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TALLAHASSEE — A Florida House panel advanced one of Ron DeSantis’s priorities Thursday — but crossed up the governor by not requiring private businesses to use a federal database to check whether new hires are legally eligible to work in this country.

DeSantis’ push to make all Florida employers use the online E-Verify system took another hit even as the Commerce Committee approved a measure (HB 1265) making public employers and contractors use it, beginning next January.

But the panel would give private companies a choice of either checking E-Verify or just having federal I-9 forms completed by new workers, basically a standard U.S. labor requirement that’s been in place for more than 30 years.

2020欧洲杯正规平台Completing an I-9 means an employee must present a U.S. passport, legal resident card, immigrant visa or similar identification.

Commerce Chair Mike LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, defended the House proposal as a step forward, and not just an approach that may allow the governor to save face, politically.

2020欧洲杯正规平台“I don’t know if this is supposed to be a victory for the governor,” LaRosa said. “But we are trying to improve state law.”

DeSantis is drawing heavy pushback from the agriculture, tourism and construction industries worried about the impact on a workforce which often relies on undocumented workers.

2020欧洲杯正规平台With just over two weeks left in the legislative session, the House bill got its first hearing Thursday.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, who originally sponsored the bill that reflected the governor’s demand, said he was encouraged that the House now is embracing some form of the proposal.

2020欧洲杯正规平台Still, his own bill (SB 664) now has been recast to where it removes any E-Verify requirement, instead only demanding that public and private employers use some kind of verification system to check the legal status of new workers.

“I think we are in striking distance of passing a pretty doggone strong bill if all the stars line up,” Lee said.

2020欧洲杯正规平台About two dozen states, including Florida, currently require E-Verify use by at least some government employers, only eight states require it for all businesses. Most states with the broader standard are in the Southeast, which DeSantis says makes Florida an outlier.

Paul DiMare, of Coral Gables, one of the nation’s largest tomato growers, a philanthropist and DeSantis donor, said Thursday he has told the governor the E-Verify will lead to shortages in farm labor.

2020欧洲杯正规平台“I’m not for illegal immigration,” DiMare said. “We already I-9 everybody. But do I know if the documents they present are accurate? Nobody does.”

Although President Donald Trump in his recent federal budget proposal has dropped his call for mandatory, nationwide E-Verify use, the database is still viewed as a potent weapon against illegal immigration — a central theme of his re-election campaign.

During his 2018 election campaign, DeSantis vowed to enact E-Verify, but last year didn’t push the issue. Last November, on the eve of a Trump rally in Broward County, the governor renewed his call for action on the issue.

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