4/14 – CBSAtlanta – Immigration Bill Passes House, Heads To Governor’s Desk – Atlanta News Story – WGCL Atlanta

Immigration Bill Passes House, Heads To Governor’s Desk – Atlanta News Story – WGCL Atlanta.

1:04am | April 15, 2011

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Bill Contains Some Parts Similar To Arizona Law

POSTED: 10:20 pm EDT April 14, 2011
UPDATED: 12:41 am EDT April 15, 2011

Both legislative chambers have voted for illegal immigration legislation, and the bill is heading to the governor’s desk.The House approved the bill 112-59 in a late night vote on Thursday.Georgia lawmakers plunged into the frantic, final day of their legislative session on Thursday, and with the Senate voting to pass a contentious immigration proposal, it had seemed likely to pass both chambers before the midnight deadline.The General Assembly has already tackled major legislation on issues including the HOPE college scholarship, Sunday alcohol sales and the 2012 budget. A proposal to overhaul the state’s tax code fell apart in the last hours.By a vote of 37-19, the Senate passed a bill that includes parts similar to a contentious law to crack down on illegal immigration in Arizona last year. The bill authored by Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, now goes back to the House, and he said he planned to make a motion to agree to the changes.A major sticking point was whether private employers should be required to use a federal database called E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires before they can get a business license or other papers needed to operate.Groups representing businesses, agriculture, restaurant owners and others had urged lawmakers to eliminate the E-Verify mandate, saying it would be too burdensome for employers. Ramsey has said repeatedly that E-Verify is important because jobs drive illegal immigrants to Georgia.The Senate added wording Thursday that retains the E-Verify requirement for private businesses with more than 10 employees, but says any company found to have committed a “good faith violation” of the mandate would have a 30-day period to come into compliance.Democrats argued that immigration is a federal issue and that the bill would harm the state’s economy and could lead to civil rights violations.”You have crafted a bill that insists on demonizing people of brown skin and with Spanish accents,” said Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta.The bill also says agriculture is a “vital pillar” for the state’s economy, and that a federal guest worker program that allows the industry to bring in seasonal workers is “administratively cumbersome and flawed.”It includes a resolution that directs the state Department of Agriculture to study the issue and recommend actions or legislation. The study should specifically address the federal guest-worker program and provide recommendations for federal changes to the law.The Senate passed a weakened version of the bill Monday, essentially stripping out the E-Verify requirement, only to have the House put it back in with the exemption for employers with 10 or fewer workers.The bill also would allow law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of certain criminal suspects and penalize people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants, both similar to Arizona’s law.The Georgia immigration debate coincides with a federal appeals court decision Monday to uphold a stay blocking major parts of Arizona’s tough immigration law. Ramsey has said the language in his bill differs significantly from Arizona’s, and that he is confident it will stand up to any legal challenges.Also Thursday:–The House awarded final passage to a bill that extends a hefty tax break for Savannah, Ga.-based Gulfstream Aerospace. That break on the sale of aircraft parts on planes repaired or maintained in Georgia will cost the state $4.2 million in revenue next year.The state Senate tacked on an amendment providing a tax break for developers of tourist attractions.The bill squeaked by after House Speaker David Ralston took the unusual step of casting the deciding vote.– A tax break for another hometown corporate giant, Delta Air Lines, also passed. It could save the company up to $30 million over two years on taxes it would have owed on jet fuel.– Georgia lawmakers signed off on a bill that allows employees of utilities to make contributions to political campaigns. The legislation also closes an ethics loophole, that exempted lobbyists from disclosing what they spend on gifts to staff members of elected officials. The ethics watchdog group Common Cause of Georgia praised lawmakers for moving quickly to close the lobbying loophole but the group doesn’t like the provision dealing with utility contributions.– The GOP-led Legislature also delivered a rebuke to President Barack Obama’s federal health care law, handing final approval to a bill that would have Georgia enter into a proposed health care compact. The bill would pave the way for Georgia to create alliances with other states on health care.– The House gave final passage to a bill that removes distance restrictions on South Georgia hunters who use bait to attract deer and feral hog hunters Opponents labeled such hunting unsportsmanlike and unethical. But supporters say it will help thin out booming deer and hog populations.– Also heading to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature is a bill requiring that antifreeze be made bitter-tasting to deter animals from ingesting the sweet-smelling substance. It mandates that the bitter-tasting chemical denatonium benzoate be added to antifreeze sold in Georgia.– Lawmakers have signed off on a bill that creates an advisory panel to look at an overhaul of the state’s tough sentencing laws. The joint committee will make recommendations in time for lawmakers to act next year.Other key measures still to be decided:– One that would give the governor authority to appoint members to the embattled Atlanta Public School board.– A bill to allow sale of insurance across state lines. Supporters say it would help drive insurance costs down in the state by introducing competition. But opponents — many of them female legislators — said it would weaken insurance protections in the state by allowing policies that don’t have to meet tough Georgia coverage mandates.Lawmakers are expected to return to the state Capitol on Aug. 15 for a special session to deal with redrawing congressional and legislative district lines to conform to new U.S. census data.”Now I’m having so much fun doing this that I want to invite you to come back around Aug. 15 and we’ll do it all over again,” Deal joked in a short speech before the House on Thursday night.Associated Press Writer Errin Haines contributed to this report

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