Bill Would Require Proof of Citizenship to Get State Services

A bill to require citizenship to be eligible for most state services is still alive in the state legislature. Williamson County Senator Jack Johnson is hoping to pass the measure even if today is the last day of session.

The bill takes a federal program for identifying who is eligible for services and brings it down to the state level.

It wouldn’t affect public education or emergency health care, but most other agencies could ask for identification proving citizenship or legal alien status.

Senator Johnson:

“But this would apply to all…state benefits. ….Many of the benefits that are funded with federal dollars have that requirement attached to them, it’s just that often that requirement is not enforced.”

Johnson was not able to list the specific services that would be denied.

So passage of the bill was hung up on Friday over the question of whether there are some state benefits that have nothing to do with citizenship.

The Senate has the bill on the floor today. In the House, the companion bill is left hanging in the House Finance Committee – but that’s a committee that is often re-opened even on the last day of a session.

Jackson bases his proposed state law on provisions of the federal SAVE act. The acronym stands for “Secure America with Verification and Enforcement.”

The state bill, SB 1325 Johnson/ HB 1379 Carr, has undergone a complete rewrite in the Senate.

The current version is in this amendment (PDF), plus a couple of one-sentence amendments making sure that the mentally ill aren’t denied services, and exempting indigent persons seeking legal representation.

The Senate postponed action on the bill when the question was raised – aren’t there some state programs that are intended to be open to all persons, even if they are illegal aliens? Federal benefits like that are exempt from the federal version of the verification law – prenatal care for mothers.

The bill is estimated to cost more than $400,000 to implement, but the legislature’s staff acknowledged several unknown factors in their summary:

There will be a decrease in state expenditures resulting from unauthorized aliens no longer receiving certain benefits. A portion of the decrease in state expenditures on unauthorized aliens will be offset by an increase in state expenditures on citizens and qualified aliens. Based on available information, the precise amount of the decrease in state expenditures on unauthorized aliens and the increase in expenditures on citizens and qualified aliens cannot be reasonably determined..

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