March 22, 2019 - 9:00am
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign vow to require Florida businesses to use federal “E-Verify” checks on the immigration status of new hires remains a tougher lift than his call for a sanctuary-city ban, which is speeding through the Legislature.
But he’s not giving up, even as he blames a lack of unanimity among Republican lawmakers for slowing the red-meat proposal that has been opposed by large farmers and tourism and construction interests.
While saying this week he’d like the proposal to advance this year, he noted he has “four years.”
“We got a lot of irons in the fire this session, we want to deliver on things that we can,” DeSantis told reporters, before adding, “This will be one I’m not going to quit on.”
A House proposal (HB 89) on E-Verify by Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic, and a Senate version (SB 164) by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, have not been heard in committees. Bean’s version has been assigned to four committees, rather than the more-standard three, which typically is a sign that leaders aren’t behind the effort.
The proposed change would require private and public employers and state contractors to enroll in E-Verify, a federal database within the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
DeSantis pointed to the state’s positive job market for the lack of an outside push for E-Verify, while acknowledging the issue is largely political. With the unemployment rate at 3.4 percent, he said E-Verify might not be as high a priority as “when the jobs are scarcer.”
The E-Verify issue has long created fights within the Republican Party. Seeking to crack down on the use of undocumented workers, Gov. Rick Scott’s 2010 campaign platform included calling for all businesses in Florida to use E-Verify.
After pushback from business groups supporting the agriculture industry, Scott signed an executive order shortly after taking office in 2011 that required state agencies under his direction to verify the employment eligibility of all new employees by using E-Verify.
DeSantis last year accused his primary-election opponent, then-Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, of working behind the scenes with agriculture interests to scuttle prior efforts to enact such a law. Putnam said on the campaign trail that Florida employers “need a stable, legal workforce” and that Congress needs to come up with an immigration fix.
Florida’s tourism industry isn’t wasting time voicing displeasure that the House once again has put a target on the state’s tourism-marketing agency.
A day after the House formally proposed cutting funding for Visit Florida and letting it go out of business Oct. 1, lobbying efforts began to support the agency. Backers are calling for lawmakers to exceed the $50 million proposed by the Senate for Visit Florida and to meet the $76 million requested by DeSantis.
“Last year, Florida welcomed a record 126.1 million visitors,” the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations said in a news release. “This is in spite of misperceptions and repeated negative media coverage related to red tide, algae and hurricane recovery that could have left many of our potential visitors believing Florida’s travel destinations were closed for business.”
Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, implored the House to take up a measure (HB 6031) that would reauthorize Visit Florida and allocate $76 million for the agency.
“I strongly urge the House to give this bill and Visit Florida a fair shot by placing the bill on the agenda,” Dover said. “Floridians deserve the opportunity to hear the bill, and their representatives should have the chance to officially weigh in on this issue.”
A Senate version of the bill (SB 178) is ready to go to the full Senate. However, House leaders have remained coy about Visit Florida, offering $19 million to cover the agency’s operations through Oct. 1, when it is scheduled to “sunset” --- government-speak for being eliminated, unless it is reauthorized.
Two years ago, the House sought to halt funding for the agency while highlighting contracts that drew widespread attention. Those contracts included $11.6 million to sponsor a cooking show hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse; $2.875 million for Visit Florida Racing; and a $1 million deal for Miami rapper Pitbull to be an ambassador for the state.
In the end, lawmakers altered the structure and contract-reporting requirements of Visit Florida, including establishing new rules about partnerships with local tourism organizations.
GILLUM’S MILLION MARBLES
Democrat Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost a bid for governor last year, teased until the final moments his Wednesday announcement that he intends to register 1 million new voters in Florida before the 2020 election.
But live shots from his Miami-Dade County event didn’t materialize for people trying to watch online.
“Hey y’all, @CATECOMM livestream of @AndrewGillum event got overloaded and we blew it. Sorry. Full video will be posted soon,” Tallahassee public-relations guru Kevin Cate, founder of CateComm, tweeted late Wednesday. “You should blame me, but also @kevinsidonohoe because we are best friends who make jokes that come back to haunt us.”
Cate, who was referring to Florida Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe, later noted the two had bantered prior to the event about live-streaming.
The 1 million voter goal by Gillum was announced hours after the state Democratic Party announced it will spend $2 million to get 200,000 new voters registered in the next year.
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement that the party “has not dedicated enough resources to voter registration in recent years.”
In Florida, Democrat hold an edge in registered voters --- 4.96 million to 4.7 million Republicans, an advantage that has shrunk from about a 700,000-voter margin in 2008. There are also about 3.6 million voters without party affiliations.
“Now, I’m smart enough to know that everybody that is registered doesn’t necessarily vote,” Gillum said during his announcement. “But I’m smart enough also to know that you want as many marbles on the table, so if a few of them fall off it doesn’t cost you the election.”
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “My job is done. The will of the people has been heard! Really sick and injured people now have a path to safe wellness. Now on to slay other dragons!” --- Orlando attorney John Morgan (@JohnMorganESQ), after lawmakers eliminated a ban on smoking medical marijuana. Morgan has led efforts to expand medical marijuana in the state.