Nicole LeFavour is a resident of Boise, an eight-year veteran of the state Legislature and a former Democrat congressional candidate. And after choosing last year to not run for re-election to her Senate seat (she ran instead against U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson and lost), she filed a claim for unemployment benefits, which were denied.
LeFavour represented District 19 for two terms in the House of Representatives (2004-08) and for two terms in the Senate (2008-12). As is true for all members of the Legislature, her work in the House and Senate was officially regarded as “part time,” earning her $16,116 in annual income. Had her application for unemployment benefits been accepted, LeFavour would have begun receiving $155 a week.
According to the Associated Press, LeFavour lived off of savings for the first several months after leaving her state Senate seat last November while she focused her time on writing a book. Idaho state law stipulates that former elected officials are ineligible for unemployment benefits, yet LeFavour says that she was persuaded to apply for unemployment benefits by friends who suggested that she should at least try to acquire them.
Under federal law, the filing of unemployment benefits claims is kept confidential. However, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, protested LeFavour’s claim, noting that if LeFavour was granted the benefit, it could set a reckless precedent that might eventually lead to candidates who never actually win election filing and receiving unemployment benefits against the time that they spent campaigning.
LeFavour’s actions have drawn scrutiny from other legislators besides Hill.
Rep. Matt Erpelding, a fellow Boise Democrat, told IdahoReporter.com that “I’ve chosen to serve in public office and when I’m finished I’ll go back to my regular work. I believe it is an honor to serve and the policy of not providing unemployment benefits for former elected officials is reasonable and appropriate.”
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, speaking on the issue of LeFavour’s filing, told the Associated Press that “It makes me uncomfortable to think that elected officials, when they were defeated or chose not to run, would have unemployment insurance coverage.”
Similarly, Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck, Post Falls, said LeFavour exercised “poor judgment” in filing the benefits claim.
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