Unemployment Benefits | VideoRetha Colclasure | 3/13/2013
In a split decision last month, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that under current law, locked-out workers were entitled to receive unemployment benefits from Job Service North Dakota. But some justices said the language in the State Century Code is unclear and ambiguous.
"House Bill 1112 turned in to the vehicle we used to clarify the law as it relates to locked out workers," said Senator Jerry Klein (R) from Fessenden. We as a legislature always assumed lockouts were included."
House Bill 1112 came up in a committee hearing earlier in the week, and the committee tacked on an amendment, but the bill hadn`t been scheduled for discussion. Klein says that`s because Senators had already heard testimony from union workers on an earlier, failed bill.
"I didn`t want to have a hearing and everybody say, `Oh my gosh, they`re taking it away from me.` We didn`t need to stir that pot again."
It`s uncommon, although not unheard of, for committees to bring up bills that aren`t on the agenda.
"I knew they were going to do it. Didn`t know the bill number. It was a Job Service subject," said Senator Philip Murphy (D) from Portland.
But Murphy believes unemployment compensation was created to give unemployed workers, including those unemployed because of a lockout, a hand-out while they figure out what to do.
"I think this is wrong," Murphy said.
The amendment doesn`t undo the court decision ruling that locked-out Crystal Sugar workers should receive unemployment benefits. But future workers in the same situation will find the law working against them.
The amendment was passed 33-14 along party lines. Some Senators spoke during the floor debate, saying the amendment was simply clarifying current law.
Others say it was changing the law.
Lawmakers still need to vote on the full bill. Crystal Sugar yesterday filed a petition to have the Supreme Court re-hear the case, and reverse its decision.