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With Republicans complaining it was watered down and Democrats contending it was strengthened, the "three-strikes" illegal-immigration bill advanced out of an Indiana House committee today.

The House Public Policy Committee made numerous changes to the bill, Senate Bill 335, from the version that passed last month in the state Senate.

Among other things, employers still could face the loss of their business license to operate in Indiana if they are found guilty of employing illegal aliens three times. The difference is, the amended bill shortens the violation period from three times in 10 years to three times in five.

Also, instead of violations being investigated and prosecuted by all 92 county prosecutors in local courts, illegal-alien-hiring cases instead would by heard by an administrative law judge at the state Department of Labor.

If an employer's business license is revoked, it could appeal to the governor, under the new wording to the bill.

The biggest criticism of House Republicans on the committee was that the bill no longer mandates that the superintendent of the Indiana State Police negotiate an agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, to provide training to state troopers on enforcing federal immigration laws. The bill allows the State Police to pursue such an agreement, but does not require it.

State Rep. Trent Van Haaften, D-Mount Vernon, chaired the committee and contended the changes were necessary to close loopholes in the original Senate bill.

The original bill had no funding included. The amended version seeks $1 million for the State Police and $500,000 for the state attorney general's office for immigration enforcement. That appropriation request means the bill goes next to the House Ways and Means Committee, which controls the budget purse strings.

If it passes there, the bill then would go to the full Indiana House, and from there, back to the state Senate.

Read Tuesday's Courier & Press and courierpress.com for more on today's legislative action and Web extras.


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