The Florida House acted early and swiftly to ban “sanctuary cities,” cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration law. HB 9 passed by a vote of 71-35 through the largely Republican lower chamber. In order to make it to the Governor’s desk, it must make it through the Senate. The prospects for this appear dim.
If the Senate even takes up the bill, it will be a course change from the past. The Florida House passed a Sanctuary Cities ban in 2017. The Senate companion bill that year was sponsored by Senator Steube (R-Sarasota). The bill was referred to four separate Senate committees, and died on its first stop, the Judiciary Committee. Senator Steube, the bill’s sponsor, is also the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his reticence to push a bill he sponsored through his own committee raises questions as to the bills priority.
This year, the bill has received fewer committee assignments. It was referred to only two committees, instead of four–Judiciary and Rules.
Judiciary Committee — On the surface, the bill seems likely to pass the judiciary committee, since Senator Steube (R-Sarasota) is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and also the Senate bill’s sponsor again this year. However, the bill does not appear on this week’s Judiciary Committee meeting agenda. It could die a similar death as last year’s bill unless Senator Steube makes a push to get it through.
Rules Committee — Senator Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers) chairs the Rules Committee, and is co-chair of the Judiciary Committee. The Sanctuary Cities ban does not appear on the agenda for this week’s Rules Committee meeting. Determining Benacquisto’s views on Sanctuary Cities is challenging. While she has stated support of border security and e-verify, the OPO was not able to find a public position on Sanctuary Cities, and her primary opponent reportedly did his best to run hard to the right on immigration during their primary campaign (which of course failed, since Benacquisto was re-elected).
In summary, the forecast for the Sanctuary Cities ban in the Senate is cloudy. Fewer committee assignments than last time give it a ray of hope. However, the bill’s assignment to the same committee which failed to move it in the past creates a feeling history may be repeating itself. Although nobody is saying it publicly, the Sanctuary Cities ban could be dead on arrival in the Senate.