The House voted 54-16 to require public employers to use a federal Internet-based system to verify the work eligibility of new hires.

The bill, HB98, would mean that state and local government entities would have to use the E-Verify program to check the name, Social Security number and age of new hires are matching.

Sponsoring Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, downplayed the bill as one aimed at illegal immigration, even though the federal program is designed to check the work eligibility of employees, and the Utah Attorney Generals Office has said that illegal immigration accounts for more than 90 percent of workplace identity theft.

Instead, he said the problem is largely child molesters and other criminals trying to hide their identities as well as deadbeat parents attempting to avoid paying child support.

"We need to have the government take the lead at looking at identity theft," Donnelson said. "Especially since it's one of the fastest growing crimes in the state of Utah."

Before the vote, questions arose about potential court challenges. Donnelson said while there are worker verification laws under challenge in at least one other state, the E-Verify Program itself is not the target of the challenge.

An Arizona law that requires all employers - not just public ones - use E-Verify is under court challenge.