(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Because of what he called callous disregard by the Legislature, Gov. Jim Gibbons today announced he is working with his staff to craft emergency regulations to ensure the continuation of unemployment benefits to Nevadans next year.
Last week, the Nevada Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations refused to approve new regulations regarding the unemployment insurance taxes paid by Nevada businesses, Gibbons said. Because of this inaction, the federal government could cut off funding for unemployment benefits for nearly 120,000 Nevadans beginning January 1, 2010.
A lawmaker serving on the subcommittee said Gibbons’ criticism was unwarranted, however, and that there were good reasons for rejecting the request to pre-approve the proposed regulations.
Gibbons said the Nevada Employment Security Division had requested a pre-approval hearing last week so members of the Legislature could approve regulations to ensure unemployment benefits would continue to Nevada’s needy families without risk of interruption.
“I am stunned that the Legislature would show such callous disregard for Nevada families,” Gibbons said. “I plan to endorse the emergency regulations that will save the people of this state who are relying on these unemployment benefits during this difficult economic time.
“Legislators should be ashamed of themselves for their inaction on this matter,” he said. “They held a hearing and their approval of this matter should have been routine, but they are simply out of touch with the misery that some of our Nevada families are dealing with every day. I believe they are playing just politics with the pain and suffering of Nevada citizens.”
Unemployment insurance rates were set by Nevada’s Employment Security Advisory Council in October, and should have been routinely approved by the Legislature last week, Gibbons said. Instead, the legislative panel took no action, recommending instead that emergency regulations be adopted.
Assemblywoman and panel member Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said if the request had been approved, the regulations would have been put into effect before the public had a chance to comment on them.
“They had plenty of time to do this,” she said. “There is no reason to put the regs into place without the public process.”
Kirkpatrick said she was concerned that if valid issues were raised during a public hearing, there would be no way to address them. That is why the emergency regulation process was recommended instead, she said.
Emergency regulations last for 120 days. If the panel had given pre-approval and a concern was identified at the public hearing, no changes could be made until the next legislative session, Kirkpatrick said.
Cindy Jones, administrator of the Employment Security Division, said the pre-approval request was simply a timing issue and that she wanted to be “safe rather than sorry.”
The agency has a public hearing on the regulations scheduled for Dec. 7, and they have to be approved by the Legislature no later than Dec. 22, she said.
Since there was no meeting of the panel or the Legislative Commission after the public hearing date to give final approval to the regulations, there was a concern about whether they could take effect in time to ensure continued federal support of the state’s unemployment insurance program into 2010, Jones said.
The agency will have its hearing as scheduled and then seek approval from Gibbons for the emergency regulations, she said. The emergency regulations will be adequate to ensure the continuation of benefits for out-of-work Nevadans, Jones said.