Kentucky lawmakers pass bill revamping jobless benefit rules

The passage sets up a policy conflict with the governor

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kentucky gave final passage Tuesday to a bill revamping rules for unemployment benefits, setting up another policy conflict with the state’s Democratic governor.

The sweeping measure — backed by the powerful Kentucky Chamber of Commerce — cleared the GOP-dominated legislature on a 58-36 House vote. The bill now goes to Gov. Andy Beshear, who recently said the proposal would hurt people needing help after losing their jobs.

Holding supermajorities in the House and Senate, Republicans have the numbers to override the governor’s vetoes. The contentious issue has splintered GOP ranks, with some eastern Kentucky lawmakers speaking out forcefully against the measure. They say it would hurt their constituents struggling to find work in a region where many coalfield jobs have vanished.

Key parts of the bill would increase work-search requirements for people receiving jobless benefits and tie the length of time recipients get benefits to the unemployment rate. That provision could cut the number of benefit weeks by more than half in times of low jobless rates.

Supporters say the bill represents an important step toward improving the state’s workforce shortages as businesses struggle to fill jobs.

Opponents said the stricter rules would increase hardships for many laid-off workers, forcing them to accept lower-wage jobs as they face a quicker cutoff of benefits.

The legislation is House Bill 4.

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