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Posted: March 13, 2011 12:30 a.m.

House takes on immigration, HOPE

The pace really picked up in the House last week. H.B. 87 is a major anti-illegal immigration bill.

Many folks have expressed concern over the large presence of illegals in the state (with more than 400,000, we have the sixth largest such population in the country).

The cost of the education, healthcare and law enforcement necessary to cope with this group is estimated at $2.4 billion per year.

This number is made doubly noticeable when considering the painful cuts we are making to accommodate a more than $1 billion shortfall for the next fiscal year. Since the federal government has the most lenient immigration laws in the world, this leaves the problem to the states. The bill seeks to deal with these problems in three areas.

First, it will give private citizens grounds to bring civil action against public officials and agencies for several concerns: Non-compliance with existing law requiring use of the federal E-Verify system for new government employees; not using E-Verify to check that applicants for certain public benefits are not illegal aliens; and for non-compliance with laws prohibiting sanctuary cities/counties (where a local government ignores or refuses to enforce immigration law).

The bill would also authorize the state attorney general to bring civil action in these areas.

The second part of the bill creates a requirement that private businesses with more than five employees use E-Verify for new hires. Implementation of this provision would be phased in over 18 months.

The last part focuses on new law enforcement tools and criminal sanctions. Law enforcement will be authorized and encouraged to work in conjunction with federal authorities on immigration issues. Law officers will be authorized to investigate the immigration status of those who cannot produce proper ID, during a lawful stop for other suspected criminal activity.

Finally, the bill would make it a criminal act to knowingly and intentionally transport or harbor illegal aliens, or to induce them to enter this state.

The bill passed, with my support, by a nearly party line 113 to 56.

H.B. 326 contains Governor Deal’s proposals for maintaining the Georgia Lottery system and the HOPE Scholarship (Pre-K will be addressed in other legislation). The central element of his proposal is to tie scholarship awards to actual lottery income, with annual adjustments.

We will start at 90 percent of standard public tuition rates this fall.

This allows us to continue the program as a merit-based scholarship (no means test) that would still require a 3.0 GPA for students to qualify. Second, it takes the colleges and universities out of the driver’s seat. We can’t let them set any price they like and expect HOPE to meet it. Many institutions had raised tuition at two to three times the rate of inflation in the last decade.

This will allow us to maintain merit-based HOPE for 90 percent of students.

For the top 10 percent of students, HOPE will still provide full tuition.

The bill passed 152 to 22. I voted in favor.

 

Reach Rep. Doug Holt (R-Social Circle) at doug@dougholt.org, or at (404) 656-0152.

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