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E-Verify initiative passes narrowly

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Greene County citizens yesterday narrowly voted to pass the E-Verify proposal, requiring businesses to use the free federal employment eligibility software or face penalties.

The initiative received 51 percent of the 16,273 votes cast, according to election results posted on the Greene County clerk's Web site.

The measure, crafted by Ozarks Minutemen to prevent employers from hiring noncitizen workers, moved to a vote of the people in September after Springfield City Council split its votes 4-4 to approve an initiative petition.

At the Sept. 6 meeting, Springfield City Attorney Dan Wichmer said the monetary penalties outlined in the initiative likely are unconstitutional. That was one reason the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors on Dec. 19 voted to oppose the initiative. Board Chairman Jerry Harmison of Harmison & Pearman PC told Springfield Business Journal Dec. 20 that the board also voted to oppose the initiative because there's a lack of evidence of a significant local problem; it would place an undue burden on small businesses; and the board believes the issue should be handled at a federal level.

At the Sept. 6 council meeting, city staff said 10 of Springfield's largest employers already use E-Verify. Proponents of the initiative, including Joe Jenkins of Diesel Exchange Inc., said the E-Verify system is more efficient and more secure than federal I-9 forms, through which companies are required to verify individuals' employment status.

During the Greene County election yesterday, voters also passed two initiatives imposing tax increases in Republic and Willard.

The Republic initiative allows the city to impose a 0.25 percent sales tax, which would be collected during a period of five years starting Oct. 1. to fund storm-water capital improvements.

The city of Willard now will be able to impose a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund capital improvements to municipal infrastructures and city facilities, according to the ballot language.

Christian County citizens yesterday voted to pass a $9 million bond initiative allowing Nixa Public Schools to build additions and renovate, repair and improve existing facilities and furnishings, as well as acquire school buses. The issue, which needed 67 percent of the votes to pass, received 77 percent of the 3,193 votes cast, according to Christian County election results.[[In-content Ad]]

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