Another bipartisan immigration bill, created after talks between a dozen senators from both sides of the political fence, was proposed in the U.S. Senate in late May. The lawmakers met in the middle on the controversial and complex issue to try to fix the United States’ immigration system, orchestrating a bill viewed by many — including President George W. Bush — as an amenable compromise.

The bipartisan measure is touted by supporters as a significant overhaul of the broken system currently in place. Authors acknowledge the bill is far from perfect, but believe legislation must move forward in order to make a positive impact on immigration problems as well as on the business and legal front.

A bill proposed by the senators would allow the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already residing in the U.S. to be eligible for legal status under a new “Z Visa,” which would allow them to live in the country indefinitely following a background check and payment of a fine. Skilled workers who have more education and can speak English will be rewarded based on a complicated point system that would allow them to bring family members to the U.S. Border controls would also be tightened. One major amendment passed by the Senate will cut the number of temporary guest workers let into the U.S. annually in half, from 400,000 to 200,000.

Title III of the bill would impose new requirements on all employers to verify employees’ eligibility using the Electronic Employment Verification System. Employers would also need to verify that subcontractors they have relationships with are also registered with the system. Penalties for hiring illegal workers would increase greatly.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives is also considering a bipartisan immigration bill, the STRIVE Act (see News Briefs in April). That bill would also allow most illegal immigrants to eventually legalize their status, after background checks and fees paid. It also institutes a guest worker program, allowing 400,000 low-skilled workers per year, and creates a system through which employers can check employees’ work status.

UPDATE: After a June vote, the legislation was defeated.

Minimum Wage To Increase

Tacked onto the recent Iraq spending bill, passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Bush, was a provision to raise the federal minimum wage.

The minimum wage will increase to $5.85 effective in late July, with a bump to $6.55 a year later, and the final increase taking effect in July 2009, when the federal minimum wage hits $7.25 per hour.

The federal minimum wage, $5.15, has not changed since 1997.

The bill also contained some small business tax incentives, such as an extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a retroactive extension and expansion of expensing for small business and modifications to the treatment of S Corporation income.


Rubbermaid Commercial Products
, Winchester, Va., reached a settlement regarding a patent infringement lawsuit against Jansco Corp., Brooklyn, N.Y. The suit was filed last year in a Virginia federal court, and accused Jansco of infringing several Rubbermaid commercial cleaning equipment patents. Jansco will pay out an undisclosed settlement amount.

The President and CEO of Coverall Cleaning Concepts, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was honored with a Palm Beach Ultimate CEO Award in April. Ted Elliott was recognized for his role in the continued growth of the company, which has sales of more than $300 million and more than 8,500 franchise owners worldwide. The award also recognizes community service.

Illinois Mandates Green Cleaning

On May 21, the Illinois Senate overwhelmingly passed the Green Cleaning Schools Act, becoming only the second state, after New York, to pass a statewide mandate for green cleaning in schools.

Under the new law, all elementary and secondary schools must purchase environmentally sensitive cleaning supplies. Schools may use their current stocks of cleaning supplies until they are depleted. Concerns over the effects of harsh chemicals on student absenteeism and custodial health were the impetus behind the bill.

The Illinois Green Government Coordinating Council (IGGCC) — a council to coordinate state policies and projects to reduce pollution and incorporate resource conservation into government operations — has six months to establish guidelines and specifications for green cleaning and maintenance products. Schools then have three months to develop plans to meet the standard.