Lawmakers resume unemployment compensation fight, begin moving legislation

    (AP Photo

    (AP Photo

    As the state legislature reconvenes for its new session, a lot of last year’s unfinished business is bubbling back up. One of the most contentious issues is the standoff between Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Republicans over funding for the state’s unemployment compensation program.

    It’s a conflict with wide-ranging effects, as evidenced by the stream of purple-clad union ralliers who marched through the Capitol Monday, imploring lawmakers to restore the UC money.

    Many of the demonstrators had been among the over 500 people laid off from their state jobs when the Senate GOP decided not to vote to extend the program’s dedicated funding stream in November.

    The chamber cited concerns about financial irresponsibility in the decision.

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    Democratic Rep. Peter Schweyer of Lehigh County begs to differ. He’s sponsoring a new version of the funding bill.

    “It’s exactly the same as what we passed last year,” he said of the new legislation. “A one-year extension using the unemployment compensation funds that we’re legally allowed to use for the operation of the system.”

    It, and a companion bill in the Senate, have so far been referred to their respective Labor and Industry committees.

    With Republicans holding significant majorities in both chambers, the Democrats won’t have much legislative sway on the issue.

    House Minority Leader Frank Dermody said he’s expecting considerable support for the bill from the House GOP, as the body overwhelmingly supported the bill last session.

    Senate Republicans have indicated they may hinge their decision on an audit of the program currently being undertaken by the Auditor General.That’s not expected to be finished until April.

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