AFTER LONG ROAD, FLORIDA COMPETITIVE WORKFORCE ACT GETS FIRST SENATE COMMITTEE HEARING

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By Peter Schorsch

The Florida Competitive Workforce Act will finally see the light of day, after what has been a long road to be heard by any committee in the Florida Legislature.

Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla placed Senate Bill 120, sponsored by Boynton Beach Democrat Sen. Joe Abruzzo, on the schedule for his Judiciary Committee. The hearing is scheduled 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

The committee hearing comes after Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce Coalition, a virtual “Who’s Who” in Florida’s corporate community, worked to make the case that anti-discrimination protection isn’t a social issue, but rather a pro-business issue to keep the state competitive in the global marketplace.

Part of the Workforce Coalition includes nine Fortune 500 companies in Florida, such as AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Tech Data, Walt Disney World Resorts, and Wells Fargo backing the effort. More than 25 large employers, including several chambers of commerce, universities, law firms, and major sports teams have also signed onto the coalition.

Also, two state Senators, Jack Latvala and Travis Hutson, became the first Republicans to co-sponsor the bill, offering the leadership necessary to help break the logjam in getting the bill heard.

Expect a strong pro-business presence at that committee hearing, if only to provide cover to those on-the-fence Republicans who see this as a divisive issue. They shouldn’t be worried. Polling shows that Florida voters already believe these LGBT protections are in place and think it’s the right thing to do.

In a year when Republicans are finding their center, this is one issue that the GOP would be wise to support on behalf of all Floridians.

The Competitive Workforce Act would modernize state law to include anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in the workplace, and in housing and public accommodations. The act is composed of House Bill 45 from Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican, and SB 120 filed by Abruzzo.