The 2011 law requires anyone applying for or renewing public benefits — including food stamps and professional licenses, among other things — to provide a “secure and verifiable” document proving their U.S. citizenship or legal presence in the country. Several state agencies complained that requiring people to resubmit the documents each time they requested or renewed a benefit with the same agency created extra work that caused delays in processing benefits.
The legislation filed by Rep. Dusty Hightower (R-Carrollton) says U.S. citizen applicants will not have to resubmit their documents to renew a public benefit or when they apply for a different public benefit from the same state or local government or agency. Applicants who aren’t U.S. citizens would have to resubmit the proof of their legal status each time because legal presence in the country and work authorization may have expired since the previous application.
The legislation also says applications or renewals can be submitted in person, by mail or electronically within nine months before the application deadline as long as the document remains valid.
“Almost half a million Georgia professionals have had to jump through additional hoops to work here in Georgia,” Hightower said in a statement. “In these trying economic times, it is important that all of our elected leaders look for ways to cut red tape and get Georgia to work.”
Secretary of State Brian Kemp was among the agency heads who said the requirement has overloaded his staff, causing delays in processing professional licenses. He expressed his approval of the measure in a statement.
A Democratic representative pre-filed similar legislation in November, but Democrats hold so few seats in the Georgia General Assembly that they lack the power to push their initiatives.
Republican lawmakers tried to make similar changes to the 2011 law during last year’s legislative session, but the effort failed to make it to the floor of the House. Last year’s bill also included a section that would have banned illegal immigrants from all state colleges and universities and would have removed foreign passports from the list of acceptable “secure and verifiable” documents unless they were accompanied by documents proving legal presence in the U.S. Neither of those provisions is included in Hightower’s bill.