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Krugman: At $299 a week NC's jobless insurance is hardly a hammock

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman criticizes the North Carolina legislature decision on unemployment in a column in today's paper entitled "War on the Unemployed.''

"The state was hit hard by the Great Recession, and its unemployment rate, at 8.8 percent, is among the highest in the nation, higher than in long suffering California or Michigan," Krugman writes. "As is the case everywhere, many of the jobless have been out of work for six months or more, thanks to a national environment in which there are three times as many people seeking work as there are job openings.''

He quotes Rep. Paul Ryan as saying that modern social programs "turn the safety net into a hammock.'' "The average unemployment benefit in North Carolina is $299 a week, pretax; some hammock," he writes.

The story can be read here.

Groups make last-ditch plea to save extended unemployment benefits

Nearly two dozen advocacy organizations – representing labor, churches, senior citizens, immigrants and assorted other liberal social groups and individuals – on Tuesday again pleaded with the governor and legislators to extend unemployment benefits.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill earlier this year cutting the amount of unemployment money people can collect and reducing the length of time they can receive them. That action made the state ineligible for federal emergency funds, and as a result, some 70,000 people now receiving extended benefits will be cut off on July 1.

Jobless bill moving to Senate floor

A bill that would restructure the state's unemployment system is on track to be debated on the Senate floor Tuesday after winning a committee endorsement.

The Republican-backed bill sailed through the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, winning approval by a voice vote.

Wednesday's approval came after two amendments proposed by Democrats that were aimed at easing the negative effects on the unemployed were rejected. The amendments were similar to measures that also failed to gain traction in the House, which approved the bill Tuesday.

House approves cuts to jobless benefits to pay down debt

The state House on Monday night tentatively approved an overhaul of the state’s unemployment system along partisan lines after voting down a series of amendments offered by Democrats.

The bill cuts the maximum benefits paid to unemployed workers by roughly one-third, from $535 a week to $350. It also would reduce the maximum weeks of benefits from 26 to a sliding scale of between 12 and 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate.

Rep. Julia Howard, a senior Republican lawmaker from Mocksville and a bill sponsor, argued that passage of the bill is needed to curb benefits that have gotten out of whack and to make the state competitive in competing for industry. Read full story here.

Organizations push back against jobless benefits overhaul

Organizations opposed to a bill that would significantly cut unemployment checks for the jobless urged legislators to reconfigure the legislation in light of the harmful effects it would have on people's lives.

The press conference hosted Monday afternoon by several organizations -- the N.C. Justice Center, AFL-CIO, NC MomsRising and AARP -- was held just hours before the state House is slated to consider a Republican-backed measure to overhaul the state's unemployment system. The bill, which was approved last week by the House Finance Committee, hasn't yet been taken up by the Senate.

Robert Riggins, a benefits administrator at the Freightliner plant in Mount Holly, urged legislators to try living on the lower weekly unemployment checks called for in the bill. The legislature is considering cutting the maximum benefits paid to unemployed workers by roughly one third, from $535 a week to $350.

"That bill is devastating to North Carolina families and North Carolina workers," Riggins said. Last week Freightliner's corporate parent, Daimler Trucks North America, announced that it could lay off up to 1,200 workers at its North Carolina plants in Gastonia, Mount Holly and the Rowan County town of Cleveland.

McCrory takes his pro-business message to tobacco growers

Gov. Pat McCrory pitched his pro-business agenda to a receptive audience Friday morning: the annual meeting of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina at the State Fairgrounds.

His remarks were bookended by standing ovations and interrupted by applause three times, as he assured several hundred in attendance that their industry represented the kind of business people that he is trying to help.

Democrats sound alarm on fast-tracked bills

"I think they want to leave town just as soon as possible."

That was Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt's parting words on Thursday, a day that saw Republicans speed-voting two major pieces of legislation toward quick approval with little public discussion.

Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat, and Rep. Larry Hall, the House minority leader from Durham, were joined by a couple dozen other General Assembly Democrats to complain about two bills that would cut unemployment benefits and reject expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Picking up on a theme from last session, the Democrats said GOP committee chairs are not allowing public comment, sharing information with Democrats only at the last minute and then rushing into law bills crafted in private with help from business interests.

House Republicans, meanwhile, countered that the unemployment insurance bill has been studied and debated in the open for several months leading up to Thursday's committee meeting.

Unemployment bill moves to House floor

A controversial bill to drastically overhaul the state’s unemployment system was approved by the Republican-controlled House Finance Committee on Thursday. The 23-13 vote sets the stage for the entire state House to take up the bill Monday evening. An identical bill also was introduced in the Senate but has not been acted upon. The bill cuts benefits for unemployed workers and slightly raises the state unemployment taxes paid by employers.

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.

Bills already being filed: No Medicaid expansion, no health exchange, western crime lab funding, unemployment insurance changes

The General Assembly convenes at noon Wednesday, but a handful of bills have already been filed. Topics include resisting the federal health insurance exchange, not expanding Medicaid coverage, unemployment insurance and funding a western state crime lab. Here's a look at what's been filed.

Additional bills cover temporary funding for group homes, right-to-work constitutional amendment, eugenics compensation and eminent domain.

Update: The crime lab bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, would allocate almost $18 million to build and staff a regional crime lab on the Western Justice Academy in Henderson County. Apodaca is one of the Republican leaders in the Senate, and so this bill can be considered a priority with the legislature.

1359559082 Bills already being filed: No Medicaid expansion, no health exchange, western crime lab funding, unemployment insurance changes The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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