TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A year after Florida enacted a new law making it more difficult for employers to hire immigrants in the country illegally, the House passed a bill Thursday to let 16- and 17-year-olds work longer and later hours.
Supporters said teenagers and their parents know how to best manage their time and activities and lifting employment restrictions will help them build careers and earn money, especially with the current labor shortage. Opponents said the changes would make it easier for employers to exploit children and longer hours could negatively affect schoolwork.
“Nearly 1 million searches have been performed for ‘How can I get a job as a teen.’ They want to work. This bill gets government out of their way to choose a path that’s best for them,” said Republican Rep. Linda Chaney, who sponsored the bill.
The bill would remove restrictions prohibiting 16- and 17-year-olds from working more than eight hours when they have classes the next day and from working more than 30 hours a week when school is in session. The House passed it on an 80-35 vote.
Democrats opposing the bill argued that current law allows students plenty of time to work and attend school. Rep. Anna Eskamani questioned whether the measure was being proposed because the state’s immigrant employment restrictions are making it more difficult to fill some jobs.
“The elephant in the room is that we see a labor shortage in different parts of the economy and part of that is tied to decisions this Legislature has made when it comes to immigration,” she said.
She also said employers should pay adults more for less desirable jobs rather than relying on children.
“I have concerns with saturating the workplace with cheap labor, which will make it harder for every person to be paid a wage they can live on,” Eskamani said.
The Senate has a similar bill that doesn’t go as far as the House. Republican Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said she’s heard too many concerns from parents about “young people working all hours of the day and night and not sleeping and not getting an education.”
The Senate bill needs approval from two more committees before reaching the full chamber.
“We want to allow students or kids that want to work to do that, but our number one priority is to make sure that they don’t sacrifice their education,” Passidomo said.