Will the General Assembly reverse the 2018 GDOT carve-out on E-Verify for contractor bids?

Politics, State & National

Written by D.A. King

**note this article ran in Insider Advantage.

In last year’s legislative session Republican state Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) introduced legislation that gutted the process intended to ensure that the Georgia Department of Transportation hires contractors that are using a legal workforce. In the haste and bedlam of 2018’s Sine Die, Senate Bill 445 sailed through both the House and Senate.

It is notable that SB 445 went through the Senate Transportation Committee, as Senators Brandon Beach, Butch Miller, Frank Ginn and Mike Dugan were bill signers, in that order. All are transportation committee members — with Beach as chairman.

On SB 445, Chairman Beach made it clear in his committee that “it’s a DOT bill” (professional transcription here. – two-minute archived committee video here).

Now that the cat is out of the bag on this caper- and we have a new governor — one “important issue” for the 2019 session should be to see if lawmakers will reinstate the bidding system for GDOT that all other public employers and their contractors are still supposed to follow.

We recognize many readers will view this as a dry topic – the only folks who may have a concern are those who don’t want their taxes used to pay illegal aliens on GDOT projects.

After mandates were put into place in the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act of 2006 (SB 529) to require all public employers and contractors to use E-Verify, adjustments were made in HB2 of 2009 to deal with the obvious problem that some public contractors were bidding on – and winning – contracts with bids that were based on the cost of black market labor before they swore on an affidavit that they were using E-Verify. This allowed contractors to hire a crew for a job that could not be verified as eligible to work using the E-Verify system, which can only be used for newly hired employees after receiving authorization from the feds to use the online system.

The 2009 solution to this chicanery was to change the law so that bids are not considered unless and until the E-Verify affidavit is presented.

In his quick presentation of the measure, Sen. Gooch told the committee the changes to the GDOT bid rules were being proposed to make life easier for contractors.

“Section 3… makes clear that the deadline for a bidder to supply their signed notarized e-verify affidavit is prior to contract award as opposed to the bid submission. This has caused a problem with some of the contractors that submitted their e-verify affidavits but they didn’t reach to the department either by mail or by other means of delivery in time for the bid, um, deadlines and therefore they were disqualified from bidding on the work. Now essentially requires ’em to submit those E-Verifies prior to the contracts being awarded” said Gooch (emphasis mine).

It is hard to accept that this is a constructive or plausible reason to make changes to the GDOT bidding system, as the existing law is clear that bids and E-Verify affidavits may be submitted electronically. If a contract bidder is indeed an E-Verify user, he can easily send that documentation along with his bid from his computer.

This writer asked GDOT for comment on this curious scenario.  One of the questions asked for verification that SB 445 was in fact a GDOT bill, as Chairman Beach told the committee. That question went unanswered.

This is not the first adventure in state law on E-Verify, bids, and contractors for GDOT.

CBS Atlanta 46 TV News did a series of stories on GDOT’s violations of the bidding/E-Verify law in 2010 that illustrated the lack of concern for the hard-fought mandate designed to make Georgia unwelcoming to illegal employers and illegal labor – and to safeguard taxpayer dollars. We have archived some of those reports:

* “Activist: GDOT Is Breaking State’s Immigration Law – Violation May Make It Easier For Contractors To Hire Illegal Immigrants. Here.

* “CBS Atlanta Asks If GDOT Contractor Is Hiring Illegal Workers.” CBS Atlanta 46 news video here.

* “GDOT Didn’t Know About The Illegal Immigrant Labor Law.” Here.

* “Federal Document Shows GDOT Contractor Lied On Affidavit
Company Swore To Check Employee’s Legal Status in Federal Database.” Here.

* “GDOT: Worker May Have Been Illegal. The Georgia Department of Transportation said Wednesday that one of its subcontractors may have been in the country illegally. The admission came after a CBS Atlanta investigation…” (No link)

* “GDOT Admits Mistake For Breaking Immigration Law: GDOT Commissioner Dodges Tough Questions About Hiring Illegal Worker.” Here.

