Written by D.A. King
**note this article ran in Insider Advantage.
In last year’s legislative session Republican state Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) introduced legislation that gutted the process intended to ensure that the Georgia Department of Transportation hires contractors that are using a legal workforce. In the haste and bedlam of 2018’s Sine Die, Senate Bill 445 sailed through both the House and Senate.
It is notable that SB 445 went through the Senate Transportation Committee, as Senators Brandon Beach, Butch Miller, Frank Ginn and Mike Dugan were bill signers, in that order. All are transportation committee members — with Beach as chairman.
Now that the cat is out of the bag on this caper- and we have a new governor — one “important issue” for the 2019 session should be to see if lawmakers will reinstate the bidding system for GDOT that all other public employers and their contractors are still supposed to follow.
We recognize many readers will view this as a dry topic – the only folks who may have a concern are those who don’t want their taxes used to pay illegal aliens on GDOT projects.
After mandates were put into place in the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act of 2006 (SB 529) to require all public employers and contractors to use E-Verify, adjustments were made in HB2 of 2009 to deal with the obvious problem that some public contractors were bidding on – and winning – contracts with bids that were based on the cost of black market labor before they swore on an affidavit that they were using E-Verify. This allowed contractors to hire a crew for a job that could not be verified as eligible to work using the E-Verify system, which can only be used for newly hired employees after receiving authorization from the feds to use the online system.
The 2009 solution to this chicanery was to change the law so that bids are not considered unless and until the E-Verify affidavit is presented.
In his quick presentation of the measure, Sen. Gooch told the committee the changes to the GDOT bid rules were being proposed to make life easier for contractors.
“Section 3… makes clear that the deadline for a bidder to supply their signed notarized e-verify affidavit is prior to contract award as opposed to the bid submission. This has caused a problem with some of the contractors that submitted their e-verify affidavits but they didn’t reach to the department either by mail or by other means of delivery in time for the bid, um, deadlines and therefore they were disqualified from bidding on the work. Now essentially requires ’em to submit those E-Verifies prior to the contracts being awarded” said Gooch (emphasis mine).
It is hard to accept that this is a constructive or plausible reason to make changes to the GDOT bidding system, as the existing law is clear that bids and E-Verify affidavits may be submitted electronically. If a contract bidder is indeed an E-Verify user, he can easily send that documentation along with his bid from his computer.
This writer asked GDOT for comment on this curious scenario. One of the questions asked for verification that SB 445 was in fact a GDOT bill, as Chairman Beach told the committee. That question went unanswered.
This is not the first adventure in state law on E-Verify, bids, and contractors for GDOT.
CBS Atlanta 46 TV News did a series of stories on GDOT’s violations of the bidding/E-Verify law in 2010 that illustrated the lack of concern for the hard-fought mandate designed to make Georgia unwelcoming to illegal employers and illegal labor – and to safeguard taxpayer dollars. We have archived some of those reports:
* “Activist: GDOT Is Breaking State’s Immigration Law – Violation May Make It Easier For Contractors To Hire Illegal Immigrants. Here.
* “CBS Atlanta Asks If GDOT Contractor Is Hiring Illegal Workers.” CBS Atlanta 46 news video here.
* “GDOT Didn’t Know About The Illegal Immigrant Labor Law.” Here.
* “Federal Document Shows GDOT Contractor Lied On Affidavit
Company Swore To Check Employee’s Legal Status in Federal Database.” Here.
* “GDOT: Worker May Have Been Illegal. The Georgia Department of Transportation said Wednesday that one of its subcontractors may have been in the country illegally. The admission came after a CBS Atlanta investigation…” (No link)
* “GDOT Admits Mistake For Breaking Immigration Law: GDOT Commissioner Dodges Tough Questions About Hiring Illegal Worker.” Here.
IAG will follow up on this later in the legislative session, there is more.
You read it here first.
D.A. King is president of the Dustin Inman Society and proprietor of ImmigrationPoliticsGA.com. He has worked on the law featured above since 2006.
ATLANTA (January 29, 2018) | Senator Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega) is pleased to announce Monday, January 29, 2018, as Dahlonega Day at the state Capitol with Senate Resolution 590.
“Dahlonega is the gateway to North Georgia and I am grateful to be able to share my home with the rest of my colleagues,” said Sen. Gooch. “This year marks the 60th anniversary of Dahlonega and Lumpkin County citizens delivering gold, by wagon, for the installation of the state Capitol building’s gold dome. I could not be more proud to have representatives from our local community here today to celebrate this honor.”
The City of Dahlonega is a small city in northern Georgia founded in 1832. Dahlonega was the site of the first major U.S. gold rush and now is commonly referred to as the ‘Gold City’. The city sits at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is surrounded by many natural elements. Dahlonega is the county seat of Lumpkin County. In addition to its history of gold mining, the city of Dahlonega is also known as the Heart of Georgia Wine Country, with six wineries and nine winery tasting rooms.
DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp received a warm welcome in Lumpkin County Friday when he arrived for a bill signing ceremony in the Library Technology Center on the campus of the University of North Georgia.
State Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), who sponsored four of the five bills the governor signed, welcomed the governor to his hometown and introduced him to those in attendance.
“Today is a big day for us,” he said. “We’ve been working a lot on some issues dealing with broadband and internet services.”
With a large number of state legislators who helped usher the bills through to passage on hand, along with many county and municipal elected officials, Kemp signed Senate Bills 2, 17, 66, 79 and 454.
