Lawmakers: Iowa first to help deployed soldiers
Majority Democrats said their focus on military issues will make Iowa the first state to enact all of the Defense Department’s quality-of-life measures for families of service members.
Lawmakers said during a news conference Thursday that measures addressing 10 key issues identified by the Defense Department have been approved or will be approved by the end of this year’s session.
“The Defense Department has identified 10 key issues they’d like states to address,” said Sen. Steve Warnstadt, D-Sioux City, a colonel in the Iowa National Guard. “Iowa stands at the front of the class when it comes to state support for active duty members and deployed members of the Guard and Reserve.”
Among the issues states have been asked to address include ensuring that deployment doesn’t endanger child custody, strengthening jobless benefits for the spouses of deployed soldiers and expanding absentee voting rights for soldiers who are overseas.
Most of the measures have been enacted virtually without opposition, with criticism coming only for a “trailing spouse” measure that expands jobless benefits for the spouses of deployed soldiers.
That measure was proposed because supporters say a spouse who is left behind during a deployment often finds it impossible to keep a job and care for a family, and frequently must move closer to relatives for help.
The measure approved by the House and awaiting Senate debate would make those spouses eligible for jobless benefits. Typically, workers who voluntarily leave their jobs aren’t eligible for benefits.
Critics said the measure is anti-business, because the fund from which jobless benefits are paid is financed by a tax on businesses based on their employment history.
Backers said the additional benefits will be paid using the interest generated by money in the fund, and won’t force businesses to pay more in taxes. They also argued that the number of workers affected by the change is relatively small.
Gov. Chet Culver has indicated he backs the measures and is likely to sign many of them into law.