IAG will follow up on this later in the legislative session, there is more.

You read it here first.

D.A. King is president of the Dustin Inman Society and proprietor of ImmigrationPoliticsGA.com. He has worked on the law featured above since 2006.

State to look into hurricane relief for Georgia

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Georgia State Assembly will convene on Tuesday Nov. 13 in a special called session.

Governor Nathan Deal called this session to address the state’s role and responsibility in aiding those affected in Southwest Georgia by Hurricane Michael.

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The agricultural sector of Georgia has lost billions due to Hurricane Michael.

Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston held a special press conference in Blue Ridge on Friday Nov. 9 to address this upcoming session.

“This is a very important session,” Ralston said of the reason for the called session. “I know that we have all been preoccupied with the elections that have been going on, but now that they are over, I think it’s important that we get around in a very concentrated way to helping Southwestern Georgia recover from the almost complete devastation resulting from Hurricane Michael.”

According to the most recent data, state agencies have reported $22 million in damages to state owned properties. These damage estimates have been reported as far north as Cobb County and as far east as Chatham County.

Ralston, who has himself been in person to visit some of the areas affected by Hurricane Michael said of the devastation, “I can tell you it will bring tears to your eyes to see all the houses that have been damaged and destroyed and the damage to our agriculture sector of our economy is just beyond belief.”

As of Oct. 31 it is estimated that $2.461 billion has been lost in the Georgia agricultural sector. This estimate includes crops such as pecans, cotton, and peanuts, as well as general loss in vegetables, poultry, dairy, and timber.

Ralston cited Seminole County, Georgia as having lost 100 percent of their pecan trees. Pecan trees take on average 10 years to fully mature for harvest upon being planted.

In the Seminole County case Ralston said that “generations of work have been set back”.

Georgia, Fannin County, Gilmer County, Dawson County, Georgia House of Representatives, Speaker of the House, Governor, Nathan Deal, David Ralston, Hurricane Michael, Special Called Session, General Assembly, Relief, Jet Fuel Tax, Delta

The timber sector is another field that will face major setbacks.

“I want to commend Governor Deal for making this a priority sooner rather than later,” Ralston said of the urgency in aiding these areas.
Governor Nathan Deal has put out a figure of $270 million in relief efforts. Ralston stressed that this would just be a beginning and by no means a final number.

“It’s going to be way more than that,” Ralston addressed the overall cost. “The total damage is going to be multiple billions, more than any state can do. The federal government and us will partner on many of these programs.”

Currently local governments have been bearing the financial burden of debris removal and clean up. Ralston feels that the money being appropriated will go partially for reimbursement to these local agencies.

The state will focus mainly on fixing infrastructure in the area and help continue the debris removal. They will also look at repairing state assets.
“I’m not expecting that it would have an effect on the mid year budget,” Ralston said speaking of the financial impact on the state. “We’re doing well as a state so we don’t have to touch the rainy day fund.”

Ralston does expect some relief money to be worked into the 2020 Budget when the regualr General Session takes place.

Also being addressed at this special called session is Georgia’s Jet Fuel Tax break. This tax exemption was signed into executive order by Governor Deal after it caused much controversy in the house and senate.

“Under the law the suspension of the jet fuel tax has to be taken up because the suspension was reinstated by executive order,” Ralston explained why this matter would be discussed at the special session, “which means that it must be reviewed at the next regular or special session.”

As for whether this tax break will continue, it remains unknown. “Anytime that we do preferential tax treatment for any entity, then I think the burden is on that entity to make the case for why it is necessary, why it’s good for the overall economy in this state.”

Ralston added, “To be candid with you, I haven’t heard that case made yet.”

***All photos courtesy of www.house.ga.gov***

 

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