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Published on April 15, 2024
Gov. DeSantis Signs Bills Hindering Local Worker Safety Measures and Police Oversight in FloridaSource: Wikipedia/Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis is tightening the reins on local government powers with a two-fold punch targeting worker safety and police oversight. In a move that critics are calling an outright "attack on workers," DeSantis signed a bill that prohibits Florida local governments from mandating key health protections for outdoor workers, including heat and water breaks. This new legislation was a countermeasure to a Miami-Dade County initiative that sought to provide such essentials for its sizable labor force in sectors like construction and agriculture.

As reported by CBS News Miami, the Thursday-signed bill responds directly to the local concerns of worker safety under the sweltering Florida sun, particularly in Miami-Dade County where more than 325,000 workers are said to form part of these vital industries. The law, however, extends beyond this jurisdiction, effectively barring all of Florida's 66 other counties from enacting similar measures. Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres told CBS News Miami, "It really wasn't anything that was coming from me. There was a lot of concern out of one county — Miami-Dade," Gov. DeSantis claimed, referencing Miami-Dade lawmakers' "lot of concern" and the "problems" their safety measures were purported to cause.

The governor's second act of the week curtailed civilian-led police scrutiny. With supporters cheering on, DeSantis championed a bill on Friday that removes the power of local citizen police oversight boards to investigate officers or initiate disciplinary actions. These boards are now confined to making policy recommendations and must include at least a retired law officer among their appointed members, all of whom must be selected by sheriffs and police chiefs.

According to comments cited by WSVN, DeSantis justified the action as a safeguard against the politicization of police oversight: “They’re not free to use law enforcement as political pinatas, they’re not free to create false narratives, they’re not free to try to make it miserable to work in uniform,” DeSantis said. For Florida, such measures reflect a broader state-versus-local tug-of-war, with the governor asserting state supremacy in areas he believes are susceptible to politicized abuse, alienating some who see these moves as overreach infringing on local autonomy and safety.