likely to be eliminated in the 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly.
The requirement governing access to “public benefits,” including business registrations, was part of the 2011 immigration reform package but did not go into effect until July.
State Sen.-elect Chuck Hufstetler of Rome said he’s heard complaints about the issue since he started his campaign.
“It’s not an extreme hardship, but it’s an inconvenience and more bureaucracy,” he said. “Once you’ve established your citizenship, you shouldn’t have to keep proving it over and over again.”
State Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, prefiled legislation that would repeal the annual requirement for any applicant who has previously submitted proof of citizenship. Immigration status would still have to be verified each year for legal non-residents.
“This requirement has delayed renewal of professional licenses across the state. ... Insurance agents and nurses who have lived and worked in Georgia all their lives have been told that making a living is a ‘public benefit.’ That is not right,” she said in a release announcing the initiative.
The secretary of state’s professional licensing board division had a backlog of 113,000 applications as of Nov. 18, according to its website.
Rome City Clerk Joe Smith said he’s not overwhelmed by the requirement, but it adds to the time and effort it takes to process each application for a city business license or alcohol permit.
“It seems like the process could be a little more streamlined, especially for U.S. citizens,” he said.
Buckner’s bill mirrors a provision of last session’s Senate Bill 458 — a controversial measure sponsored by state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, that would have required proof of citizenship to attend public colleges or technical colleges.
State House Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, said his House judiciary non-civil committee proposed a substitute aimed just at getting the re-registration annual requirement dropped for U.S. citizens, but the bill wasn’t brought to the floor for a vote.
“I don’t think enough people were aware we had changed it,” he said. “We couldn’t get enough critical mass behind it that late in the session.”
Since 2013 marks the start of a new two-year session, SB 458 is dead. But Coomer said he expects a new bill to make it through this time.
“These people who are being inconvenienced are what we refer to as voters,” he said wryly.