After much tough talk on illegal immigration, the Senate on Monday approved a bill that won't take effect until July 2009.
The House will now consider SB81, a comprehensive measure aimed at preventing undocumented immigrants from finding jobs or public benefits.
The Senate's 24-5 vote came after some four hours of debate and a slate of amendments spread over three days. And the final result was called a "landmark piece of legislation" by Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem.
The measure's sponsor, Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, had harsh words for the federal government, saying, "I cannot tell you how much disgust I have at their inability to address this issue."
Still, if the House approves SB81 as amended Monday, Utah's actions won't officially start until after the November election. The delay was to give time for a proposed legislative task force to study the issue. The Senate also approved that bill, SB97, on Monday.
Hickman continued to resist the delay, which had been proposed twice before. He expressed concerns that it could be gutted to nothing more than a skeleton before it has a chance to take effect. The bill originally would have been effective on July 1, with a few business provisions delayed until July 1, 2009.
Valentine told reporters that the delay was the result of active lobbying by business leaders concerned about the implementation.
The bill passed with stronger support than it had for a preliminary vote. Senate Minority Leader Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, said he changed his vote largely because of the delayed implementation.
"Hopefully Congress will do something by then," Dmitrich said. "If not we'll have a chance to look at the issue."
After the vote, Hickman said he would have preferred the immediate effective date, but said the delay, "will give us a chance to look at it and hopefully make improvements."
However, even with the delay, Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, voted against the bill, saying, "There will be racial profiling."
And, Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, the only member of the GOP to vote no, said "this is the wrong tool to accomplish the desired end."
Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake, voted for the bill after expressing concerns about the bill's potential economic impact.
"The economy is an extremely important factor in this," Jones said. "As a business owner, I must tell you, I'm extremely concerned."
Hickman replied, "I can imagine there will be some detrimental impact on the economy of the state if the illegal undocumented immigrants were to leave." However, society is based on "the rule of law" and the economy would adjust to those laws.
As Senators were preparing to take up SB81, about 50 people participated in a silent protest at the Capitol Rotunda. Their attentions will now be turned to the House.
"No matter how they fix it, it's a bad bill," said Sylvia Haro of the Utah Hispanic Republican Assembly.
The House has already passed its own slate of piecemeal measures, which are starting to work their way through the Senate. Some of those measures are included in SB81, and others are unique. Hickman said he's not yet sure whether all the measures will be folded into SB81, or if they'll stand alone.
In other action Monday, the Senate gave final approval to:
SCR5, a resolution calling on Congress to address illegal immigration. Now moves to the House.HB262, which calls for a legislative study of available federal remedies for the costs of illegal immigration to the state. Now moves to the governor.
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