The state House has voted to overturn Governor Jay Nixon’s (D) veto of a bill that would shorten the length of time Missourians can receive unemployment benefits, but the question might not even be considered in the Senate in the final three days of the session.

Scott Fitzpatrick (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Scott Fitzpatrick carried the unemployment bill in the state House.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The Republican-controlled House mustered just enough votes to overturn the veto of a bill that would link the length of time workers can get unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate, shortening it to as few as 13 weeks if that rate stays below 6-percent. The current time period is 20 weeks. The national standard is 26.

Representative Margo McNeil (D-Florissant) said the measure will only hurt people who need help.

“We’re going to vote to be the absolute lowest state in the nation? The absolute stingiest state in the nation, with this override?” McNeil asked fellow representatives during debate, Tuesday. “Where is our humanity?”

Representative Keith English (I-Florissant) said the bill would hurt him, his family, and anyone who works a seasonal job.

“January 1 starts unemployment, Mr. Speaker, so the second week in April is the thirteenth week,” English told his fellows. “So we might get a job at Labadie Powerhouse, Meramec Powerhouse, somewhere where we’ve got about a 20- to 30-week shutdown, but then what happens is as the work starts to come down we get laid off. Well, if we used our 13-weeks of unemployment, Mr. Speaker, guess what, when we get laid off we go down to the bottom of the list, and there’s no work coming around the holidays … when we cut from 20 to 13 weeks there is no money left, so now what happens? We go on [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program].”

Republicans say shortening the length of time people can receive benefits reduces the amount employers have to pay into it. This bill would also make it more difficult for a former employee who is getting a severance package to receive unemployment, and would increase the amount the state could keep in its unemployment insurance trust fund.

Backers say the state has had to borrow federal money when that fund has run dry. Sponsor Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) says that practice has hurt Missouri businesses.

“It makes employers less competitive across state lines to states that have better unemployment trust funds that work right,” said Fitzpatrick. “It just makes sense to make this thing solvent. It makes no sense to leave it the way it is right now.”

It is now up to the Senate whether to vote to override Nixon’s veto, but after Republican leadership in that chamber forced a vote on a so-called “Right to Work” bill, Democrats in that chamber say they will make it as difficult as possible to move any legislation in the final three days of the session.