Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Chap Peterson, Driving Home the Truth
Houses Divide on Party Lines
Virginia Senate votes for unemployment amendment, which House of Delegates votes down.
By Sen. Chap Petersen, Burke Connection Op-Ed
On Wednesday, April 8, the General Assembly returned to Richmond for its veto session. Unlike other legislative bodies, the Virginia Assembly is part-time. Therefore, its sessions are limited to certain dates of the year. However, when it does meet, a lot happens.
Last Wednesday was no exception. The delegates and senators voted on at least 13 vetoes from the governor, as well as over 100 amendments to existing legislation. The floor session alone lasted all day.
The most far-reaching proposal was the governor’s amendment to SB 1495, which converted a modest bill dealing with Virginia’s unemployment benefits to “trailing spouses” of military personnel forced to relocate.
The governor proposed significantly expanding the unemployment law to accommodate workers in Virginia who lost part-time work. He also expanded the right to benefits for those workers who were actively participating in job training programs, but had not yet obtained gainful employment.
The purpose of these amendments was to help thousands of out-of-work Virginians access $125 million in Federal assistance which had been specifically earmarked for expanded benefits – funds that Virginia was not currently receiving.
The downside, opponents argued, was that these expanded benefits would also require higher payroll taxes on businesses, albeit in the minimal amount of less than $5 annually. While unemployment benefits — like any government program — can always be rolled back when the economy improves, the opponents still claimed that Gov. Kaine’s (D) proposal was an impermissible expansion of government.
The amendment to SB 1495 passed the Democratic Senate on a party-line vote (21-19). It died in the Republican-controlled House. And so the Virginia legislature dutifully returned the $125 million to the Federal government to spend in another state.
Maybe it’s time to put some legislators out of work.