K. Thatcher

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Keeping concealed handgun license holders’ information private and mandating state agencies screen potential employees for their immigration status tops Rep. Kim Thatcher’s 2012 legislative agenda.

Each legislator is allowed two bills to introduce in the new, shorter sessions held on even-numbered years. Thatcher, a Republican representing Keizer, has been against the release of CHL license holder information ever since a court ordered the sheriff in Jackson County to release names of CHL holders in that jurisdiction.

She proposed similar legislation in 2009 and 2011, and it passed the House last year 42-18, with some Democratic support. However, the bill died without a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I think if it had been given a chance to go straight to the floor instead of the judiciary committee… that was the problem as far as I could tell,” Thatcher said.

But she’s hoping this year’s version will get enough support. Currently license holders can check a box indicating whether they’d like their county sheriff to keep their information private. Thatcher’s bill in 2012 will be opt-in, meaning they would have to check the box to have confidentiality. Her previous efforts were a blanket prohibition on disclosure.

“I hope that helps the people who have been previously opposed come on board,” Thatcher said. “Instead of carte blanche saying you can’t release these records, it makes the people applying for licenses say they don’t want these records to be released.”

She said county sheriffs wouldn’t have much standing to enforce confidentiality in the current system without action at the state level.

“It will protect the check box, essentially,” she said.

Her other bill would require all state agencies to use the E-Verify system to screen out illegal immigrants during the hiring process.

“A lot of them are using it, and it would make it consistent across all state agencies so we can make sure our tax dollars are going towards hiring a legal workforce, at least at the state level,” Thatcher said.

The federal government uses the system for screening its potential employees, as do a handful of states. A few states go a step further, requiring all employers to use the free, Internet-based E-Verify.

Thatcher’s bill also calls for creating a task force for local governments and E-Verify, with the goal of eventually mandating all government agencies, including local entities like cities and school districts, use them.

“It’s 99 percent accurate now, it’s free to use and it increases the likely hood of hiring people legally,” Thatcher said. “My company uses it. It’s not hard.”