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Law: Public projects, legal workers

| Friday, July 6, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Contractors on publicly funded construction jobs soon will be required to check that employees can work legally in the United States under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Tom Corbett.

The law — initiated by state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield — requires contractors and subcontractors to use the federal E-Verify database prior to beginning a job funded by taxpayers to ensure that all workers on the job are legally documented. E-Verify checks an employee's personal information against Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security databases.

The law doesn't require workers to be citizens, but they must have legal work permits.

“This legislation ensures that our workers in Pennsylvania aren't displaced or kept in the unemployment lines because of cheap labor that isn't legally permitted to be here or work here,” Ward said. “It only makes sense that a government project ... should employ workers who pay taxes.”

The House approved the measure last week by a 193-6 vote after the Senate signed off on it 42-7 in May.

Advocates have pointed to the construction industry's unemployment rate — at 14.2 percent in May — as one reason the law was needed. The overall unemployment rate has hovered around 8 percent nationally and was 7.4 percent in May in Pennsylvania.

The law is expected to cost the state more than $1.3 million in the first full year after it takes effect Jan. 1.

The state Department of General Services will conduct random audits of contractors and subcontractors and likely will need to hire more personnel.

For fiscal year 2012-13, which began July 1, the cost would be about $681,000.

Penalties for violating the law range from a warning letter for a first violation, to a three-year ban from public work if a court finds willful violation. Failure to submit work verification forms will result in penalties of $250 to $1,000 per violation.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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