April 20, 2007
Wednesday, the House Environment and Natural Resources Council overwhelmingly voted (10-4) against HB 1417 by Representative Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala). The bill is formally called the "Individual Personal Private Property Protection Act" however; the goal of the bill is to allow individuals to keep firearms stored in their cars at their places of employment. AIF has opposed this bill for the past two years; primarily because of the limitations it places on the employment at will doctrine that Florida employers depend on for doing business.
The bill would restrict employers from creating or maintaining policies, which ban firearms from their premises. It would also prohibit an employer from conditioning employment on an individual's consent to search of their vehicle while parked on the employer's premises. The bill as drafted does not specify that its purpose is to promote transport and storage of firearms in employees' vehicles. Instead it refers to personal private property. Representative Bob Allen (R-Merritt Island) filed an amendment that would have made specific references only to firearms rather than vague references to private property. The Council, however, did not adopt this amendment.
Barney Bishop, AIF President and CEO, testified at the hearing and urged the council members to vote against the bill. He stressed that the bill undermines an employer's ability to provide safe working environments for employees and customers, which is an important legal obligation that businesses must uphold. He also pointed out that the bill is a "solution seeking a problem" in that there is no great public outcry for additional gun rights and no rash of unreasonable employee searches throughout the state of Florida. Furthermore, he reminded committee members that neither freedom of speech or the right to bear arms are unqualified Constitutional rights. Meaning that you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater and that there are reasonable limitations with respect to firearms. It is the court’s responsibility to balance those rights.
AIF salutes the council members who voted AGAINST this bill and FOR the business community. They are Representatives: Stan Mayfield, Bob Allen, Mary Brandenburg (D-Lake Worth), Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), Will Kendrick (R-Carrabelle), Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg), Richard Machek (D-Delray Beach), Bryan Nelson (R-Apopka), Baxter Troutman (R-Winter Haven), and Trudi Williams (R-Ft. Myers). Those voting FOR this bill and AGAINST the business community were Representatives: Rich Glorioso (R-Plant City), Faye Culp (R-Tampa), Paige Kreegel (R-Punta Gorda), and Debbie Boyd (R-High Springs).
AIF opposes legislation that prohibits businesses from enforcing or maintaining policies that ban guns in the workplace. Employers should be allowed to establish these types of policies and exert their rights as property owners. Maintain a safe work environment is paramount for the longevity of any employer in Florida. We were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming margin by which the bill failed today.