Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Did our state legislators flunk high school civics?

Three weeks ago, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that the Hazleton anti-immigrant ordinance is unconstitutional, including its provision mandating the use of the federal E-Verify program. Yesterday the Senate State Government Committee passed a bill forcing state contractors to use E-Verify, House Bill 1502.

You read that right. Read it again, if you must.

In Lozano et al. v. Hazleton, the Third Circuit ruled that local governments cannot mandate E-Verify for a group of employers if Congress has left it voluntary for those employers. Clearly, state contractors are one of those groups since the federal government has only mandated E-Verify on federal contractors and even then only in narrow circumstances.

Maybe the Senate State Government Committee doesn't like it, but the judiciary does have an equal role in our system of government. Only Senator Mike Folmer of Lebanon voted no.

The House doesn't get away either. On the same day that the Senate committee passed HB 1502, the House State Government Committee passed HB 2479, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe's bill to copy Arizona's "show me your papers please" law. HB 2479 also has a provision requiring the use of E-Verify for all employers.

You may recall that a federal court struck down the Arizona law, and while that ruling is not binding in Pennsylvania, it certainly sets a path for courts and legislatures to follow. And again, there is that pesky Third Circuit ruling in the Hazleton case.

Committee chairwoman Rep. Babette Josephs didn't want to bring HB 2479 up for a vote, but her hand was forced when Metcalfe filed a discharge petition, a procedural move that allows reps to bring a bill out of committee without the committee's approval. All of the Republicans and Democratic Reps. Mike Carroll, John Galloway (the primary sponsor of HB 1502), and Jaret Gibbons voted yes, and the bill passed the committee, 13-9.

Hovering over the E-Verify issue is a case that will be heard this session by the United States Supreme Court. The court will hear arguments in Chamber of Commerce v. Candelaria, which is a challenge to Arizona's law mandating E-Verify for all employers. By next June, we'll have some guidance from the Supreme Court on what states can and cannot do with E-Verify.

But, eh, who needs court rulings and case law and that old piece of paper, the Constitution, when there are campaign contributors and the anti-immigrant mob to satisfy?

Andy in Harrisburg

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