Jul 26, 5:42 PM EDT

The Missouri Supreme Court has struck down a law that had cut the duration of the state's unemployment benefits to one of the shortest periods in the nation

A district summary of the Beige Book
Measuring economic stress by county nationwide
Mall malaise: shoppers browse, but don't buy
Unemployment by the numbers
Family struggles with father's unemployment
Saying an affordable goodbye
Hard times hit small car dealer
Latest Economic News
Japan's government and central bank appear to be readying a fresh dose of economic stimulus to help revive stalling growth

The U.N.'s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean is projecting a 0.8 percent slide in the region's economy this year

Nigeria's central bank hikes interest rate to 14 percent as recession looms for oil-rich state

A trade group is raising its forecast for retail sales growth this year to 3.4 percent, with more help from online sales, as the economy improves

South Korea's economic growth improved in the second quarter of the year, helped by stronger private spending and housing construction

A closely watched index of German business optimism has declined in July following Britain's vote to leave the European Union

Global finance officials promised Sunday to protect the world economy from the shockwaves of Britain's European Union referendum and to boost sluggish growth

Britain's economy appears to be shrinking at its fastest pace since the global financial crisis as a result of the vote to leave the European Union, but the rest of the region is holding up well, surveys showed Friday

South Korea's central bank says North Korea's economy shrank 1.1 percent last year, in its first contraction in five years

Egypt's currency falls to new lows on the black market; media reports say it reached levels of 12 pounds to the dollar

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a law Tuesday that had cut the duration of the state's unemployment benefits to one of the shortest periods nationally, meaning thousands of residents could get a longer financial lifeline as they look for work.

Since January, jobless workers have been limited to 13 weeks of benefits as a result of a measure that links the duration to Missouri's statewide unemployment rate, providing less aid when fewer people are searching for work.

In a 4-3 ruling Tuesday, the state's high court said the law never should have taken effect because of the way in which it was passed by the Republican-led Legislature. The result is that Missouri's jobless benefits will return to a maximum of 20 weeks, which is still shorter than the longtime national norm of half a year.

When Missouri's benefit cut took effect, it tied the state with North Carolina for the second shortest period, behind only the 12 weeks of benefits offered in Florida.

"When compared to other states, (Missouri) does not have a particularly generous unemployment benefit," said St. Louis attorney Michael Evans, who challenged the law on behalf of unemployed workers. "So further limiting it was harmful to Missouri families."

As of July 17, about 14,600 people had lost jobless benefits because of the 13-week cutoff, said Lauren Schad, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. She said the department will send information to those people about how to claim any additional benefits for which they may be eligible.

The benefit cuts were included in a 2015 bill that supporters touted as a means of shoring up Missouri's unemployment benefits trust fund. Missouri was among 35 states whose funds went insolvent following the recession that began in 2008, often resulting in temporarily higher taxes on businesses to replenish them.

Since the Great Recession, at least eight states have reduced the number of weeks that people can draw benefits, while others have cut the amount of money the unemployed can collect.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the Missouri legislation on May 5, 2015. The state House voted to override his veto a week later. But the state Senate did not act before ending its regular session work on May 15, instead waiting until September when lawmakers convened for a brief session to consider vetoes on a variety of bills.

The state Supreme Court's majority opinion, written by Judge George Draper III, said the state Senate override vote was invalid. It said the September session is reserved only for bills vetoed during the final week of the regular session or later, and the veto of the unemployment bill occurred earlier.

Dissenting judges, led by Judge Mary Russell, said the majority was reading too much into the wording of the constitution and thus improperly limiting the Legislature's powers.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard called the ruling an "unfortunate" precedent for how vetoed bills must be handled. But it may not spell the end of Republican attempts to further curb unemployment benefits and build up the trust fund.

"My ask of the Republican Senate would be, 'Let's get ready and try it again,'" Richard said.

Nixon said in a statement that the court ruling "is good news for thousands of Missourians who were wrongfully denied the unemployment benefits they had earned."

When the Legislature meets for its 2017 session, Missouri will have a new governor, because Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election this year.


Follow David A. Lieb at:

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.