote.

”The people in your district expect you to do your job,” he said. ”And part of your job is to vote on difficult issues and sometimes that’s hard to avoid.”

Mayfield and Troutman voted against the bill.

Troutman, who said he is a hunter, represents a district that includes the Lakeland home of Publix Supermarkets, Florida’s largest employer, whose officers lobbied against the bill. He called the decision one of his most difficult.

“I felt like I had a foot on two sinking logs, or rising logs, however you want to look at it,” he said. “We’re sent up here to make hard decisions. Clearly, today was one of those days.”

National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer said the bill was necessary to give employees the ability to protect themselves during their commutes. Asked whether the Virginia Tech tragedy influenced the vote, Hammer said she didn’t know.

”It should not. Nothing in this bill has anything at all to do with the sort of thing that happened in Virginia,” she said.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, the bill’s sponsor who failed to shepherd a similar bill to passage last year, said the Virginia shootings may have “helped people sharpen their views about whether they were, like me, concerned about people’s defenselessness or they were just concerned about violence in general in the country.”

But Baxley, R-Ocala, said the vote more likely resulted from “the money in the room,” a reference to the lobbyists for businesses opposed to the bill.

Gov. Charlie Crist said the Virginia shootings should “not be used for directing policy” in Florida, but he said it would be difficult to separate the two.

”How can you not be impacted at least in some way, as horrific a tragedy that was in our country?” Crist said.

The NRA historically has been effective in the Florida Legislature. It successfully pushed a law two years ago, for example, that removed a person’s duty to retreat when attacked in a public place.

But Wednesday was not the first time lawmakers killed an NRA-backed bill in the aftermath of a tragedy involving guns. Days after the Columbine high school shootings in 1999, former House Speaker John Thrasher retreated from pushing a bill that would have banned counties and cities from suing gun manufacturers.

An expanded version of that bill passed later.

After the vote, Wilson, of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, tried to shake Hammer’s hand.

“Lock and load,” Hammer said. “We’ll be back.”

Statewide Poll Shows Floridians Strongly Oppose ‘Guns at Work’ Bill

Voters, Including Hunters, Against Legislation Requiring Guns on Company Property

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 16, 2007) —The Florida Chamber of Commerce today released a statewide poll that reveals Florida voters and gun owners are opposed to the ‘Guns at Work’ legislation currently being considered by the Florida legislature.

“Business owners, hunters, and voters alike are opposed to any bill that allows employees to bring guns locked in their car on company property,” said Marian Johnson, vice president of political strategy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Floridians agree that the current law should be kept allowing businesses to decide what comes on their property.

Eighty percent of Florida voters agreed that businesses and homeowners should decide what things are brought onto their property. And Fifty-six percent believe business owners should be able to prohibit employees from having a gun locked in their car on company property.

Other results of the Chamber’s polling include:

• Fifty-five percent oppose with forty-one percent strongly opposing a bill that would require employers to allow employees to bring guns to work that are locked in their cars. Only 36 percent total support this bill.

• Fifty-four percent would feel safer if their employer prohibited employees from bringing guns in their cars.

“Florida voters feel safer when businesses are deciding the terms of their property, not government,” said Mark Wilson, executive vice president for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Floridians recognize the importance of private property rights and trust the Florida Chamber over the NRA on this issue, even among those who own concealed weapon permits.”

On deciding whom to trust on issues, the poll also revealed that concealed weapon permit owners trust the Florida Chamber (forty-two percent) over groups like the NRA (twenty-four percent). Among hunters, the Chamber gets forty-eight percent versus thirty percent for the NRA.

The poll was conducted by Tel Opinion Research, April 9-10, 2007. The poll was of 600 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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