Legislature approves unemployment changes

The state House of Representatives Wednesday approved an overhaul of Washington’s unemployment system that favors business and drew angry shouts from protesters over its effects on seasonal workers.

As the Legislature entered its second special session – which ended Wednesday night after less than 24 hours – Senate Bill 6097 was sent to Gov. Gary Locke, who is expected to sign it.

The bill is considered a key element of the state’s bid to persuade Boeing to build its 7E7 jetliner in Washington.

The Senate voted 42-1 Wednesday to approve a series of tax incentives aimed at garnering the Boeing project.

The bill is expected to save businesses some $200 million per year, mostly by reducing benefits.

The plan would calculate jobless benefits based on average earnings over the past four quarters.

The current system uses workers’ two most lucrative quarters over the past 12 months.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, a Seattle Democrat, argued the program would hurt farm laborers, fishermen and others whose work is concentrated in only one part of the year.