Watered-Down Child Labor Bill Signed into Law, But...Why Was it Softened?

Watered-Down Child Labor Bill Signed into Law, But...Why Was it Softened?

After DeSantis signed a softer version of a child labor bill into law, questions remain on why Republicans agreed to water it down

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
March 23, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Governor Ron DeSantis signed a Republican-led, watered-down bill loosening child labor laws on Friday afternoon, leading to questions of why the Legislature's conservative supermajority would be willing to remove the bill's teeth.

"If you look at what was originally filed, and then compare it to what eventually passed, I think that's a really interesting story of them hearing from Floridians that this was not something that they liked, and really dialing back," Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell told The Floridian.

Going into effect on July 1, HB 49 allows children under 16 to work longer than 15 hours a week when school isn't in session.

It also allows 16- and 17-year-olds to work after 11 p.m. if there's no school the next day; more than 30 hours a week when school is in session with parental consent; and for more than six days in a row.

Essentially, the current bill only addresses homeschooled children or children working over the Summer.

However, a previous version of the bill would have seriously revamped child labor laws, angering Democrats and workers' groups alike. That form asked 16- and 17-year-olds to work before 6:30 a.m. and after 11 p.m.—regardless of if school was in session.

“You don't see that many 100% retreats from something that started off as a big priority that you knew was going to move, that you knew was going to go," Driskell said, explaining that with a conservative supermajority, Republicans have the power to propel most of their leading agendas through and out of the Legislature.

She turned to a 2021 anti-rioting law—now blocked by the courts—that created tougher penalties for people who participate in violent protests. An original iteration of the bill worried critics of overly violent attacks on protesters, Driskell said, but was eventually addressed.

She wondered why Republicans would pass a bill as controversial as 2021's, but be willing to compromise on 2024's remarkably less-contested child labor bill.

"It was softened to make it so it could be something that was actually passed and not unconstitutional, but they still passed a very aggressive, very strong bill," Driskell said of the anti-riot bill.

She turned to HB 49, saying, "But this, they backed all the way off on this. They took everything out. And Democrats yelled about it, but I think they saw polling that told them this was incredibly unpopular and a losing message for them.”

Before the measure was edited, Mason-Dixon Polling revealed that 72% of Floridians were against the legislation.


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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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