2006-03-30 / Opinions

House of Representatives approves legislation to get tough on immigrants

By MICKEY CHANNELL State Representative

On Thursday, the state House of Representatives voted 123-51 to adopt legislation that attempts to stem the tide of illegal immigrants into Georgia.

As amended by the House, this legislation would require people to prove their legal status prior to receiving government benefits like Medicaid, bar businesses from employing undocumented immigrants for government-funded projects and prohibit companies that employ foreign nationals from taking a state tax deduction on the wages afforded to these workers.

The legislation also absorbed another House proposal that would require illegal residents to pay a 5 percent transfer fee on money wired outside the U.S.

I supported this legislation because it is an important first step toward addressing a serious problem in Georgia. Critics of the proposal say that immigration reform is a federal issue, but we should do as much as we can at the state level to assure our laws are followed.

The bill now goes back to the Senate, which will consider the House's changes to the proposal.

Also this week, the House overwhelmingly approved a proposal that would allow Georgia high schools to offer classes on the Bible. This legislation would let school systems form elective high school courses on the cultural and historical literature of the Old and New Testaments.

I supported this bill because the Bible is the basis for much of our history, literature, music and art. It is woven into the very fabric of so many things that are taught in Georgia schools.

While there is concern over some of the specific language in this bill - including mandates and timelines - I believe that overall it is a good first step toward broadening our students' educational horizons and preparing them for college and life.

House members balked at legislation that would have extended the waiting period for divorcing couples with children. A motion was passed to send the proposal back to Rules Committee, a move that will likely kill the measure for this session. By the time it reached the House floor, it had been gutted beyond recognition, but the original Senate proposal extended waiting periods for no-fault divorces from 30 to 120 days for childless couples and to 180 days for parents of children under 18.

There is more good news on the Medicaid estate seizure issue. The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed a substitute bill that would stop the state from seizing the homes of existing nursing home patients. Under the Senate committee substitute, the federally mandated estate recovery guidelines would apply to those who go on Medicaid after the law is passed.

This measure would also require written notice to Medicaid applicants of estate recovery policies. Consumer advocacy groups applauded the measure because many have been admitted to nursing homes without being told their homes were subject to confiscation.

Just last week, the House passed a Medicaid bill with an amendment I supported that raised the value of homes exempted from less than $25,000 as established by the Department of Community Health, to as much as $100,000.

The House also passed legislation that authorizes nuclear security personnel to carry firearms while on the job at nuclear power sites. Security officers could also detain and use reasonable force against persons believed to present a danger at a nuclear power site, under the bill. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation would also be required to respond quickly to inquiries from nuclear facilities requesting someone's criminal history.

Legislation that would create a statewide central registry for traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries was also approved by the House. Furthermore, the bill changes certain definitions and requires certain information relating to brain or spinal cord injured persons to be reported to the Brian and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission.

Lawmakers were also honored to welcome Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf to the Capitol. Leader of the Desert Storm operation in the Gulf War of the 1990s, he urged House members to continue supporting the soldiers in currently fighting in Iraq.

House members adopted a resolution I introduced to honor and congratulate the White Plains Baptist Church on its upcoming 200th birthday. The church was started in 1806 with only 23 members, and has survived and grown with the times. Congratulations to all church members on this historical milestone.

Rep. Mickey Channell represents the 116th District (Greene, Oglethorpe, Putnam and Wilkes Counties) in the Georgia House of Representatives. Contact him at 608 Coverdell Office Building, Atlanta, Ga. 30334; by phone at 404-6560298 or by e-mail at mickey.channell@house.ga.gov.

Return to top