Senate Democrats stood in strong opposition today to the passage of Senate Bill 806, legislation pushed by Republicans that tinkers with the state's
Unemployment Insurance system to make it harder for Michigan's unemployed to get and keep their benefits. This bill comes on the heels of earlier legislation passed by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by Governor Snyder that reduces Michigan's unemployment benefits by six weeks.
"It is fundamentally wrong to be kicking hard-working folks off of unemployment insurance while there is a major shortage of jobs in
Michigan," Senator Bert Johnson (D - Detroit) said. "If the economy was booming, unemployment was low, and "Help Wanted" signs were abundant in our communities, that would be another story. In the real world, though, that's not the case."
Prior to the party-line passage of this bill, Senate Democrats asked the Secretary of the
Senateto read the entire language of the bill to remind Republicans of the harm they were about to do to Michigan's unemployed workers. While reading all legislation in full is a major tenet of the Tea Party and other conservative Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was irked by the move and bullied Senate Democrats over the motion, even threatening to fire Senate Democratic staff in retaliation.
"Senate Republicans are suddenly opposed to having important legislation read in full, even bullying our Caucus and threatening to cut our staff in retaliation," said Senator
Gretchen Whitmer (D - East Lansing). "But they shouldn't really be upset about having the bill read, but rather what it does--continuing to attack Michigan's unemployed workers and treating them as the scapegoat of our economic woes rather than the solution to them."
"We should be helping our unemployed workers find jobs and be able to provide for their families while they look for work," said Senate Democratic Floor Leader
Tupac A. Hunter (D- Detroit). "Our unemployed workers are struggling enough without being further punished for being unable to find work. Senate Republicans should be offering proactive solutions to create jobs and rejuvenate our economy, not kicking displaced workers while their down."
Senate Bill 806 makes a number of additional exceptions to who is eligible for unemployment benefits in
Michigan and other revisions favorable to employers, bogging displaced workers down with additional bureaucracy as they simply try to make ends meet. This is just the Senate Republicans' latest attack on the unemployed in Michigan. In March, Senate Republicans passed HB 4408 that made Michigan eligible for a one-time federal Unemployment Insurance extension, but in the process, also permanently reduced the number of Michigan-paid unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20.