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House Democrats concerned about fast-tracked legislation on first day

It's the first day of the legislative session and House Democrats already are raising concerns about how quickly Republicans are planning to move a controversial measure to curtail unemployment benefits as the state's jobless rate hangs at 9.2 percent.

Republicans plan to hear the legislation -- House Bill 4 -- Thursday morning, on the second day of the legislative session, with floor debate expected early next week. State Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat, asked to push the committee meeting to next week to give lawmakers more time to consider the bill, which was filed Wednesday. "Would you consider giving us members time to read the bill, ... so we actually have time to read the bill and make comments," Luebke asked.

GOP lawmakers may thwart federal unemployment rules

Tens of thousands of unemployed workers receiving federal emergency unemployment will likely lose their benefits starting July 1 as legislators overhaul the program.

Legislative leaders said this week that they will push ahead with a July 1 start to cuts in weekly benefits for unemployed workers. The measure would put the state in violation of the recently passed federal relief package that would have provided benefits to laid-off workers through December 2013. The federal legislation specifically forbid the states from altering the weekly benefit amount, which the General Assembly is poised to do as it returns to session Wednesday.

“It interferes with our expected legislation that we already had ready to go in December. We won’t let it continue,” said Rep. Julia Howard, R-Mocksville, head of the House Finance Committee who is shepherding a bill that would overhaul the unemployment system.

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