Day laborers and those who hire them would face criminal charges if they disrupt traffic under a bill approved by a House committee Jan. 21.
The bill, H2042, would make it a misdemeanor for employers to stop in a roadway to hire a day laborer if the vehicle impedes the normal flow of traffic. The prospective employee would also face a misdemeanor.
Each could face a maximum of 30 days in jail for the offense.
“It takes two to tango, and it’s important that we go after both with equal zeal,” said Rep. John Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor.
Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills, has sponsored similar legislation since coming to the Legislature. A bill identical to H2042 passed the House last year, but was lost in a crush of bills that were debated on the Senate floor at the end of the session. An earlier version was vetoed in 2007 by former Gov. Janet Napolitano.
The bill is modeled after a Phoenix ordinance that was aimed at stopping roadside solicitation for charitable donations, Kavanagh said. Although critics alleged it infringed on First Amendment rights, a federal court found the ordinance was constitutional.
But that challenge never raised the issue of “content-based discrimination,” which Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said this bill appears to do.
“I have no doubt that once it’s reviewed by the courts, it will be found unconstitutional,” said Rep. Ben Miranda, a Phoenix Democrat.
But Kavanagh said likened the enhanced penalty in this instance to an aggravating factor, like those that change an assault charge into an aggravated assault.
He also said that the bill is intended to protect workers – whether in this country legally or illegally – from unscrupulous employers who don’t provide benefits or guarantee a safe working environment. But he didn’t deny there was a link to illegal immigration.
“This work is one of the anchors that keeps them in this country,” he said.
The bill was approved by a 5-2 margin, with Democrats voting against it. It now moves to the House floor for a debate by the entire body.
On Jan. 20, a Senate committee approved a more comprehensive bill to crack down on illegal immigrants. It included penalties for acts similar to the Kavanagh bill.