April 16, 2009
Senate approves stimulus funds for unemployment insurance


The Texas Senate tentatively approved Sen. Kevin Eltife's bill to change the state's unemployment laws so that Texas can accept an estimated $555 million in federal stimulus dollars.


Eltife's bill was supported by 22 senators and opposed by nine. It faces a final vote before going to the House for consideration.

SB 1569
would make several changes to Texas law to drawn down the funds, including adopting unemployment insurance benefits for part-time employees and for workers forced to quit their jobs for compelling family reasons.

The record vote isn't available yet, so I don't know who the nine are. Sens. Deuell and Carona are listed as coauthors, so presumably they voted in favor. I guess Sen. Eltife had the numbers he needed. Kudos to him for getting this done.

Now of course, Governor Perry will surely veto this. The question is whether the House can pass it with enough votes to override, and if it can be passed in time to try to override it. Perry can sit on it for three weeks before issuing a yay or nay, so unless the House acts quickly, it'll be a moot point. No clue when they might get to it.

A statement from the Texas AFL-CIO in praise of this vote is beneath the fold.

UPDATE: Here's an AP story that identifies Sen. Tommy Williams as one of the No votes.

Today's Texas Senate vote to accept $555 million in federal economic stimulus funds for unemployed Texans marks an important statement that the Legislature needs to place the needs of Texans above political and ideological considerations, Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller said.

On a 22-9 vote, the Senate tentatively approved SB 1569 by Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler. The bill would make an estimated 45,000 jobless Texans, most of whom are low-wage or part-time workers, newly eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits. Eltife's bill also creates an interim study to explore Unemployment Insurance eligibility. A final vote will be required in the Senate.

"The Texas Senate chose today to engage the big problems in Texas rather than secede from them," Moeller said. "Taking a bipartisan approach, the Senate majority declared what ordinary Texans know: working families are hurting in this economy and the stimulus package offers help for them."

Eltife noted during floor debate that the stimulus funds would pay the cost of the eligibility improvements for the first nine years and save Texas employers $80 million in interest costs because of the reduced need to borrow to replenish the Unemployment Insurance fund in bad times.

Moeller praised Eltife and other senators in the majority, singling out Eltife's "extraordinary work" in advancing the legislation to this point. She said Sens. Eddie Lucio, Leticia Van de Putte, Rodney Ellis and Judith Zaffirini also played critical roles.

"Amid silly talk of 'state's rights' and 'secession' by opponents of federal funding to attack an economic nosedive, today's action by the Senate, taken with a minimum of debate, demonstrates that a bipartisan approach by legislators can address the real problems of Texas," Moeller said. "Today the Senate has done well and done right by all of Texas."

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 16, 2009 to Budget ballyhoo
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