A controversial proposal regarding employee verification methods in Florida has just moved one step closer to appearing on the 2018 ballot. A Florida Constitution Revision Commission panel voted unanimously to back proposal P29. If passed, it would require all Florida employers to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Employment Authorization Program, also called E-Verify, to confirm that all new hires are eligible for employment in the United States.
This proposal is widely supported by the public and Republicans in power. However, in the past, it's been unable to pass the Legislature due to strong opposition from agriculture and construction special interest groups.
Reasons for Opposition
One major argument against the regulation is that the agricultural industry would likely suffer a short-term labor shortage. This lack of workers could be severe enough to cause financial losses due to unharvested crops. The concern is that there is currently no viable plan in place for labor replacement.
The Federal government is attempting to address the issue by improving the H-2A guest worker program. This would allow more employers to bring foreign nationals into the country to provide temporary agricultural labor. Although this may help the shortage, the reality is that there still are not enough domestic laborers willing to engage in agricultural employment. Even with the new program expansion, there likely would not be enough labor available to cover the shortage the regulation would create.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce has also taken issue with adding regulations regarding Federal programs to the State constitution. Currently, the only other Federal program addressed in Florida's constitution is Medicaid, which is a major part of the state's budget.
The proposal must be approved by the Executive Committee before moving on to the full 37-member Constitution Revision Commission. The commission then has direct power to place the proposed amendment on the general ballot for the 2018 election. Voters must approve the amendment by a 60 percent margin or it to be passed into law.
Implications for Florida Employers
If passed, the law would require employers to begin using the E-Verify system by July 1, 2020. It would be overseen by the State Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Employers who intentionally fail to use the E-Verify program would be subject to fines of up to $1,000 for each investigation. All licenses would be automatically suspended until the business is found to be in compliance and fines have been paid.
If an employer has hired five or more immigrant employees who do not have proper verification, licenses can be suspended for a period of seven to 30 days. Subsequent violations would result in stiffer penalties.
The Bottom Line
If passed into law, this proposal may have a significant impact on Florida's labor market. As an employer, it's in your best interest to keep a close eye on the proposal's progression. If it lands on the 2018 ballot, you may benefit from proactively developing a plan to address future workforce shortages.