Florida’s unemployment system is broken, but a new bill (HB 1463) sponsored by Rep. Chip LaMarca would overhaul the embattled process run by the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), updating the antiquated system to a cloud-based system and streamline claims and accountability.
But while the bill was approved by a unanimous vote this Wednesday Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) said during debate on LaMarca’s bill on the floor of the House that he was reluctant to vote in favor of the measure he believes is simply “baby steps” to fix the problem that does not go far enough for Floridians.
“It’s a baby step in creating more accountability at DEO … but I regret to say that the baby step is not enough,” said Rep. Smith. “We should’ve done so much more for the people of Florida who were counting on us to really take a bold step forward.”
The Floridian caught up with Rep. LaMarca shortly after his bill passed where the Lighthouse Point Republican asserted that the measure “did exactly what it was supposed to do,” which was to “rebuild and modernize the system.
LaMarca said that Rep. Smith's concerns regarding payments and unemployment were a separate issue that “had nothing to do” with his overhaul bill.
“It did exactly what it was supposed to do,” said LaMarca. “It will rebuild and modernize the system, and he has concerns about other issues with unemployment, duration payments, and the amount of payments, that wasn’t in this bill. This bill is supposed to fix the system.”
After the day’s session came to a close, Rep. Smith told The Floridian he would have wanted to see the legislature “extend unemployment benefits to 22 weeks” and “increase the weekly benefits by an additional $100.”
Smith then took a jab at LaMarca, saying that “he could have worked harder” to make the bill broader to address the pressing issues he is concerned about. Again, Smith voted for the measure.