A bill that was killed last week in the House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee would have reverted to the threshold required for E-Verify in legislation signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam in 2011 and remained in effect until 2016.
Currently, employers are required under state law to use the E-Verify program to confirm work authorization status of their employees, but only if they have 50 or more employees.
During the current legislative session, Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) and Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) sought to set the threshold at 6 employees through HB 0801 and SB 0902, respectively.
Although the bill was killed last week at its first stop in the House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee at the hands of five Republicans, The Tennessee Star reported, the proposal would have gone back to a previously-set threshold.
The 107th Tennessee General Assembly’s HB 1378 and SB 1669 was signed into law in June 2011 as Public Chapter 436.
Allowing a minimum of six months for implementation by Tennessee employers, the law called for a phase-in relative to the threshold of the number of employees for which E-Verify was required.
For governmental entities and private employers with employees of 500 or more, the E-Verify requirement went into effect on January 1, 2012.
The E-Verify requirement went into effect for private employers with employees of 200 to 499 on July 1, 2012.
Employers having employees numbering 6 to 199 had more than a year to comply, with the requirement going into effect for those small businesses on January 1, 2013.
That is until Haslam signed Public Chapter 828 into law in April 2016, which raised the threshold for the E-Verify requirement to employers with 50 or more employees that were hired after January 1, 2017.
There were no co-sponsors to Griffey’s and Stevens’ HB 0801 or SB 0902.
However, the 2011 legislation had more than 60 bi-partisan co-sponsors in the House. Ten of the Republican co-sponsors and three of the Democrat co-sponsors from 2011 are current members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
The 2011 co-sponsors who are still members of the House include Representatives Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), Curtis Halford (R-Dyer), Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown), Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro), John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna), Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) as well as Larry Miller (D-Memphis), Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar) and Joe Towns (D-Memphis).
Two of the current members – Powers and Faison – both sit on the House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee that killed Griffey’s bill, although both were absent during that meeting.
In the Senate, the only remaining member who sponsored the 2011 legislation is Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield).
However, Stevens, sponsor of the current legislation, and Roberts were two of the three Senate sponsors of the 2016 legislation that increased the threshold to 50.
In the House, five current representatives sponsored the 2016 bill that increased the employee threshold from 6 to 50, including Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville), Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro), Ron Travis (R-Dayton), Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) and now-Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).
As The Star reported, there are more than 82,000 small businesses in Tennessee that have between 1 and 19 employees numbering in the hundreds of thousands that have been exempted from the E-Verify requirement.
– – –
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.