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GOP lawmaker: Use E-Verify for public works contracts

Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh/Berks, speaks on the House floor in support of his legislation that would make it a crime in Pennsylvania to publish or disseminate mugshots for commercial use. House Bill 1736 passed overwhelmingly and was sent to the Senate for consideration.

Several Republican lawmakers are supporting legislation that would require public works projects to ensure those working on projects are United States citizens.

Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh/Berks, recently introduced House Bill 2076 in the state House of Representatives to require the use of E-Verify for all public contracts.

“In order to apply for a public contract, public contractors and subcontractors would be required to submit proof of registration in the federal E-Verify system, along with the verification form required by current law,” Mackenzie wrote in his legislative memorandum. “In addition, this legislation would increase the penalties for contractors and subcontractors who fail to utilize the federal E-Verify system, including increased debarment periods from securing a public contract, and increased fines based on contract amount for those who fail to submit or lie on the verification form.”

Mackenzie proposes to the state Department of General Services oversee compliance from public contractors and subcontractors, require the department to acknowledge complaints received and notify those who submit complaints if more information is needed to investigate issues. Contractors and subcontractors that violate the law would be required to reimburse the state the cost of an audit.

Mackenzie’s legislation is similar to legislation that took effect this year in Florida. E-Verify has been required since 2011 on all state projects in Florida, but Florida Senate Bill 664, which was passed in 2020 and took effect Jan. 1, 2021, requires all public employers and some private employers to use E-Verify.

According to the Associated Press, DeSantis originally asked lawmakers to require all employers in Florida — public and private — to use the E-Verify system, an online database operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that can confirm a person’s eligibility to work in the United States. However, lawmakers in his own party balked at requiring private companies to use it. Instead, only public employers — including state agencies, local governments and firms that contract with them — will be required to use the E-Verify system. Private employers have the option of using E-Verify but can use alternative state-approved methods, including a federal form many companies already use to confirm employment eligibility.

DeSantis called on lawmakers to pass an e-Verify bill during his State of the State address that opened the annual 60-day legislative session in January.

“Lower-income workers also shouldn’t have their wages depressed by cheap foreign labor,” he said then. “Assuring a legal workforce through E-verify will be good for the rule of law, protect taxpayers, and place an upward pressure on the wages of Floridians who work in blue collar jobs.”

But influential industries, such as tourism, agriculture and construction, were wary of the governor’s proposal and their influence was readily apparent on the final version of the legislation. The House stripped language that would have allowed random audits to ensure compliance.

Critics, meanwhile, said E-Verify is flawed and riddled with inaccurate information.

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