State, Federal Agency Letters Pop Dems’ Balloon on Rushed Amendment to Exploit Shutdown

CONCORD – House Labor committee chair Rep. Brian Sullivan (D-Grantham) forwarded an email (below) containing letters from the US Department of Labor and the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security on Sunday, which both discouraged the committee from considering an amendment to SB16, which would have attempted to pay state unemployment benefits to certain furloughed federal workers due to the amendment’s conflicts with federal law.

SB16 is scheduled for a continued executive session on Wednesday, March 6, where Sullivan, after reviewing the letters, has instructed his committee members to, “vote down the amendment.”

House Republican Leader Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) issued a statement relative to the guidance from the state and federal agencies, and Rep. Sullivan’s change of heart on the amendment:

“For the last month, House Democrats have been pushing forward with this ill-advised idea despite repeated warnings. I’m thankful that the chairman has apparently taken the advice from the state and federal agencies, and will not put our state in danger of being in conflict with federal law, or unnecessarily draining the unemployment insurance trust fund.

Rep. Hinch first criticized the proposal the process after the amendment was circulated to Labor committee members. In a statement, on February 22, he said in part:

“They tried to slip SB16 in under the radar so they could attach an ill-advised amendment to it dealing with authorizing unemployment benefits to federal employees affected by the recent government shutdown. Despite written communication from the federal government and repeated public comments advising against this provision from our own Department of Employment Security, House Democrats moved forward with a bad idea. They are doing a great job finding avenues to exploit the shutdown for political gain, and they seem to be willing to disregard customary processes and common sense as they charge down this road. Their lack of forethought on this issue resulted in the committee needing to recess the executive session and delay action on this bill due to the volume of problems uncovered in the amendment. Haste makes waste.”

Background: SB16 was introduced into the House on January 31st, the same day it was passed by the Senate. The bill originally dealt with the date for certain federal systems of data exchange. The amendment, which was distributed to the House Labor committee during the week of February 11,  and discussed at executive session on the bill on February 21, sought to modify eligibility requirements such that those federal workers who were required to work without pay could receive state unemployment benefits. If the worker receives back pay, the worker would be required to pay back the benefits they received in a “reasonable time,” a parameter which was undefined.


Letter from NH Department of Unemployment Security to Chairman Sullivan

Letter from US Department of Labor to Commissioner George Copadis

Copy of Rep. Sullivan amendment to SB16

From: Sullivan, Brian
Sent: Sunday, March 3, 2019 4:22 PM
To: ~House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services
Subject: FW: SB 16 Proposed amendment dealing with Ui benefits for federal workers

Good afternoon,

Spending part of Sunday afternoon preparing for the week. In reviewing the letter that I received from Deputy Commissioner Lavers, I am realizing that he sent it only to me and not to the full committee. I apologize for not forwarding it to you folks sooner.

In addition, I have received a copy of another letter from the US Dept of Labor. It also is attached to this letter.

In reviewing both letters I have concluded that regardless of the merits of the proposed amendment, it seems clear that a fiscal note would be needed and a second committee would most certainly have been involved. I am therefor going to recommend to the committee that we vote down the amendment and pass the underlying bill.

We can discuss this on Wednesday, but I just wanted to give a heads up so you can keep this in mind as you prepare for your week

Brian Sullivan

New Hampshire State Representative

Sullivan District 1

Representing Cornish, Grantham, Plainfield and Springfield