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Updated Apr 16, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Senate Democrats try to repeal unemployment law

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.

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