Senate Committee Passes Gebhard, Robinson Bill to Improve Fairness in Construction Industry

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 Labor and Industry 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.

Despite the Public Works Employment Verification Act already requiring all public construction contractors and their subcontractors to use the federal E-Verify system to verify the legal employment eligibility of new hires, enforcement is weak.

“Hiring unauthorized workers and paying them lower wages gives construction companies an unfair advantage as those reduced operating costs can translate to lower bids, costing companies that follow the law 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 would streamline enforcement and reduce the need for time-consuming audits by requiring construction contractors to be enrolled in E-Verify upfront and make 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.”

The bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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

                        Elizabeth Weitzel (Sen. Robinson’s office), 717-787-5839

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