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Child Labor bill passes Florida Legislature after chamber back-and-forth

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After bouncing back and forth between both chambers, a controversial bill changing Florida’s child labor laws has passed the Florida Legislature.

The version set to become law is a steep departure from the bill’s original language.

The original version would have allowed minors 16 and older to work full-time without parent input and removed requirements for work breaks. It also would have allowed children to work past midnight on school nights. That version passed on the House floor last month.

But the Senate wanted changes. They amended the bill to allow businesses to work minors older than 16-years-old more than 30 hours a week only if they obtain parental permission via a state-sanctioned form. That version passed the Senate floor on Thursday.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said during a Thursday press conference she is satisfied with the version that passed her chamber.

“I think it was way too broad when it was originally filed and also it didn’t even take into account some of the trades or whatever. That is what the beauty of the process is, it went back and forth. It amended. The House and Senate talked and I think we’re in a good place,” she said.

In the closing hours of the legislative session Friday, the House okayed the Senates changes, but it was still opposed by Democrats. St. Pete Beach Republican Representative Linda Chaney, the bill’s sponsor, pointed out that the bill has now received support from differing state interest groups.

“I just want to give some information to the members who oppose this that you may find shocking, but this bill is both supported by the AFL-CIO and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. They did not see any problem with it,” she said.

The Florida AFL-CIO, which represents 500 labor unions in the state, opposed the bill until the Senate changes. Their lobbyist, Rich Templin, says they support the bill, but will be there for the rulemaking by state executive agencies around making the permission form.

“We intend to be there every step of the way, to help guide the process, to help make any changes to the labor law as good for our kids and our parents as we possibly can,”

But not all labor advocacy groups agreed with the changes. Florida Rising lobbyist Jackson Oberlink says while he is glad changes were made after public pressure, the final product is still harmful to Floridians.

“This is still a very bad bill that will leave children vulnerable to exploitation by bad corporations who only have profits in their interests and not the interests of children’s welfare and education,” he said.

The bill was originally drafted by several business advocacy groups. If the measure is not vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, it will take effect on July 1st, 2024.

Tristan Wood is a senior producer and host with WFSU Public Media. A South Florida native and University of Florida graduate, he focuses on state government in the Sunshine State and local panhandle political happenings.