Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed into law a sweeping illegal immigration bill on Thursday. And legislative leaders said they're committed to moving forward with a study of the ramifications of SB81 before it takes effect in July 2009.

"The governor thinks the important thing is there be a comprehensive discussion about immigration," said Lisa Roskelley, the governor's spokeswoman.

Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said the delayed effective date of SB81 was intended to give stakeholders from the business to the health service communities an opportunity to evaluate its potential impact.

"There needs to be a forum for people to come in and discuss the effects of Senate Bill 81," Valentine said. The task force could also look at new ideas, Valentine said, and bills that didn't make it, such as a repeal of a law allowing qualified undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition in Utah.

The future of the study was uncertain at the end of the legislation session, after a bill containing the immigration task force died, falling victim to a dispute over an unrelated study included in the legislation.

The task force had been widely anticipated as a way to look at SB81 and other potential immigration legislation the state could create. Now, House and Senate leaders say it will likely be an interim committee's job to conduct the immigration review.

"It's going to be studied," said House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy. He'd like to charge an existing committee, such as Government Operations or Judiciary, to take on the study.

Valentine, meanwhile, said a separate immigration committee could be set up for the duration of the interim.

Both legislative leaders said they expect the details to be hashed out at a Management Committee meeting set for later this month.

The need for the study can be seen in a brief released this week by the National Conference of State Legislatures, which looks at state employment verification laws passed last year.

One of SB81's key provisions will require public employers and those they contract with to use the federal E-Verify system to check the work eligibility of new hires. The NCSL brief says there's a question as to whether federal law gives states authority in the workplace, which is a question courts are going to have to sort out.

And she says its going to be difficult to measure the economic impact in states such as Arizona and Oklahoma where such laws exist.

"There's no hard evidence yet," said Ann Morse, a program director at NCSL. "It's going to be really difficult to disentangle the laws from the downfall of construction, for example, because that's having a huge impact in Arizona and Oklahoma."

Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, said as the issue is studied, lawmakers will have to keep in mind that in the end, there's only so much states can do to solve a federal issue.

"It needs to be dealt with on a federal basis," Beattie said. "I'm very confident, their task force will produce some wonderful productive ideas for dealing with the issue we have in Utah and taking it as far as they can."


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com