I’m finally coming down from all of the excitement of HR Florida’s Legislative Day on the Hill. It was our first-ever event like this and what a thrill it was. While many of us are intimately involved on a day-to-day basis with the results (both positive and negative) of our legislative representatives’ work, this was the first time HR professionals got together at the state level to advocate for the businesses, employees and issues we represent.
In case you’re not familiar with the term “Day on the Hill,” it comes from SHRM’s annual Employment Law and Legislative Conference, which traditionally is held in Washington, DC and involves a trip to Capitol Hill to meet with congressional representatives. During the conference, SHRM lobbyists and managers educate attendees on existing and proposed HR-related legislation and then arrange meetings with congressional representatives to discuss the legislation and advocate on federal issues. SHRM does a great job at this and I can tell you that the Leg conference is probably one of the best attended that SHRM offers outside of its national conference.
SHRM encourages its member state councils to initiate advocacy on state-level policy, but aside from a couple of states, there historically hasn’t been a lot of activity or organization around the idea.
HR Florida wanted to change the game. Under the leadership of the council’s State Governmental Affairs Director, Damian Taylor, Esq., and with invaluable support from Robert Carragher, SHRM’s Government Affairs Manager, we did just that and hosted our own Tallahassee Day on the Hill on February 23.
With close to 40 HR pros representing 17 state chapters, HR Florida educated professionals on the hot legislative topics for 2011:
- E-Verify – requiring all Florida employers to participate in the E-Verify program to determine eligibility to work in the U.S.,
- Guns in the Workplace – expanding the rights of people who hold concealed weapon licenses,
- Unemployment Compensation & Misconduct – expanding the definition of misconduct that disqualifies a claimant from unemployment compensation benefits, and
- Florida Civil Rights Act Expansion – broadening the definition of protected classes to include the gay/lesbian/transgender group.
We were successful in meeting and advocating with elected officials, such as Representatives Marti Coley, Dorothy Hukill, Bryan Nelson, Kathleen Passidomo, Ray Pilon, Scott Plakon, Chicarla Pye, Ken Roberson, and Darryl Rouson, and Senators Don Gaetz, Jim Norman, and Gary Siplin.
Judging from the feedback from both sides of the legislative table, I’d say that we were very effective in meeting our goal to introduce legislators to HR Florida, inform them of the valuable resource HR Florida members are, and begin the partnership needed to shape employment-related legislation. Both republican and democratic representatives were thrilled that HR professionals made a “special trip to Tallahassee” to see them and help them become informed. Several of our HR colleagues were also invited for follow-up meetings in their respective home districts.
While the fate of the pending legislation remains to be seen, the HR Florida legislative team will be tracking the progress of these bills throughout 2011. I’m anxious to see what I expect are the positive results of our lobbying and advocacy efforts.
With such a strong baseline, our Tallahassee Day on the Hill event can’t help but get larger and more powerful in the years to come. I for one am proud that once again HR Florida is serving as the catalyst for shaping energetic, educated and engaged HR business professionals who are influencing – and advancing – the profession.