NELP Action Fund Applauds Missouri Supreme Court’s Decision re: Unemployment Benefit Cuts Pushed by State Legislature

Following is a statement from Christine Owens, executive director, NELP Action Fund:

“The Missouri Supreme Court has put down a marker today for economic justice on behalf of workers across the Show Me State. In a case involving a challenge to the Missouri Senate’s override of Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of HB 150—a 2015 bill that further slashed the state’s already-reduced number of weeks of unemployment insurance available to laid-off workers looking for new work—the court’s majority ruled that the override was unconstitutional. We agree, and we applaud the court for its diligence and considered judgment in this case.

“The state Senate, the court said, did not have the authority to override the governor’s veto of HB 150 in a special veto session, and that an override could only be constitutional if approved during the legislature’s regular session. The House did approve an override of the bill in regular session, but the Senate did not. Instead, Senate Republican leaders attempted to circumvent their constitutionally-proscribed procedures by approving an override in a special veto session triggered by an unrelated bill.

“The ruling voids the state Senate’s unconstitutional veto override, stating, ‘Because HB 150 was not passed over the governor’s veto, none of its provisions became law.’

“The ruling also lays bare the extreme measures—extra-legal measures—Republicans in the Missouri legislature have been willing to pursue in their fixation with inflicting harm on workers who suffer involuntary job loss through no fault of their own. In 2011, they had already reduced the maximum weeks of benefits to 20 weeks from the national standard of 26. HB 150 cut benefits further by imposing a sliding scale of 13 to 20 weeks, depending on the state’s unemployment rate.

“Since January 1, 2016, Missouri has provided a maximum of 13 weeks, the second-fewest in the nation. Tens of thousands of hardworking Missourians who have lost jobs have suffered as a result. Today’s ruling overturns the sliding-scale scheme, restoring the 20 week maximum. But the damage to those already negatively affected cannot be undone.

“Judging from their past behavior, we suspect that Republican legislative leaders will again attempt to impose the cuts contained in HB 150. We urge them to cease and desist. Instead of renewing their heartless crusade against Missouri workers’ jobless-aid protections, Republican lawmakers should work with their Democratic colleagues to strengthen those unemployment insurance protections and restore at least 26 weeks of state benefits.”

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