Nashville: Bill restoring jobless benefits moves but Haslam's stance remains unclear

Nashville: Bill restoring jobless benefits moves but Haslam's stance remains unclear

May 16th, 2011 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Gov. Haslam

NASHVILLE - Efforts by legislative Democrats to restore federal jobless benefits for thousands of out-of-work Tennesseans cleared its first hurdle in the GOP-run House today.

But Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's position remains murky about the attempt to resurrect state participation in the program, which is largely funded with federal dollars.

"We've had some concerns with this issue, but typically don't comment on bills until we've thoroughly analyzed them," said Haslam spokeswoman Yvette Martinez. "The bill just came out of

[committee] and the governor will review the analysis tomorrow."

Approval of the legislation would extend unemployment benefits for another 20 weeks for more than 28,000 unemployed people whose 26 weeks of state benefits and 53 weeks of federal emergency benefits have expired or will expire.

Late this afternoon, the House Delayed Bills Committee, compromised of Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, unanimously gave the go-ahead for Fitzhugh to move ahead with the late-filed bill.

But it faces an uncertain reception in other GOP-run House committees as well as the Senate, where Republicans also have a majority.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said today that state Employment Security Administrator Don Ingram last week "made it very clear that the administration's position at least had been that they didn't intend to pursue it."

"That's why I'm asking for more specific information, exactly what the position is," Norris said.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.