In the first debate among Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in Florida, former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner used a question about illegal immigration to highlight his legislative record while taking a not-so-subtle swipe at the record of current state Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
The topic: E-Verify, a federal employment background check system.
The Legislature failed to pass immigration reform during the 2011 session despite solid Republican majorities. And the Senate -- under Haridopolos' leadership -- voted down an amendment to an immigration bill that would have fined employers who hire illegal workers. (The amendment and the attached fines were crafted so that employers would choose to use the system rather than face a penalty.)
That gave Hasner an opening during a June 30, 2011, debate hosted by the Florida Society of News Editors.
"E-Verify is a very commonsense reform that we can implement here in the state of Florida," Hasner said. "I think I share a lot of Floridians' frustration that it didn't pass and a lot of the politics that were taking place behind the scenes. ... What's most important is to look back. ... some do, and some talk. I sponsored and was the co-sponsor of the only legislation that ever passed that had E-Verify provisions in it back in 2010 when I served in the Legislature. So I know that there's a will to pass these types of commonsense measures."
For this fact-check, we're checking if Hasner is right to say he co-sponsored "the only legislation that ever passed that had E-Verify provisions."
First, some background about the program.
E-Verify is a federal database system that compares information from a person's employment paperwork to federal Department of Homeland Security and Social Security records. Employers who use the program can weed out immigrants not eligible to work in this country. Once employers hire workers, they run their names through the E-Verify database. If the records match, the new employees are eligible to work. If they don't match, the database notifies the employers, who must then give the workers eight days to provide sufficient proof of eligibility.
E-Verify grew out of a pilot program by the federal government and got its name in 2007 -- the same year that federal agencies were required to start using E-Verify. As of 2011, more than 270,000 employers use E-Verify.
E-Verify in the Legislature
During the 2010 legislative session, state Rep. Sandy Adams, an Oviedo Republican now in Congress, filed House Bill 219. The bill would have required state government contractors to participate in a program operated by the Department of Homeland Security that provides electronic verification of work authorization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The staff analysis of the bill discusses Employment Eligibility Verification (EEV) -- that program was renamed E-Verify in 2007. The text of the bill itself use the term "E-Verify," but we sent the description of the federal work authorization program cited in the bill to Bill Wright, a spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, and he said that the bill described E-Verify.
Hasner was one of about 20 co-sponsors and voted in favor. It passed the House unanimously but never received a vote in the Senate and died. Floridians for Immigration Enforcement gave kudos to Hasner for his efforts to pass HB 219.
The issue of E-Verify remained in the spotlight. During the 2010 campaign for governor, Rick Scott promised to require all Florida employers to use E-Verify. Scott issued an executive order his first day in office requiring state workers to be checked through the system, though most agencies already used the system. (The order also extended to state contractors.)
That spins us ahead to the 2011 legislative session.
On the opening day, Haridopolos stood before a crowd which was chanting "E-Verify! E-Verify!" on the Capitol steps in Tallahassee, and said, "I hear this word E-Verify," as listeners erupted in cheers. "I'm here to verify it will be a part of our Senate bill.''
The immigration bill, Senate Bill 2040 -- passed by the Senate 23-16 on May 4, 2011, three days before adjournment. It included a requirement that one-stop career center staff verify the employment eligibility of workers through E-Verify. Haridopolos voted in favor. It did not include, however, stronger E-Verify provisions that had been originally proposed and supported by Scott.
The immigration bill then died in the House without coming to a vote.
So not the bill many wanted. But a bill. With an E-Verify component.
We asked Hasner adviser Rick Wilson why Hasner claimed to be the sponsor or co-sponsor of the "only" legislation with E-Verify in it when Senate Bill 2040 also included E-Verify.
"It's not that he was the only -- that he was the first to pass something and pass it with a governor that was hostile to it and a Senate that was hostile to it," Wilson said. "In speeches it's always 'first' and not 'only.' He may have misspoken. ... We are not asserting that we are the only."
Wilson also argued that Senate Bill 2040 was passed so late in the session that "it was too late for the House to take it up."
We asked spokespersons for the House and Senate (Katie Betta, spokeswoman for GOP House Speaker Dean Cannon; Michelle DeMarco, press secretary for the Senate Democrats and Mark Hollis, press secretary for the House Democrats; and Brandi Young, legislative analyst for the Senate majority office) if they could find any other bill with E-Verify provisions that passed at least one chamber in 2010 or 2011. None could find any other bill.
There's one other noteworthy thing we found. In a December 2009 special session, Democratic Rep. Janet Long filed an amendment to a passenger rail bill that required contractors bidding on rail projects to use E-Verify. Her amendment was withdrawn.
Hasner filed two amendments of his own -- one striking the E-Verify language. The amendments were later withdrawn.
But why would Hasner -- a champion of E-Verify -- file an amendment to get rid of an E-Verify requirement?
Wilson told us that Hasner's amendment was a procedural move in response to Democrats -- that he had no intention to kill the implementation of E-Verify.
Long's amendment adding E-Verify, "was a phony amendment intended to undermine anti-labor union amendments filed by Adam," Wilson said. "The fact is while Mike Haridopolos broke his promise on E-Verify, Adam co-sponsored E-Verify legislation and has been a consistent supporter of it."
Interesting part of the record, all the same.
Hasner said Floridians shared his frustration that E-Verify didn't pass and that he "sponsored and was the co-sponsor of the only legislation that ever passed that had an E-Verify provision in it." Hasner was one of 20 co-sponsors of a bill that would have required state contractors to use E-Verify -- which passed the House but not the Senate.
But in 2011, the Senate also voted for a limited provision that had E-Verify in it. Hasner's campaign says he could have misspoken and usually says that the bill he co-sponsored was the "first" and not the "only."
We aren't ruling here on whether Hasner is a cheerleader for E-Verify; a group in favor of cracking down on illegal immigrants has praised Hasner's efforts to try to get E-Verify passed in 2010. What we are judging is Hasner's claim that his bill was the "only" one that "ever" passed that had E-Verify in it. We rate this claim False.