The Phoenix Flyer

GOP lawmakers take steps to ditch the feds’ OSHA and set up a FL-style agency; Dems say it’s a political stunt

By: - November 15, 2021 6:14 pm

Old Florida Capitol building. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

Republican lawmakers on Monday pushed through legislation to consider a Florida-style state-run OSHA, starting with the governor’s office developing a proposal for a state plan on the issue.

GOP members on the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee approved the bill by a 13-5 vote, with Democrats arguing against idea.

“This is not a serious proposal,” said State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, adding that “the bill was slapped together.”

The Senate’s Judiciary Committee had been considering the Senate’s version of the bill late this afternoon. About 5:30 p.m., senators on the committee vote also approved that bill.

Many Floridians might recognize the the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA for short. It’s part the U.S. Department of Labor. The agency oversees safety and health standards applying to private employers, federal agencies and other groups.

But in this case, the state of Florida could pursue its own OSHA, superseding the federal agency. If Florida tries to do that, OSHA would require state plans to be “as effective as the federal OSHA standards,” according to a bill analysis. “State plans must also cover state and local government employees, in addition to private employees.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been against what’s happening with the federal OSHA because of the Biden administration’s efforts to vaccinate thousands more workers under OSHA rules. Currently, the effort has been halted, under court rulings.

The issue related to OSHA has led to legislation in a special legislative session the began Monday.

State Rep. Ardian Zika, who represents part of Pasco County, is the sponsor of the bill.

Zika said repeatedly in the House committee that the legislation involves a directive: “The Executive Office of the Governor shall develop a proposal for a state plan to assert state jurisdiction over occupational safety and health issues for government and private employees and shall designate or hire appropriate staff as necessary to develop the proposal.”

In addition, “On or before January 17, 2022, the Executive Office of the Governor shall submit a status report to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives” to go over timelines and other information.

The bill also includes the use of $1 million for the proposed state plan.

Democrats were critical about the $1 million, saying it wasn’t clear how the money would be used.

State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a Democrat representing part of Hillsborough, said the governor could get a blank check that could pad the wallets of big consultants.

Florida Phoenix reporter Laura Cassels contributed to this report.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.