A sweeping immigration measure passed its first hurdle Friday, when a Senate panel voted 4-2 in favor of SB81, which would create obstacles against undocumented immigrants obtaining jobs and public benefits.

The party-line vote came after sponsor Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, said he wanted to "get the clock ticking" on state action. Hickman said he'd also support a proposed interim study measure sponsored by Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City.

"This may not solve all the problems," Hickman said. "This is a work in progress ... we may come back and make refinements."

During nearly two hours of testimony, those in favor of the bill stressed the importance of the rule of law, and public support for state action. Opponents questioned some the workability of some provisions, such as the need for some employers to use the federal E-Verify program to check the work eligibility of new hires.

The bill was amended to remove a repeal of a 2002 law that allows undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition if they attend a Utah high school for three years and graduate. A proposal to amend the bill to delay it's enactment date to 2009 failed.

Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, explained his vote against the bill, saying "I think we're operating with a fraction of the information."

E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com