Florida cities, counties on track to lose power to create heat safety rules for local businesses

'This is personal to me — this is more than just a number for me," said' Laura Munoz says
Posted at 7:18 PM, Feb 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-14 19:18:20-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the weather gets hotter, Florida lawmakers continue advancing a bill to prevent cities and counties from creating their own heat safety rules for workplaces. Legislation handing that power over to the state cleared another House committee on Wednesday.

If signed, local governments would be stripped of their ability to create excessive heat safety ordinances for local businesses, things like mandatory water and shade breaks.

"It’s less regulation and it’s less government," said Rep. Tiffany Esposito, R-Fort Myers, who’s carrying the bill. 

Not only does her policy preempt local government, but it also requires the state to come up with its own heat safety standards if federal officials don’t by 2028. Her Republican colleagues felt the idea was a move toward less red tape and more freedom for Florida businesses.

"I am infuriated that any local government thinks they can do a better job of managing my employees,” said Rep. Rick Roth, R-West Palm Beach.

The party-line vote in the House committee after a round of public testimony with many opponents considering the change too dangerous for Florida to consider.

"This is personal to me — this is more than just a number for me," Laura Munoz said.

The South Florida woman was brought to tears while giving testimony to lawmakers. She told members her adoptive father died in 2014 during a workplace accident — related in part to years of poor heat stress protections.

"This pain, I'm still dealing with— not having that support," said Munoz, who also works with the Florida Student Power Network. "My mom's struggle of being without her partner. Me, growing up without my father. Me, knowing I won't have my father in my wedding. Today they could make a decision so that other people don’t have to go through that.”

Laura’s pain and concern were later echoed by Democrats. Rep. Michele Rayner, of St. Petersburg, warned now was not the time to tie the hands of cities and counties.
"We just had the hottest summer on record," Rayner said. "We know it’s only about to get hotter. Why would we not do more to protect our workers.”

The bill now needs to clear one more committee in both the upper and lower chambers to reach Florida's governor. Whether he'll sign isn't clear. But Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has supported numerous bills preempting local government to he has said keep Florida free.