Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed former conservative state Rep. Joe Carr in the studio.
During the second hour, Carr explained his recent op-ed on why he did not endorse Bill Hagerty and instead endorsed Manny Sethi. He also discussed the e-verify law that had been implemented in the state of Tennessee during his time in the General Assembly and how that too was opposed by Hagerty.
Leahy: In the studio with me is our good friend former state representative Joe Carr. Good morning Joe.
Carr: Yeehaw. Good morning Michael.
Leahy: So on Monday you wrote an op-ed. A commentary. You have endorsed Manny Sethi. I want to read an element of that. A paragraph from that and then ask you a question.
Carr: Sure. Sounds good.
Leahy: This is what you wrote. “Early on you write, I was leaning towards Hagerty and indeed I might have endorsed him. However, there were some things that I could not reconcile with who Bill Hagerty said he was. For instance he was so devoted to Donald Trump then why was devout never-Trumper Bill Haslam an integral part of his campaign if Bill Hagerty such a strong conservative?
Why was Senator Alexander with a 15 percent conservative school raising money for him? If Bill Hagerty was not part of the political establishment why did Mitch McConnell endorse him? If Bill Hagerty and Mitt Romney were not such close friends why did Mitt Romney say in a Wall Street Journal article that he would ‘love it’ if Bill Hagerty would run? If Bill Hagerty has always been a loyal republican then why did he donate $1,000. to Al Gore’s presidential campaign?
Lastly and very importantly, why did Bill Hagerty as Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development oppose every single one of my illegal immigration bills when I was in the Tennessee General Assembly? Most especially the nation’s first state either if the law.”
That’s what you wrote Joe Carr.
Carr: Yes. That’s correct.
Leahy: Now tell me about this last one. I’m vaguely familiar with this issue. But you say that Bill Hagerty as Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development opposed every single one of your illegal immigration bills. Can you elaborate on that?
Carr: Absolutely. So let’s focus specifically on the e-verify bill because that was the bill that drew the most contention.
Leahy: Let’s just stop for a minute.
Leahy: The e-verify bill is currently is it currently the law in Tennessee?
Carr: It is.
Leahy: What was the name of the law and what was the name of the bill?
Carr: I always referred to it as the e-verify bill. I believe it was House Bill 1378 and it was passed in 2012. I can get the exact nomenclature for the bill. I’ve slept since then by the way. (Laughter)
Leahy: What Joe were the elements of that e-verify law?
Carr: The essential element of that particular bill is that it required employers with 50 or more employees to verify the legal status of somebody applying for work, or a job, or an occupation at that particular company. To run their social security number and name through the Department of Homeland Security to make sure that the name and the social security number matched.
Carr: It was a simple running through the federal governments…
Leahy: It applied to Tennessee state employers.
Carr: Of 50 or more employers.
Leahy: OK. And that law was there at that time a federal law similar to this?
Leahy: There was not.
Carr: No. And there still isn’t any federal e-verify law. At the time Georgia and Tennessee were the only two states that had a particular law like this or bill working through their respective legislators. We beat Georgia in passing our law by two weeks if I understand that correctly. If we weren’t the first we were certainly one of the first states to pass a state e-verify law.
Leahy: Has that law been implemented here in Tennessee?
Carr: That is one of the great things about this law. Every other state e-verify or similar law that’s been passed by the states has always relied on the local law enforcement officials to enforce the law. And what we found very early on is that we were going to get some objection from local district attorneys and law enforcement that they then had the funding necessary to do that. As a matter of fact, they were going to say, what do you want us to do?
Do you want us to run around chasing rapists, murders, and thieves? Or do you want us enforcing your e-verify law? So we said, you know what? We’re not going to ask you to do this. We are going to put this in the hands of the Department of Labor which is part of the administration. And we were the only state in the country to do it this way. So the Department of Labor is required by statute to investigate any company through an audit if they recognize a discrepancy in wage, labor practices, or child labor practices.
So any time that a company undertook an audit they were required to also undertake an audit of the e-verify practices of that particular company. And as a result based on our statistical data and based on the number of audits they did on an annualized basis we figured they would do in excess of a 1000 audits every year.
Leahy: When people talk about a company the term audit is usually a financial audit.
Leahy: Where you end up with a financial report. Public companies are required to have these done.
Carr: That’s correct.
Leahy: Private companies do them but they can be prepared by management and follow the principles but at a lower level. When you say audit, are you talking about the typical financial audit?
Carr: We’re not talking about financials. We are talking about auditing their employee records.
Leahy: Let me see if I can understand that right now. Right now because of your law if you are an employer in Tennessee and you have 51 employees…
Carr: They’ve lowered the range now since then. It’s been amended.
Leahy: What is it now?
Carr: I think its five or more.
Leahy: If you are hiring somebody as an employee you are currently required by state law to do an e-verify social security check.
Carr: Yes. You verify that the name and the social security number are a match. So it comes back as a match or no match.
Leahy: And you go to a database at the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a federal database. And if it’s not a match what do you do?
Carr: It comes back as a no match.
Leahy: And then what does the employer do?
Carr: You have to get it to match up before you legally hire them.
Leahy: If it doesn’t match up and you hire them what happens?
Carr: You are supposed to retain these records. You can then not retain their employee status. Remember when you fill out this I-9 form you are technically already an employee. So you have three days to perform this match between the social security number and the name.
Leahy: What is the compliance on this for employers? In other words, right now would you say that because of this law and the subsequent laws that how many employers are actually going through the process of doing the match? Identifying, oh this person doesn’t match, and then therefore not hiring this person?
Carr: In the beginning, we don’t know because Governor Haslam even though we provided the funds in the General Assembly, Governor Haslam didn’t make this a priority to enforce. Governor Haslam along with EC Commissioner Bill Hagerty were opposed to the bill. There were a number of organizations opposed to it. The governor was opposed to it. Bill Hagerty was opposed to it. The Chamber of Commerce was opposed to it.
Leahy: Our good friends at the Chamber of Commerce.
Carr: There were a lot of organization lobbyists that were vehemently opposed to this bill. So when it passed over their objections basically it became an enforcement issue. So in the beginning, we don’t know. As a matter of fact, when I left the General Assembly in 2014, there was a gentleman who was the commissioner of Department Labor.
Leahy: The labor guy?
Carr: Our Department of Labor under Bill Haslam.
Leahy: And that is the guy who would determine if a company in Tennessee was subject to a labor audit? Is that right? Who would determine that?
Carr: The labor audit would be determined by the inaction of the company. Because they didn’t follow the regulation law.
Leahy: How would they know if they didn’t get followed?
Carr: There are various reporting methods.
Leahy: You say Bill Hagerty opposed this law?
Leahy: Did he oppose it on the record or in direct conversation with you?
Carr: He sent his staff to me specifically Alice Rolli specifically came to my office on numerous occasions.
Leahy: Alice Rolli, didn’t she work for Senator Alexander?
Carr: She was on his campaign staff while she was the ECD for Bill Hagerty.
Leahy: So verbally he told you. Was he on the record? Any public statement opposing this?
Carr: Not to my knowledge.
Leahy: Alright. I think you’ve clarified that and been helpful to my understanding of that complicated issue Joe.
Carr: Not so complicated. But thank you.
Listen to the second hour here:
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