The bill is designed to curb Georgia’s growing illegal immigration problem, but Jack Murphy has decided the original version may have been too punitive.
The District 27 state senator from Cumming has eased some of the proposed requirements and penalties outlined in Senate Bill 40.
“The intent of the bill is not to punish people," Murphy said. "We want to get them on board that this is now the law of Georgia and you need to comply with it.
“We’re not trying to be punitive. We are trying to get people to follow the law. That’s why we went ahead and lightened it up a little bit.”
The bill requires private and public employers to use the E-Verify program for all new hires. However, the penalties are being removed for private firms that don’t comply.
Originally, the fine on a second violation would have been up to $10,000. For a third offense, the bill called for the business license to be revoked for up to two years.
But when it was discussed during a Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday, Murphy asked to remove the penalties.
There was no vote on the bill, which gives Murphy more time to tweak it.
“This bill is still a work in progress,” he said. “It will change some more. We’re working on changes right now.”
In another adjustment, Murphy said businesses with four or fewer employees would be exempt from the E-Verify requirement.
“We just didn’t want to put a burden on them," he said. "Mom-and-pop businesses could be somebody that’s just a husband and wife and two employees ... they probably know who their employees are.
“They don’t really fit into the category of having to force them to use a system like we’re talking about.”
Murphy's also considering a revision that would somehow work with the agriculture community, which he said “has really had some heartburn on this ... they don’t want any legislation on verification.”
Agricultural businesses won’t likely be exempt from the bill, but there could be a compromise.
The bill addresses individual immigrants, calling for them to be arrested if they could not provide proof of legal residency. However, individuals checked already must be in violation of the law, whether in a traffic stop or another offense.
It also outlines proposed penalties for public sector contractors and subcontractors who choose not to use the E-Verify system.
“There’s some of them who are still not using this, so this is to say we’re going to put some penalties in here for you, and that could be what happens to the private sector,” Murphy said. “But right now, we just want to get everybody on board.”
The lawmaker said he will be talking to more people to iron out any remaining kinks. With the session about half over, however, he’s going to have to move quickly.
“We’ve got to work on it hard to get something out of committee and to get it to the floor really soon,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have something ready to go and have another hearing on it the first of the week.”