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Eye On Boise

Wed., May 1, 2013, 10:03 a.m.

Former state senator’s bid for unemployment after leaving Senate denied

Former state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, sought unemployment benefits after leaving the state Legislature to run for Congress, the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey reports today, but was denied. Popkey talked with legislative leaders from both parties; none supported the move. "My concern was much broader than just this individual claim," Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, told Popkey. "If she qualified, then what about all the other legislators who got redistricted out, or decided not to run, or got beat in the primary or general election? Are all of them eligible for unemployment?"

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, told Popkey, “It makes me uncomfortable to think that elected officials, when they were defeated or chose not to run, would have unemployment insurance coverage." You can read Popkey’s full report here; click below for a shorter version of the story via the Associated Press.

Democrat rebuffed in bid for unemployment benefits

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former Idaho state senator has been rebuffed in her bid to win a $155 weekly unemployment check that even her own party doesn't think she is owed.

The state rejected Boise Democrat Nicole LeFavour's application for the money that she sought after leaving her $16,611 annual job in the Legislature in 2012 to run for Congress, the Idaho Statesman reported Wednesday.

Elected officials aren't eligible for unemployment, according to Idaho law. Employees are eligible only if they have been involuntarily laid off, quit for cause or discharged for reasons other than misconduct.

State Democratic officials said LeFavour exercised poor judgment.

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck said somebody who quits qualifies for unemployment benefits only when he or she faces a hostile, discriminatory or unsafe work environment.

"It makes me uncomfortable to think that elected officials, when they were defeated or chose not to run, would have unemployment insurance coverage," added House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston.

After she applied for assistance earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, a Republican from Rexburg, objected. As the top senator, he leads LeFavour's former employer and was worried about the precedent such payments could set.

LeFavour, the state's first openly gay lawmaker who ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Republican Mike Simpson last November, said she has fallen on tough times. Friends urged her to at least try to get benefits, she said.

"I worked there for eight years and a couple people said, 'You know, if you're in that circumstance, you should try,'" LeFavour said.

LeFavour hopes her financial fortunes rebound. She's working on a book that she hopes will earn an advance payment. Her agent, Rob Weisbach, has represented best-selling celebrities Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen DeGeneres.

"It was kind of odd, I thought, that he would ask me," she said, "but it's been really fun working on the memoir."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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