The Legislative Assembly adopted three key priorities on Tuesday as lawmakers continue to work past their scheduled end date last week.
Lawmakers adopted the date they stop getting paid on April 19 because they couldn’t reach agreement on several priority bills for the governor this session, but on Tuesday the Legislative Assembly passed bills addressing access to higher ethanol fuel blends, unemployment benefits, the age requirement for unsupervised work in child care centers, and increasing the child-employee ratio in child care centers.
The bills now go to Governor Kim Reynolds’ office for his signature to become law.
Here is an overview of the measures taken on Tuesday:
Unemployment: House file 2355 reduced the period of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks and reduced the period during which unemployment would be paid for a person made redundant due to the cessation of activity of their employer from 39 weeks to 26 weeks. The Senate wanted to include a one-week waiting period before someone could start collecting benefits, but the House removed the waiting period from a version of the bill it passed earlier and used a procedural motion to insist that the Senate accept his version of the bill. The measure also reduces the length of time a person can be unemployed before being forced to take a lower-paying job from six weeks to one week. It passed the Senate 30-14 along party lines. Republicans have suggested that reducing the number of weeks a person is paid unemployed will get people back into the workforce sooner and help fill the state’s labor shortage. Democrats disagreed, calling it unfair and suggesting it would drive more people out of Iowa.
Renewable fuels: House file 2128 increases access to E15, forcing most gas stations to offer the highest biofuel blend. The Senate passed the bill on a vote of 42-3 and the House then passed an amended version of the bill 78-13. According to the bill, gas stations must sell E15 to at least one pump. Federal regulations prohibit the sale of E15 during the summer months, but President Joe Biden said during a recent visit to Iowa that he would waive that restriction to help reduce the cost of fuel for consumers. E15 typically costs up to a penny or more less than the most commonly sold E10 blend. Proponents of the bill said increased access to E15 would help the state’s economy and its corn growers.
Child care: Home file 2198 changes Iowa Department of Social Services rules to allow someone as young as 16 to care for children unsupervised in a daycare. Currently, a person must be 18 to work unsupervised. The House passed measure 52-42. The bill also increases the maximum ratio in child care centers for 2- and 3-year-olds, increasing the number of children a worker can supervise to seven 2-year-olds, up from six, and increasing the number of children 3 years old. people between the ages of eight and 10. Supporters said the measure would help ease labor shortages at state daycare centers and increase access by adding space for children. United Way of Central Iowa opposed the bill, saying it did not make child care more affordable, accessible or improve the quality of care.