While a ploy, bill could have valid uses
It's not necessary to look any further than the list of sponsors for House Bill 961 to recognize it's nothing more than a political ploy by the now outgunned Democrats in the Georgia General Assembly. As the minority party in the state Legislature, such ploys are about the only way the Democrats can exert even the slightest influence on lawmaking.
That aside, however, state Rep. Brian Thomas, D-Lilburn, and a host of other Democratic representatives, including Pedro Marin of Duluth, Don Wix of Mableton, Terry Johnson of Marietta and Hugh Floyd of Norcross, raise a compelling issue with HB 961.
Briefly, the bill would track a law already in place at the federal level requiring employers to ask for, and check, the documents of foreign workers before employing them. Under the proposed HB 961, Georgia employers would be required to complete an ''Employment Eligibility Verification Form,'' or a similar federal form, for all workers hired after July 1 of this year. In filling out the form, employers would, according to the language of the bill, ''be required to verify a new employee's identity and eligibility'' to work in this country. The bill leaves it to the state Department of Labor to determine what documents a prospective employee would have to present in connection with the verification form.
In other words, HB 961, as proposed, requires employers to take direct responsibility for ensuring they are not hiring illegal workers.
The proposed legislation sets up the possibility of an extremely stiff penalty for any employer who knowingly or willfully violates the law, making such an employer subject to a loss of license or registration to do business in the state. House Bill 961, then, attacks the problem of illegal immigration in head-on fashion, by establishing the possibility of severe sanctions against the businesses providing the jobs that bring those immigrants into Georgia.
It's a far more straightforward approach than is evidenced in two bills offered by Republican state Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock. One of Rogers' bills would prohibit businesses employing illegal aliens from getting state contracts, while another, according to a recent Associated Press story, ''would prevent private employers from declaring illegal workers' wages as business expenses.''
Rogers' bills are certainly worthy of consideration. But because they are authored by a member of the majority party in the Legislature, it's likely Rogers' bills will get a more serious hearing than the Democrat-authored bill.