Employment agency could die July 1

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – A Senate bill that would have extended the Department of Employment Security died Wednesday when House Labor Chair Rufus Straughter, D-Belzoni, elected not to call the proposal up for consideration.
Wednesday was the deadline for bills originating in one chamber to be considered by the other chamber.
With the death of the bill, it appears the Department of Employment Security will cease to exist after July 1. But the legislative process has ways to revive a proposal, such as a rules suspension that requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers or another bill where it would be proper to add the language to reauthorize the agency.
But because of the current disagreement about whether to accept $56 million in federal stimulus funds for unemployed workers, it might be difficult to find a two-thirds majority on the issue. And while not certain, most legislative experts say there is not another bill that can be amended to revive the agency.
“At this point and time, we don’t have a bill,” Straughter said.
That means the issue might have to be hashed out in special session.
Employment Security administers the unemployment compensation program and provides several other services, such as operating WIN Job Centers, that are located throughout the state and help people find work.
The legislation dealing with the agency has died this session because of a fight over whether to change to law to accept the federal stimulus funds. The Democratic legislators want to change the law. Republicans and Gov. Haley Barbour do not.
At issue is $56 million in federal stimulus funds for unemployed workers. Barbour has refused to accept the funds, saying the changes to state law required to accept the money would place an additional burden on employers once the stimulus funds are gone. Employers are levied a tax to pay for the unemployment compensation program.
Supporters of the program admit changes to state law would have to be made to receive the funds, but once the stimulus funds are gone the law could be changed back and employers never would be negatively impacted. But they say that during the time the stimulus funds are available, struggling laid-off workers would receive a boost – as would the sagging state economy with an infusion of an additional $56 million that research shows would be spent and turned over several times to spur economic growth.