Senate Bills 2,17,66 and 79 deal with the expansion of access to broadband internet service and were sponsored by Gooch. SB 454 was carried to the senate by Gooch and deals with electronic assisted bicycles.
Senate Bill 2 allows Georgia’s 41 EMCs which represent about 4.5 million rural customers to get into the broadband business and sell internet services.
An important question that has yet to be answered is how many EMCs will participate.
“I’ll stand here today and be the first one to confess, I don’t know that all 41 will ever get into internet services,” Gooch said, “But I believe this will allow them the opportunity to do so.”
Wednesday, April 24 marked the governor’s 100th day in office and he reflected of some of his administration’s early accomplishments.
“Over and over again, I promised to keep families safe, to put hard working Georgians first and I think that is exactly what we have done with these pieces of legislation today and with these great legislators’ help who are here today.”
Kemp said the 2019 and 2020 budgets are “reflection of the values of our state and our priorities for the future. We have fully funded public 0education for the second year in a row. We have given teachers, counselors and others a historic pay raise this year. We’ve invested $70 million in school security grants, $30,000 for every public school in the K through 12 system. We also doubled funding for mental health services in our high schools.”
The governor also pointed to state investments in public safety. “We created a task force within the GBI to undermine drug cartels, gangs and human and sex trafficking.”
Kemp thanked legislators for “stepping up to the plate” and adding $20 million to the budget for hurricane relief for farmers in south and southwest Georgia “while we wait on those in Washington D.C. to do their part to put people ahead of politics and pass the daggum disaster relief bill.”
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com
DAHLONEGA, Ga. — A joint state legislative subcommittee has been traveling the state the last month, meeting with broadband providers and their customers in search of an economically feasible way to bring high-speed internet to Georgia’s rural communities. When the meetings are finished, the subcommittee will present its findings and make recommendations to the General Assembly when it re-convenes early next year.
Fetch Your News wanted to find out what legislators have learned thus far and if they are any closer to a solution. Tuesday, we sat down with State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) who is co-chairman of the subcommittee.
What we learned first and foremost is that expanding broadband to reach the rural areas of counties like White, Dawson and Lumpkin is economically challenging, to say the least.
Gooch explained the problem this way. “Low density areas of the state make it difficult for private, for-profit utility providers to justify to their stockholders the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to their broadband infrastructure when the low return on investment is not in accordance to their business model.”
Simply put, extending fiber optic cable another mile or so to reach very few homes is just not cost effective.
But Gooch added that the meetings have been productive.
“Some of the entrepreneurism that’s coming to the surface has been encouraging,” he said. “Smaller companies are coming forward with new technology that provides wireless solutions, even dish network and some of the satellite companies are starting to get more creative in how to deploy internet through their systems for TV. We think the technology is changing so fast, in the future we may see total wireless solutions instead of just hard wired fiber optics. So, we’re looking at those opportunities and hopefully our final report will show some good recommendations on how we should proceed.”
Gooch was referring to companies like Mobilitie which provides services to wireless carriers, as well as traditional providers like Windstream and North Georgia Network (NGN) that could increase their service to end users.
Speaking at the joint subcommittee meeting at the University of North Georgia last week, Mobilitie spokesman Roger Simpson said his company has had great success in Georgia so far but added that a challenge he faces is working with the Department of Transportation to get their permission to deploy equipment in their right of way.
Another company that offers some hope for the future is Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA), which provides advocacy for consumers and access to satellite-delivered services. Rural and under served markets are their target market. The company has grown from 450,000 to 1.7 million customers in just the last eight years. The company is nearing its capacity and is currently offering its service to businesses only. But SBCA does have future plans for expansion.
For now, Gooch says too many communities are falling further behind in broadband upgrades in rural areas and customers are unhappy with their providers.
“We have heard from a lot of constituents who are frustrated, upset and concerned about the level of good broadband connectivity, they receive, primarily for business and development purposes. I hope we can see some improvement from providers like Windstream. They’re telling me they’re working on some of the worst places and most troubled areas where there are the most interruptions and slowest speeds.
“We hope they will go ahead and invest the needed funds to make the system better. A lot of people in this area are upset not only because of the slow speed but interruptions are frequent and they lose internet daily and sometimes it takes days to get it back. “We’re looking at what we can do to incentivise companies to invest in rural America, not just the bigger areas like Atlanta and the suburbs where there is a lot of density.”
Scroll down to watch video of the forum.
Fannin County Chamber of Commerce 2016 Primary Candidate Forum.
Cynthia Panter, Chairman Fannin County Chamber Board.
Rob Kaser, Co-Moderator
Fannin County Magistrate Judge
Sherri Walker (I) NP
Dannette Davis NP
Brian D. Jones NP
Fannin County School Board
Jeremy Davis R
Clarence Junior Farmer R
Chad Galloway R
Fannin County Tax Commissioner
Shirley Sosebee (I) R
Marie Woody R
Georgia House of Representatives District 7
Speaker David Ralston (I) R
Sam Snider R
Georgia Senate District 51
Senator Steve Gooch (I) R
Fannin County Commission Chairman
Bill Simonds (I) R
Stan Helton R
Fannin County Sheriff
Dane Kirby (I) R
Larry Bennett Sr. R
Johnny Scearce R
Jack Taylor R
Rusty Whittenbarger D
Georgia State Senator Steve Gooch stopped by Good Morning from the Office. Senator Gooch and BKP talk about the 2016 Georgia legislative session.