Federal apprenticeship change faces pushback from Florida agency heads

by | Mar 18, 2024

Florida officials, including Attorney General Ashley Moody and other state leaders, have formally opposed the Biden Administration’s proposed revisions to apprenticeship program regulations, arguing they could harm workforce development by imposing DEIA principles they view as an overreach of federal authority and detrimental to merit-based achievement.

In a rebuff to proposed federal changes, Florida agency officials voiced opposition against the Biden Administration’s plans to revise apprenticeship program regulations, arguing it would damage the state’s workforce development.

The officials, including Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, FloridaCommerce Secretary J. Alex Kelly, and Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr., criticized the proposals in a letter to Brent Parton, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor, for being “misguided and potentially harmful.”

The targeted amendments seek to incorporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) principles into registered apprenticeship programs. In a formal comment, state leaders argued that an emphasis on DEIA would serve as an overstep of federal authority and could detract from the merit-based success of these programs, further suggesting that the changes could also undermine economic progress.

“This rule raises substantial concerns, including issues of bureaucratic overreach, the DOL exceeding its statutory authority, redefining and repurposing “equal opportunity” to fit the DOL’s current political agenda, and imposing requirements that adversely impact apprenticeship initiatives particularly in its approach to promoting divisive DEIA policies,” the letter reads.

Specific concerns cited in the letter include the introduction of “Equity Indices” and potential legal issues, contending that the focus on race and other protected classes in the proposed rule likely violates the Equal Protection Clause and federal civil rights laws, citing Supreme Court decisions.

Officials raised additional concerns that the proposed rule violates the Spending Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires Congress to unambiguously communicate conditions on federal dollars. They claim that the rule imposes new requirements without clear authorization in the legislative text, potentially making it an unconstitutional pre-requisite to receive funds.

Furthermore, the letter suggests that the rule may be inconsistent with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), as it fails to be “reasonable and reasonably explained,” and could exceed the DOL’s authority by deviating significantly from the core objectives of apprenticeship programs without clear statutory backing.

“We vigorously oppose this rule because it will stifle … growth we are experiencing in the State of Florida and harm the individuals who benefit most from our workforce education programs,” the agency leaders said. “Preserving the integrity of apprenticeship programs in Florida is paramount and abandoning these proposals is vital to ensure Florida can continue operating its apprenticeship model effectively.”


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