A law (HF2156) requiring every Iowa employer to check every employee with E-Verify passed the Iowa House Judiciary Committee by 13-8 about noon Tuesday, February 21, 2012. (Watch at http://youtu.be/KQvh_M9hdtM)
Two of those who voted for it said they would vote for it only on the condition that problems they see in it would be fixed. Had they voted against it the bill would have won by 11-10.
Getting the bill passed was not without difficulty. Just before the bill was debated, the Republicans said they needed to “caucus”, meaning where they meet privately, without the Democrats or the public there, so they can work through disagreements between themselves. The caucus lasted about 45 minutes.
Iowa CCI had brought about 40 people on a bus to observe the meeting. During the caucus they held a rally in the hall. They had a couple of speeches, did a few chants, and had State Representative Bruce Hunter speak to them about a bill he has sponsored to punish employers who don’t pay their vulnerable workers.
There were minor amendments to HF 2156. The original bill would have had complaints investigated by the County Attorney and Attorney General. Now it would be by the county sheriff and local police.
The bill will still post, on the internet, all the employers who are checking their employees with E-Verify, and all those who have been in court because they didn’t. Originally the Attorney General was to post this on the internet; now the Secretary of State will do it.
The bill still allows anonymous complaints, but doesn’t force investigators to investigate them. But the original bill required investigators to check complaints that are not anonymous; now the bill makes an investigation optional if the complaint doesn’t specify which of possibly hundreds of employees is the one to check. But if the complaint names an employee, an investigation is mandatory. Representative Jeff Smith, Democrat, tried to downsize the bill to apply only to state employers, including contractors with state contracts. He said the state should try the system with their own employees, and “get their own house in order”, before forcing it on private business. He also pointed out the bill will raise property taxes, by forcing law enforcement to spend more man-hours on a new category of investigations. The amendment lost by 13-8, the same vote which the bill itself got later.
Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Democrat, opposed the bill because “comprehensive immigration reform should not start with the state. State government can’t determine who is a citizen or enforce borders. This piecemeal approach only pushes unscrupulous employers and undocumented workers further underground toward a cash economy.”
Mary Wolfe, Democrat, was originally a cosponsor of HF2156. But she spoke and voted against the bill, saying it creates an “unfunded mandate” (it forces local government to do expensive things, without providing state funds, which forces local government to raise taxes to pay for it). She said she would vote no “as long as we are unwilling to put our money where our mandates are”.
Julian Garrett, author of the bill, said the extra expense and time required of local law enforcement would be negligible. He gave no figures to support his theory that police would barely notice the extra time they would spend on this.
Jeff Kaufman supported the bill because it would decrease the exploitation of some people in some Iowa communities. Using the same kind of logic that it is kind to a baby to murder it rather than allow it to grow up “unloved”, Garrett agreed that some employers take advantage of undocumented workers knowing they can’t complain. So rather than have such workers be abused by employers, it is so much kinder to have them abused by our laws. Rather than have them in bad working conditions, it is so much kinder to allow them zero working conditions.
Representative David Heaton, Republican, sees potential for abuse because complaints, being anonymous, can be turned in by competitors, in order to harass a business. He also is very uncomfortable about processing any complaint that doesn’t specify a name of who should be checked, inviting law enforcement to go through all the records of all employees. He also is uncomfortable about requiring a permanent record of each E-verify “no match” report.
However, he voted for the bill, but with the understanding that further work would be done on the bill to address his concerns.
Rick Olson, Democrat, noted that the bill doesn’t apply to independent contractors. If you hire an independent contractor you aren’t liable to check all his employees. He sympathized with Smith’s sentiment to keep your own house in order, but said the topic “is worthy of discussion”; thus he would vote to keep it alive past “funnel week”, but he would not support the bill on the House floor without without further correction.
Olson was the only Democrat who voted for the bill.
State representatives who voted for HF2156 were Richard Anderson, Chip Baltimore, Dwayne Alons, Julian Garrett, Chris Hagenow, David Heaton, Jeff Kaufmann, Glen Massie, Rick Olson (the only Democrat), Kim Pearson, Walt Rogers, Jeremy Taylor, and David Tjepkes
Those voting against were Mary Wolfe, Ruth Anne Gaines, Vicki Lensing, Jo Oldson, Steve Olson, Jeff Smith, Kurt Swaim, and Beth Wessel-Kroeschell.
HF2156 now goes before the whole House, where it must receive 51 of 100 votes before it can go before the Senate.
In other news, Ako Abdul-Samad will be my guest on La Reina radio (1260 AM) Saturday morning at 11am, talking about his “Dream Act” bill, which he introduces every year.