By KATE BRUMBACK
A Georgia House committee on Monday took up a Senate bill aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration in the state and substituted the text of a more comprehensive House bill.
The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee was set to consider the Senate bill proposed by state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, but the version lawmakers ended up voting on completely substituted the text of a bill authored by state Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City. There was minimal discussion on the bill before voting, and the floor was not opened for public comment because the committee had already voted on that language when it passed Ramsey’s bill, said committee chairman Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna.
The bill will now go to the Rules Committee, which will decide if and when it gets a full House vote. Ramsey’s bill still has not been set for a committee hearing in the Senate.
Ramsey said he told Murphy about the substitution Friday.
“Sen. Murphy and I have the same goal here,” Ramsey said. “We’re working to address in a comprehensive manner the issues posed by illegal immigration.”
Murphy echoed Ramsey’s statements.
“We’ve always said that this is a work in progress,” Murphy said. “I’m just pleased that we are getting it moved down the road so we can get it on into a conference committee and come up with some language that both chambers can agree on.”
Murphy said the joint conference committee will be made up of three negotiators from each chamber, including him and Ramsey. The final version of the bill that will come out of that committee will not be identical to the version that passed the House committee Monday, Murphy said.
As they passed their respective chambers, each bill would require employers to use a federal database to check the immigration status of new hires and would authorize law enforcement to check the immigration status of criminal suspects who can’t produce an accepted form of identification, among other provisions.
But Ramsey’s bill is more extensive than Ramsey’s, providing stiffer penalties for identity theft and for harboring or transporting illegal immigrants. It also would allow individuals to sue officials who don’t comply with state laws on verifying the immigration status of new hires and applicants for public benefits.