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Pierce council revisits E-Verify requirement for contractors

Post by David Wickert on Sep. 28, 2009 at 2:17 pm | 10 Comments »
September 28, 2009 2:35 pm

The Pierce County Council will try again to pass an ordinance that would require private companies that do business with the county to ensure their employees can legally work in the United States.

The council is considering several changes to address the concerns of County Executive Pat McCarthy, who vetoed a similar proposal earlier this month.

McCarthy told the council she favors the goal of requiring private contractors to verify the legal working status of their employees. But she requested several changes that she said would make it work properly.

If the council and executive approve an ordinance, companies that contract with the county would have to enroll in and use the federal government’s E-Verify program. That program allows employers to check the identity of employees against several federal databases to ensure they are legally allowed to work in the United States.

In August the council unanimously passed an ordinance that would have required any company with a county contract worth at least $10,000 to participate in the E-Verify program. McCarthy vetoed the measure.

A new proposal considered Monday by the council’s rules committee tries to address some of McCarthy’s concerns by exempting certain contractors.

It would exempt companies that provide legal, banking and some other services. It would exempt companies that are the sole provider of products like software or chemicals. And it would exempt public utilities and government agencies.

But the council and executive are still at odds over the minimum contract size that would trigger E-Verify enrollment. The council’s latest proposal would raise the threshold from $10,000 to $25,000.

But county purchasing agent Ken Matthews told the rules committee Monday the $25,000 threshold is “far too low.” He said McCarthy wants a threshold of $250,000.

Matthews estimated the $250,000 threshold would exempt about 60 percent of county contracts from the E-Verify program requirement.

That didn’t fly with Councilman Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, who has been pushing the E-Verify ordinance.

“It really should be a zero threshold,” Muri said, though he indicated he was willing to go up to $25,000.

The rules committee postponed action on the ordinance until next Monday. Final council approval is scheduled for Oct. 6.

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