AUSTIN, Tex. (KBTX) - A local state senator wants to require state contractors to use the federal "E-Verify" system to make sure their workers have legal status.
Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) represents most of the region in Austin. He filed Senate Bill 23 Monday.
Former Governor Rick Perry had issued an executive order to require state contractors to use E-Verify. If it passes and is signed into law, Schwertner's bill would further cement that rule.
According to the state's Legislative Budget Board, there are more than 30,000 active government contracts between Texas and private businesses. Those contracts have a value of $91 billion.
"If we ever hope to solve our nation's illegal immigration problem, we must first address the jobs and benefits that entice immigrants to enter our country illegally in the first place," Schwertner said in a statement. "I'm grateful to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick for naming SB 23 as one of his top legislative priorities, and the Lt. Governor and I both strongly believe that SB 23 represents an important step in securing our border and stopping illegal immigration in Texas."
Patrick also issued a statement regarding the bill.
"Expanding the use of E-Verify has long been a top priority for me and I applaud Sen. Schwertner for filing Senate Bill 23, which will require state contractors to use an E-Verify system when hiring to assure every new employee is legally entitled to work in this country," Patrick said. "SB 23 will codify and strengthen current E-Verify efforts to help insure compliance and set an example for businesses across the state."
The path laid out is similar to one from the 2015 legislative session. Governor Perry had issued an executive order requiring E-Verify to be used in hiring employees at public colleges or state agencies. Schwertner filed a bill largely mirroring Perry's order, and it passed and became law in September 2015.
SB 23 -- which Schwertner notes also has protections for businesses acting in good faith to comply with the would-be law -- has gotten 14 senators to sign on as joint authors, including the other state senator representing the Brazos Valley, Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham).