Kansas Governor Vetoes E-Verify
FAIR Take | April 2021
Ever since Congress created the E-Verify program in the 1990s which allowed employers to instantly electronically check the work authorization of their prospective employees, states have adopted legislation requiring employers to use it. E-Verify is critical to ending one of the biggest magnets of illegal immigration –- the opportunity for illegal aliens to work in the United States. Most recently, both Florida and Pennsylvania enacted E-Verify requirements, although both states fell well short of mandating that every employer use it. There has also been a push in Iowa to enact E-Verify legislation. Just recently in Kansas, the legislature passed a narrow E-Verify bill with bipartisan support which has been vetoed by Governor Laura Kelly (D).
Kansas’ proposal was simply to require E-Verify for state agencies and for contractors doing more than $50,000 worth of business with the state. The legislature included the E-Verify language in the state’s budget. Similar to Pennsylvania’s E-Verify mandate for the construction industry, Kansas’ lead sponsor was a Democrat, Senator Tom Holland (D-Baldwin City). He described the provision as ensuring “that Kansas taxpayer dollars are going to projects that are being staffed by people who can legally work here in the U.S.,” adding, “I think it’s important we show and we provide that transparency to our Kansas taxpayers.”
Holland’s E-Verify language was added into the budget in March and it survived the rest of the process as it worked its through both chambers. As the Biden administration’s crisis at our Southern border continued to intensify, Sen. Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) stressed the urgency of Kansas adopting E-Verify saying, “[i]t is time that we step up as a state and say ‘Enough, we will not take it anymore.’” The budget with the E-Verify language ultimately passed on April 9, in the House by a vote of 71-52 and the Senate 21-14.
On April 26, the governor line-item vetoed 18 provisions in the budget, including E-Verify. In her veto message, Gov. Kelly never addressed the merits of Kansas adopting any E-Verify requirements, rather she suggested they should’ve been adopted as a standalone bill. She noted, “[a]lthough I welcome policies to help improve oversight and accountability for state operations and contracts, blanket policy changes to the state’s administrative processes should be fully vetted by stakeholders, legislators, and the public through the traditional legislative process.”
The Kansas state constitution requires a two-thirds supermajority in each chamber to override a veto. This would require at least 12 representatives and four senators to change their votes, which is highly unlikely.
The Kansas legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 15.