Senate Committees Pass Gebhard Bills to Increase Penalties for Hiring Unauthorized Workers and to Repurpose the Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion at Fort Indiantown Gap

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sens. Chris Gebhard (R-48) and Devlin Robinson (R-37) to improve enforcement of the construction industry’s use of the federal E-Verify system was voted out of the Senate Appropriations Committee today.

The E-Verify system, which is administered by the United States Department of Homeland Security, determines the eligibility of employees – both U.S. and foreign citizens – to work in America. The Public Works Employment Verification Act already requires all public construction contractors, and their subcontractors, to use the federal E-Verify system to verify the legal employment eligibility of new hires. However, despite these requirements, the practice of hiring unauthorized workers continues because the enforcement mechanisms are feeble.

“Hiring unauthorized workers and paying them lower wages has given those construction companies an unfair advantage resulting in lower bids. Companies that are doing the right thing and following the law are losing business as a result,” Gebhard said. “Our bill is about more effectively penalizing the bad actors to level the playing field.”

To improve compliance, Senate Bill 1147 would make the financial penalties more meaningful. Rather than the current penalty of $250 to $1,000, violators would face a fine of $2,500 to $25,000. Senate Bill 1147 streamlines enforcement and reduces the need for time-consuming audits by requiring construction contractors to be enrolled in E-Verify upfront and makes it a punishable offense if they are not.

“Companies with strong business ethics should have every opportunity to participate in public construction jobs,” Robinson said. “Enforcing the E-Verify system ensures contractor employees are eligible and authorized to work in the United States, resulting in better business practices. Senate Bill 1147 will create a fairer construction industry, and I am proud to sponsor it with Sen. Gebhard.”

Another bill Gebhard sponsored was passed unanimously by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee today. Senate Bill 1141 would give the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) the authority to determine the best use of the former Lieutenant Governor’s Mansion and property at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County. The DMVA would be required to provide equivalent facility space to support Pennsylvania service members, veterans and their families, and Gold Star survivor families, which are families who have lost a loved one who was serving in the armed forces.

Both bills now move to the full Senate for consideration.

CONTACT:    Matthew Urban (Sen. Gebhard’s office), 717-787-5708

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