Rep. Stephen Sandstrom said he has about 18 lawmakers lined up to co-sponsor his enforcement-only immigration bill and former House Speaker David Clark, R-Santa Clara, urged the Republican Caucus on Thursday to allow it to go to the floor for a full debate.
"I haven't seen many legislators up here take as much time, effort and occasionally abuse on a singular issue as Representative Sandstrom," Clark said. "He's earned that particular right."
But Clark later withdrew the motion to send the bill to the full House when some questioned why there wasn't a fiscal note yet attached estimating the cost of implementation.
The Orem Republican said he was satisfied with the results of the caucus discussion, but he was a bit concerned by comments Gov. Gary Herbert made at his monthly KUED-TV news conference.
In those remarks, Herbert said the enforcement-only approach shouldn't place unfunded mandates on local police struggling with budgets and he wanted to see a fiscal note on the Sandstrom proposal.
"We're going to empower local government to do more, as far as enforcement, we need to understand there's a fiscal note with that," Herbert said. "Arizona didn't take that into account and they've got some problems and concerns because of it."
Herbert added: "Make sure you're accountable for that rather than say to the local government, 'just absorb it. It's another unfunded mandate.'"
Sandstrom's bill was sent to the House Rules Committee this week and is awaiting a fiscal note, likely to be done by next week, he said.
He said he didn't think there would be much of a cost and said his measure doesn't require police to do more than what they'd already been doing enforcing laws already on the books.
"They're already engaged in police work," Sandstrom said. "Under my bill, checking legal status is not the primary reason for the stop."
The bill requires local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws when stopping a party in the commission of a crime or a traffic infraction. It is similar to Arizona's proposal, though Sandstrom believes he's changed it enough that it's not fair to compare it to the law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer.
Sandstrom's bill, HB70, also ran into some unexpected though apparently short-lived opposition Thursday when a tea-party member from Highland sent out an e-mail blast to Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement (UFIRE) members saying the proposal shouldn't be supported because it allowed the sharing of identifications with a federal database. UFIRE is part of the Utah Coalition on Immigration Reform that supports the Sandstrom bill.
Lowell Nelson of Highland said he thought the sharing of personal identification in Sandstrom's bill would be "an invasion of privacy" and a move toward a national ID program. He said the e-mail went out to "a couple hundred members." By day's end, though he said he was willing to go along with the bill's language because the illegal immigration issue was too important.
Among House supporters for Sandstrom's bill are Reps. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, and Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman. Wimmer said he was "considering it" when asked if he would be a co-sponsor of the legislation.
"I haven't decided yet," Wimmer said. "But most probably yes."
However, Michael Clara, state chairman of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly, said he's been talking to legislators since late last week and said they've told him Sandstrom's bill only has 15 to 20 votes in the House. It takes 38 votes to get a bill through the 75-member House.