Editorial: A logical revision by the Legislature — A potential common-sense update from Alabama’s lawmakers
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Feb 05, 2014 | 1784 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chief of Staff, Josh Blades, left, talks with Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, of Auburn, as the first day of the Alabama Legislature begins on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Montgomery. Photo: Butch Dill/The Associated Press
Chief of Staff, Josh Blades, left, talks with Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, of Auburn, as the first day of the Alabama Legislature begins on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Montgomery. Photo: Butch Dill/The Associated Press
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In the 1960s, an Alabama Legislature known better for political shenanigans and backroom deals did something remarkably logical. In order to encourage the unemployed to at least seek part-time work and return to the labor pool, lawmakers decreed that those failing to find full-time employment could earn up to $15 a week and still receive full benefits.

That $15 was roughly half of the average unemployment check at that time. (In today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation, that $15 would be $98.96.)

Today, the maximum unemployment benefit someone can receive in Alabama is $265 a week. But they can still only make up to $15 in addition and not lose their benefits.

More than half a century has passed and the outside earning limit is the same. No wonder critics say the unemployed seem content to take the check and sit on the porch.

That may change if Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, prevails. He has introduced legislation that would allow the unemployed to earn up to one-third of the amount of their unemployment check and not lose benefits. That is approximately $88 of extra money the unemployed could bring home while also showing employers the sort of work ethic that might just land them a full-time job.

So, Williams’ fellow legislators are rallying around this idea, right? Most did. Some didn’t. Apparently without bothering to check the facts, Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, claimed this measure’s nearly $1 million price tag would hurt the state’s unemployment trust fund.

Rep. Richard Laird, I-Roanoke, chimed in that businesses would have to pay more into the trust fund, which amounted to “a tax increase.”

To his credit, Williams has pointed out that the trust fund has $220 million in it and the plan had the support of the Department of Labor. Both Laird and McClendon agreed to support the bill. It passed the state House 74-9 and now goes to the Senate.

It is always dangerous to be overly optimistic when the Legislature is meeting. However, this common-sense update does give us hope for the rest of the session.
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