The Kansas Senate late Tuesday added a provision to the proposed state budget requiring state agencies and contractors to verify the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
Without any opposition, the Senate agreed to require state agencies and major contractors to use E-Verify, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security website that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
Democratic state Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City tacked the E-Verify amendment onto the state budget during Tuesday’s budget debate.
It would apply to state contractors that do at least $50,000 worth of business with the state as well as state agencies.
The Senate advanced the budget to final approval on Wednesday. It is assured of going to a conference committee where differences with the House version of the state budget will need to be hashed out.
“I’ve introduced these bills time and time again, they always just sit and collect dust and nobody wants to look at them,” Holland said.
Holland said the timing was right since unemployment is higher than usual and he wanted to ensure that Kansans are getting paid with tax dollars.
“I think it’s important that we show our citizens that we basically have folks who are eligible to work in the United States,” Holland said.
Holland emphasized that his proposal doesn’t affect private businesses that don’t do at least $50,000 in business with the state.
Holland said his proposal makes a statement to Kansans that their tax dollars are going to employees who are legally eligible to work in the country.
“I do think it is a program we need,” he said. “We want to be sure tax dollars are flowing to our citizens performing our work.”
Holland said he and his wife own a business that contracts with the federal government, which started requiring E-Verify under President Barack Obama’s administration.
“I think it’s important that we institute some of these disciplines at the state level.”
There are roughly two dozen states that requirie E-Verify in varying degrees, including eight that require it for most or all employers and another seven that require it of public employers and contractors.
E-Verify had been a hot topic in the Legislature five years ago when Kris Kobach was secretary of state.
He had tried unsuccessfully – a couple of times – to get the Legislature to pass a law much broader in scope than the one attached to the budget on Tuesday.
At one point, Kobach had wanted to apply E-Verify to all contractors doing $5,000 worth of business with the state as well as private employers with four or more employees.
Holland received vocal support from conservative Republican Sens. Caryn Tyson of Parker and Larry Alley of Winfield.
“I think it is past time that the state start stepping up and trying…to verify that we have legal people working in our country,” Tyson said.
“It’s time we step up as a state and say, ‘Enough, we will not take it any more.'”