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Politics / Issues

Oliva: Florida Senate E-Verify Plan Un-American

two men talk, one with his hand raised to make a point
Florida House of Representatives
House Speaker Jose Oliva, left, and Senate President Bill Galvano speak earlier in the Florida 2020 Legislative session. On Saturday, Oliva blasted an E-Verify plan Gov. Ron DeSantis reached with the Senate as 'un-American.'

House Speaker José Oliva on Saturday blasted a plan that would give Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration the power to randomly audit private businesses to ensure they are not hiring undocumented workers.

DeSantis and the Senate have settled on a proposal that would give his administration the authority to audit Florida employers to ensure they are verifying workers’ legal eligibility through E-Verify or the “I-9” form, the methods used by the federal government to verify workers’ identities.

But, speaking to reporters Saturday afternoon, Oliva --- a self-described libertarian --- shredded the plan.

“Empowering executive agencies to have police powers and do random checks, that is something that is of tremendous concern. We are giving the agency the random ability to show up and do an audit, something about that doesn’t say American to me,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said.

The provision is part of a contentious bill (SB 664) that would require all public employers --- such as local school districts, public universities and city governments --- to register with and use E-Verify.

Private employers would have the option to use the federal verification system or keep a record of all the documents used by applicants to complete an “I-9” form when they are hired.

DeSantis, who made an E-Verify requirement a cornerstone of his 2018 run for governor, has made the controversial issue a top legislative priority.

The Senate proposal, sponsored by Thonotosassa Republican Tom Lee, would allow the Department of Economic Opportunity to audit the private businesses that decide not to use E-Verify.

The bill would give the agency $2.6 million to hire 15 people to enforce the proposed law.

Oliva said he is more comfortable with the House version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Cord Byrd.

The speaker added that the governor should step aside and let the Legislature work on the policy.

“We want to be able to provide what I think the governor is looking for in essence, but I think he needs to understand it is the work of Lee and the work of Cord Byrd that are going to bring something together. He has to let us do the work,” Oliva said.

The Republican leader’s remarks came after a Saturday meeting where House and Senate leaders kicked off budget negotiations between the two chambers, as legislators try to iron out differences in the roughly $92 billion state spending plan.

Lawmakers have little time left to hash out policy differences.

The 2020 legislative session is scheduled to end Friday but could run overtime.