Maine State Legislature 2017: Bills of interest

MeBIC has been following two recent bills closely.

LD 1492, An Act to Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers to Strengthen the Workforce. Sponsor: Sen. Roger Katz

MeBIC’s position:   Support

This bill addresses Maine’s shrinking labor supply by recognizing immigrants as a critical part of the solution. It would provide funding to expand the availability of adult English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, to offer combined ESL and job training at worksites in public/private partnerships, to expand the New Mainers Resource Center model operating in Portland into the Lewiston-Auburn area, to provide funds for planning grants for communities experiencing growing influxes of immigrants to assess services needed to help reduce brain waste and accelerate immigrant integration, and to create a Cabinet-level Office of New Mainers with a broad advisory board to improve planning and coordination of initiatives to attract, retain and integrate immigrants in Maine.

Public hearing was held on May 10, 2017, where the bill received broad support (and no opposition) from Maine’s business community, including several MeBIC members, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., the Maine Healthcare Association, Barber Foods, Pro Search, Inc., Smith’s Farms, as well as from adult education providers, the Lewiston City Council, individual employers, and Maine residents. The Maine Innkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association also submitted testimony supported key portions of the bill.

The bill now heads to work session.


LD 1307, An Act To Ensure Fair Employment Opportunity for Maine Citizens and Legal Residents

MeBIC’s position:   Oppose

This bill, as originally proposed, would have mandated that all Maine employers use the Federal E-Verify computer system in addition to the required use of the USCIS form I-9 to verify that new hires are authorized to work in the U.S. However, it would have required that employers use E-Verify in a discriminatory way that is illegal under Federal law.

At the work session on May 4, 2017, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Phyllis Ginzler, introduced substitute language that would require all public employers in Maine, and any businesses, and their subcontractors, who contract to do work in Maine for them, to use E-Verify for all new hires. Following amendment review, this bill will head to the House floor for a vote.

MeBIC opposes this bill because:

  1. This is a solution in search of a problem. There is no allegation or evidence that Maine employers are not complying with the federal requirement requiring new hires to prove their eligibility to work in the U.S. using the USCIS I-9 form.
  2. E-Verify is costly for businesses. Enrollment in E-Verify is free, but it is costly to use. In addition to going through the usual I-9 process, employers must accurately input every new hire’s name, email address, date of birth, Social Security number, and presented document type and number into the E-Verify web-interface.   In many cases employers must also compare the photo on the new hire’s ID document to the photo, which may be as much as 10 years out of date, that USCIS has in its database.   Maine employers who have signed up for E-Verify have found it significantly increases the man-hours involved in the HR process, and that is if all goes well.   If the system reports a “tentative nonconfirmation” (TNC) of work authorization, the employer must first ensure it has not made a data entry error.  If data entry was not the issue, the employer must notify the employee of the TNC.  The employee must then go to the nearest Social Security or Department of Homeland Security office (for employees throughout Maine, the only DHS office is in Portland) to try to clear up the error.   Sometime repeated trips are needed before the error is resolved, resulting in lost hours of work and productivity.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that nearly half of all workers with TNC’s lost a partial or full day of work, and 14% lost more than two days of work correcting the TNC.  The CBO estimated in 2013 that mandated use of E-Verify nationwide would cost over $600 million in three years, just for private sector employers.   Bloomberg found that small business owners who used E-Verify in 2010 spent $81 million on it.
  3. E-Verify has too many flaws for its use to be mandated by Maine law.   When E-Verify was originally created, Congress wanted to mandate it for all U.S. employers.   After the Social Security Administration, upon whose data E-Verify relies, testified in Congress about errors in its database, E-Verify was launched instead as a pilot project.   Problems surfaced as E-Verify rolled out, including U.S. citizens and other legal workers being ruled unauthorized to work. Over time, E-Verify errors have decreased, but have not been eliminated.   As a result, as recently as Congress’s 2015-2016 session, bills to make E-Verify mandatory nationally failed.

Congress has wisely kept enrollment in E-Verify voluntary except for certain federal contractors.   Maine should not burden public employers and the businesses that do contract work for them by mandating  use of the costly and flawed E-Verify system.