With the Legislature leaving early for a 10-day break, illegal immigration is one of those issues left in the lurch.
HB 87 failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote, after substantial committee changes. Which means no conference committee action is possible until the General Assembly returns on April 11.
But signs have been tossed around this week, indicating that we may be headed toward a resolution of the debate’s trickiest proposition.
The argument in the state Capitol has never focused on giving local law enforcement the power to ask for proof of U.S. citizenship. That has always been a given among the Republican lawmakers in charge.
The meat of the conflict has been over how to bring pressure on Georgia businesses to stop hiring illegal immigration. Agricultural concerns have all but said that crops won’t be able to make it out of the field without that cheap and plentiful labor force.
HB 87 originally contained penalties for businesses that don’t enroll in the federal E-Verify program, which ascertains whether a potential hire is a legal U.S. resident. A Senate version originally required businesses to use E-Verify, but included no penalties.
But when the Senate Judiciary Committee made its changes to HB 87 this week, my AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon caught this:
The committee added a provision that says employers would not be eligible for certain state income tax breaks unless they use a federal work authorization program called E-Verify.
A business – or a farm — wouldn’t be forced to close if it chooses not to screen its workers, but it would take a tax hit. An incentive to comply, rather than a directive.
Another hint came from Gov. Nathan Deal who, in a quick interview this week with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM), addressed federal programs to bring in foreign workers. Said Deal:
”I’ve always maintained that the state of Georgia, like many states, could use a very good guest worker program.
Unfortunately, that has not been forthcoming from Congress, and it is something that only Congress can initiate. States don’t have the authority to do that, because we don’t control the ultimate issue of [the] right to enter this country.
“So I will be one of those who will continue to urge those at the federal level to pass a meaningful guest worker program that would help the concerns of our agriculture community in the state of Georgia.”
O’Hayer asked if Deal thought the H-2 visa program now in place works. Replied the governor:
“The H-2B is a quota system, and the quota is rapidly consumed. The H-2A program has become very difficult and cumbersome, and for small producers is not really an effective program for them, because of all the complications and requirements of the program…”
One could interpret the governor’s remarks as saying that current federal worker programs can’t supply the labor needed by Georgia farmers if the state adopts a hard-fisted approach.
O’Hayer also interviewed illegal immigration activist D.A. King, who said this:
”The concept that the H-2A visa is somehow inconvenient for the farmers in south Georgia really means it’s too expensive to hire legal labor in Georgia….I am astounded at the governor’s remarks. We have plenty of guest workers in this country.”
On a related note, immigration lawyer Charles Kuck, who calls himself the “token Republican” on the governing board of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, has been reading through illegal immigration legislation now lodged in the House.
Kuck says he’s found a new provision that he says would permit those convicted of harboring or transporting illegal aliens to be convicted on hearsay evidence. Check it out here.
You know that, as Wednesday ended, House Speaker David Ralston called on the Senate to resolve its leadership crisis, which he said was jeopardizing crucial work in the state Capitol.
What was missing was the response from the other side of the building. Through a spokeswoman, Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams and Majority Leader Chip Rogers – to whom Ralston apparently referred when calling for an end to the “little experiment” — declined to comment.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the beneficiary of the speaker’s remarks, said this:
“The Speaker’s sentiment is certainly felt by many under the Gold Dome and across the state. The only issue that is truly important is the people’s business and anything that gets in the way of that is an unfortunate distraction.”
When the Legislature returns, look for the nuclear disaster in Japan to become a topic. From the Associated Press:
The struggle to prevent a full meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan comes at a bad time for the subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Southern Co., which has been on the verge of securing permission to build two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to make a final decision on the project later this year.
But the accident prompted questions about nuclear safety and financial risks from state officials — including those who have been firm supporters of expanding nuclear power.
“With the events that happened in Japan, it seems like the risk of (cost) overruns has increased,” Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols told the company during a meeting.
State lawmakers have asked a Southern Co. executive to testify before the House Energy Committee about the safety of its two nuclear plants in Georgia. The hearing, originally set for Thursday, was delayed until April 13. Rep. Don Parsons, the committee chair, said he doesn’t have specific safety concerns but expected his colleagues will want to ask about plant security plans and preparedness for natural disasters.
“It just has to do with what’s going on in Japan,” Parsons said. “It either has raised or might raise questions from people in Georgia.”
On the same topic, AJC’s Politifact today looks at U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s statement that nuclear power mishaps have yet to claim a single life.
The University of Georgia will honor two reporters who were held captive in North Korea for 140 days in 2009. From the Associated Press:
Laura Ling and Euna Lee will receive the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage on April 20 in Athens. The medal is named for Ralph McGill, the editor and publisher of the Atlanta Constitution who challenged racial segregation in the 1950s and ’60s.
The duo traveled to China for Current TV to report on the trafficking of North Korean women. They were detained by North Korean officials along a border with China before being granted a special pardon after former President Bill Clinton intervened on their behalf.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider