In an effort to revive the legislation requiring the use of E-Verify for Tennessee employers with six or more employees, Rep. Bruce Griffey filed the necessary paperwork Thursday to recall the bill in accordance with a House rule.
Rule 53 of the House of Representatives Permanent Rules of Order for the 112th General Assembly allows for a process to recall a bill from committee. If the effort is successful, the bill will be scheduled directly to the House floor for a vote, bypassing the committee process that killed the bill.
Griffey’s HB 0801 was killed in the House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee on March 10. Courtesy of Griffey’s request for a roll call vote, rather than the usual voice vote, the 0 Ayes, 6 No and 1 Present and not voting were recorded.
Republican Representatives Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon), Rush Bricken (R-Tullahoma), Kirk Haston (R-Lobelville) and Kevin Vaughn (R-Collierville) voted no along with Democrat Representatives Karen Camper (D-Memphis) and Jason Powell (D-Nashville). Republican Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) was recorded as present and not voting, The Tennessee Star reported.
The Subcommittee Chairman, Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro) and Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) were absent.
National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Tennessee opposed the legislation, citing increased costs to business owners and a reduction in the defense claims for employers who employed illegals.
NFIB’s talking points, issued in an email to the subcommittee members less than two days before the vote, were restated by the committee members who made comments during the meeting.
The threshold for which Tennessee employers must use the federal government’s free e-verification system, E-Verify, to confirm the work authorization status of their employees is currently established in state law at 50 employees.
Yet, data shows that there are a significant number of employees at small businesses below the 50-employee threshold and that illegal immigration is growing in Tennessee.
Small business profiles issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy shows that in four of the last five years, the largest increases in employees were the small businesses with less than 50, The Star reported.
In fact, SBA reports that in 2017 there were nearly 82,000 small businesses in Tennessee in a smaller category of one to 19 employees that have hundreds of thousands employees – all of whom are excluded from the E-Verify requirement.
In 2019, Pew Research released estimates of unauthorized immigrant population in the 182 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) of the U.S., comparing the years 2007 to 2016.
Pew defines unauthorized immigrants as those who either crossed the border illegally or overstayed their visas.
The estimates were derived from a sample of census data, so there is a margin of error. But the information is revealing, in that all four of Tennessee’s MSAs have shown not only an increase in the number of unauthorized immigrants, but jumps in the ranking of the unauthorized immigrant population.
Chattanooga – Estimate 2007 – <5,000; estimate 2016 – 10,000; margin of error – +/- 5,000; rank 2007 – 149; rank 2016 – 115
Knoxville – Estimate 2007 – 10,000; estimate 2016 – 15,000; margin of error – +/- 5,000; rank 2007 – 120; rank 2016 – 88
Memphis – Estimate 2007 – 25,000; estimate 2016 – 30,000 margin of error – +/- 5,000; rank 2007 – 63; rank 2016 – 51
Nashville – Estimate 2007 – 55,000; estimate 2016 – 60,000; margin of error – +/- 10,000; rank 2007 – 33; rank 2016 – 30
The legislation sponsored by Griffey and Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon), would put tighter controls on a segment of Tennessee businesses that employ a large number of people, by lowering the threshold for the use of E-Verify to companies with six employees, down from 50.
According to House Rule 53, after a bill has been with a committee for seven days, the recall process can be initiated with a request filed with the House Clerk, which is what Griffey initiated Thursday.
The full body of the House would then vote on whether the bill can be withdrawn from the committee to which it was previously assigned. To be successful, two-thirds or 66 members of the House, must approve of the action.
There are currently 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats in the House, whose contact information can be found here.
The Rule 53 motion for HB 0801 will be taken up during the House floor session on Monday, March 22, beginning at 5 p.m.
With a two-thirds vote by House members approving of the recall process for HB 0801, according to House rules, the bill will go to the top of the calendar of the Calendar & Rules Committee on the next day it meets, which be Thursday, March 25.
The Calendar & Rules Committee will then schedule the legislation, HB 0801, for a vote during a House floor session.
Through Rule 53, Griffey is forcing an up or down vote on the matter, even if the first vote is only procedural. It’s a move likely to be unpopular with some House members and leadership, who often rely on the committee process to kill legislation.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.