MacBride poised for a Florida comeback

The old State Capitol building in Tallahassee

By Ray O’Hanlon

The MacBride Principles are this week set for a return to Florida’s statue books, this after a sustained campaign both within and from outside the Sunshine State.

State Senator David Simmons, chair of the Senate’s Rules Committee and a Republican legislator, has penned a bill that would see reinstatement in state law of the fair employment guidelines named after the late Dr. Sean MacBride.

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The state’s MacBride legislation was scrubbed out last year when an omnibus budget bill containing the wording for its demise was signed by Governor Rick Scott.

When it emerged that Florida no longer backed the principles - long seen by supporters as an agent for positive change in the Northern Ireland workplace - there was strong reaction from Irish American backers of MacBride, both Republican and Democratic.

In recent months, a low key but sustained effort to restore MacBride has been aimed at state legislators.

Jim Bomford, Central Florida Chair of the Irish American Republicans and chair of the Ronald Reagan Assemblies of Central Florida, has been a leading figure in the lobbying campaign.

“Senator Simmons has been a real Irish champion in Florida. He sponsored the (state’s) United Ireland Resolution. He recently hosted several conference calls with me, Jim Bomford, and Patrick Doherty of the New York Comptroller's (Tom DiNapoli’s) office,” Grant Lally, who heads the national Irish American Republicans lobby group, said.

The IAR reacted strongly when Governor Scott, himself a Republican, last year signed a state budget bill that included in its multitudinous line items a bill that rescinded the state’s MacBride Principles law.
That budget bill, which had to be passed in totality or not at all, was signed by Scott even as Ancient Order of Hibernians members in the state were inundating the governor’s office with calls.
The Florida MacBride law had been on the books since 1988, a year of particularly strong MacBride activity across the U.S.

The Florida rescinding measure was an item in the overall budget bill generated by “Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement” drawn up for the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.

The bill, SB 7024, was then introduced in the Senate in early March, 2015 by the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. The impact statement cover page also referred to the State Board of Administration.

The language in 7024 was dry and matter of fact; it give virtually no hint of a political hand behind it. The bill even listed the wording of the MacBride Principles.

Nevertheless, the rescinding of the Sunshine State’s MacBride code prompted an immediate pushback from pro-MacBride groups such as the AOH, Irish National Caucus, and the aforementioned IAR.

That pushback, as it turned out, was sustained and effective and is now poised on the brink of success.