PHOENIX — Democratic Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor maneuvered
Tuesday to repeal a new law that makes it more difficult for workers to collect
unemployment benefits, but she was easily brushed aside by Republican leaders
championing the pro-business measure.
Republican Senate President Andy Biggs told lawmakers they shouldn’t undo
legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer a mere three weeks ago.
The legislation requires unemployed workers to present documents showing they
were fired before they can receive benefits. Previously, the burden was on
employers to fight fraudulent claims.
The U.S. Department of Labor initially raised concerns about the legality of
the bill. Under federal law, the burden of proof is not on the employee.
During a vote Tuesday on a separate unemployment bill, Landrum Taylor sought to
repeal the new law in a floor amendment backed by other Democrats. But they did
not have the votes in the Republican-led Senate to make the change.
Republicans argued that the overhaul was necessary to combat fraud. Business
leaders had lobbied lawmakers for the change, citing concerns about workers who
walk off jobs and then file for benefits.
Employers, “were in fact being punished by so many mistakes being made,” said
Republican Sen. John McComish.
But Democrats pointed out few employers provide documentation informing workers
of a dismissal, ensuring that workers will no longer be able to easily file for
benefits when they most need them.
“It puts them between a rock and a hard place to have to be the one that has
to prove that,” Landrum Taylor said.
Democratic Sen. Linda Lopez said the law “punishes workers of Arizona.”
Under the new measure, employers are allowed to claim that the employee
submitted a resignation orally to prove the worker voluntarily left the job.
Employers also may challenge claims if they say the worker skipped work.
Thousands of people could be affected by the change. The number of people
claiming benefits in Arizona was about 75,000 in January, according to the state
Department of Economic Security.