PHOENIX — The progress of proposed revisions to Arizona's employer sanctions law stalled Tuesday after some business groups opposed an attempt to add a new punishment to the law.
The proposed punishment was aimed at getting businesses to follow the law's requirement that businesses verify the work eligibility of employees through a federal database.
Only 21,000 of Arizona's 150,000 employers were signed up for the law, which now lacks a punishment for those who fail to check new employees through the database.
Under a proposed revision that was approved two weeks ago by a House committee, businesses that don't use the database by August 1 wouldn't be able to deduct as business expenses the amount of salaries paid to employees.
The opposition by some business groups to the proposed punishment prompted a key lawmaker to call off a Senate committee hearing Tuesday on a similar employer sanctions bill.
The law prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and places business license punishments on those who make such illegal hirings.
Opponents of the law said it would poison Arizona's business climate and that cracking down on such hirings is the sole responsibility of the federal government.
Supporters said state punishments were needed because the federal government hasn't adequately enforced a federal law that already prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.
Ann Seiden, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which opposes the proposed punishment, said incentives — not penalties — were needed to get business to follow the database requirement.
"This kind of harsh penalty is not welcome at this time," Seiden said.
Republican Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, author of the law and sponsor of the proposed changes, said business groups that oppose the proposed punishment haven't offered more viable solutions for getting employers to run the checks.
"Could I leave that out? Absolutely. Do I intend to? Not at this point," Pearce said.
Other changes in Pearce's proposed revisions include offering extra legal protections for businesses to follow the rules, allowing anonymous complaints to be made under the law and clarifying that the law applies to only employees hired after the law took effect Jan. 1 — and not those who were previously on the payroll.