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Friday, September 7, 2012 - 4:00am

Butler Defies Unemployment Policy

Georgia’s labor commissioner is refusing to restart jobless benefits to seasonally unemployed teachers and bus drivers, setting up a showdown between state and federal officials.

The U.S. Labor Department said last month that Georgia was violating employment law by denying the benefits.

Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said the administration in Washington is “over-stepping their bounds” with that decision.

A spokesman said the federal Labor Department is reviewing Georgia's "new legal position." Washington threatened to cut millions of dollars sent annually to Georgia to administer the unemployment program unless the state relented and resumed the payments.

Butler estimates 3,500 to 4,000 bus drivers, pre-k teachers, landscapers, janitors, crossing guards and other contractually employed Georgians have filed or will file unemployment claims.

Federal data labels more than 64,000 Georgians as private "educational service" workers -- employees who lose work during the summer when school is out.

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