(The Center Square) – A trifecta of deadlocked votes prevented a New Hampshire Senate bill from being considered by the House of Representatives.
During an hour-long discussion and vote on Senate Bill 42, which would call for the state not to charge interest on unemployment compensation overpayments unless a person knowingly or willfully made false statements to acquire the funds, the House Committee on Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services deadlocked 10-10 on three votes.
The votes on the bill were for passing the legislation without an amendment, an inexpedient to legislate vote, and an ought to pass vote as committee members hashed out details of the bill during Thursday afternoon’s executive session.
Vice Chairman Brian Seaworth, R-Merrimack, opened the discussion on the legislation, making an immediate ought to pass motion, stating he prepared the amendment to the bill.
“The bill addresses a situation,” Seaworth said, “where let’s say I’m an unemployed worker, and I filed for benefits, and I receive money to which I am not entitled. And what I have learned is there are three specific cases, two of which this bill doesn’t touch at all, and the third of which the bill and the amendment deal with.”
Seaworth told the committee that if he received compensation, he was not entitled to “keep it” and he “doesn’t have to pay it back." But if the compensation was fraudulently acquired, he called “essentially stealing money,” and would have to go through a process that could lead to criminal charges.
By law, a person receiving overpayments has 60 days to pay it back, Seaworth said, but there was no penalty for not paying back the money, yet there is discretion for a 1% interest charge. The bill, however, would have stipulated that if an overpayment is issued and the person receiving those funds does not pay it back, then any future unemployment compensation would go toward the overpayment until the debt is satisfied.
Rep. Brian Sullivan, D-Sullivan, said he would not support the amendment, saying the bill would allow for a decision over who would pay interest and how would not, as it would be up to the Department of Labor’s unemployment compensation division.
The committee then deadlocked in a 10-10 vote on the ought to pass measure before immediately taking up an inexpedient to legislation vote with the same result. The final vote, also deadlocked 10-10, was on an ought to pass vote.
The Senate Committee on Executive Departments and Administration recommended the bill for passage in a 5-0 vote on Jan. 19. Following a public hearing on Jan. 31; the committee voted 7-0 that the bill ought to pass.