March 27, 2008

Before the House of Representatives took to the floor to debate HB 503, otherwise known as the gun bill, AIF and three other business associations in the state sent legislators a letter outlining their opposition. (read letter)

Despite the opposition of AIF and the other groups, The House of Representatives passed HB 503 by a 72 to 42 vote.  The House version would prohibit employers from preventing employees who lawfully posses a concealed weapon permit from parking on employer property.  The bill was amended on the floor with the adoption of a strike-everything amendment sponsored by Representative Stan Mayfield (R-Vero Beach).  As amended the bill also prevents an employer from searching an employee’s vehicle (unless a law enforcement officer is present) and firing an employee on the grounds that he or she posses a firearm in their vehicle.  As amended, HB 503 now includes a greater list of properties that are exempt from this law including nuclear power facilities, school property, and locations where combustible materials are present.  The strike-everything amendment also pushed back the effective date of the bill to July 1, 2008.

As anticipated, there was very little debate on the bill today.  Most of the questions came from Democratic members of the Legislature who asked the bill sponsor and legislative leaders to describe what the perceived problem was that necessitated this legislation.  Representative Jack Seiler (R-Pompano Beach) asked several questions pertaining to the definitions found in the bill, mainly taking exception on how “employee” was defined.  Representative Janet Long (D-St. Petersburg) asked Representative Evers to describe why this legislation was needed, citing that she had asked her son – law enforcement officer – about the bill and he had shared with her that he didn’t see the need for it.  Representative Evers responded that he had filed the bill to “alleviate the fear a concealed weapon permit carrier has of termination by employer for carrying a firearm.”

The Senate will be taking up their version of the bill, which does not include the concealed weapon permit language, on the floor in the near future.

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.  Maintaining a safe work environment is paramount for the longevity of any employer in Florida.