Still Time to Fix Iowa’s Workforce Shortage
The most critical task going into the 2022 Legislative Session was addressing Iowa’s workforce shortage crisis. With one week left of the 100-day session, legislative leaders have been presented multiple chances to make investments that work towards fixing Iowa’s workforce crisis.
Democrats came into session with a plan to grow our workforce quickly while incentivizing the next generation to stay in Iowa by:
- Returning to Iowa’s deep-rooted history in fully funded, strong public education;
- Allowing students to learn, allowing educators to teach free of interference and threats, while keeping politicians out of the classroom;
- Stopping divisive political bills that make Iowa look unwelcoming to prospective employees and employers;
- Boosting wages and rewarding the hard work of Iowans.
So far, we have seen very little from Majority Party lawmakers to alleviate the workforce crisis our state is facing. Instead, they’ve passed massive corporate tax giveaways; attacks on workers and teachers; divisive bills that make our state look unwelcoming; and cuts to earned unemployment benefits for Iowans trying to find a good-paying job.
We must take bold steps to grow our workforce and keep the next generation in Iowa. There is still time this session to reward hard work and address the workforce crisis.
Biden Supports Biofuels in Iowa Visit
Iowa’s strong agricultural and manufacturing heritage has made us a world leader in renewable energy such as wind, solar, ethanol, and biodiesel. It has created tens of thousands of jobs and pumped billions into our economy.
On Tuesday, President Biden came to Iowa and announced a nationwide expansion of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, which will lower gas prices and boost the use of this Iowa-grown fuel. The President also announced the release of a record one million barrels per day from America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to bring down the cost of oil and energy.
Earlier this session, the Iowa House passed a bill to expand the use of renewable fuels here in Iowa. It establishes a new renewable fuel standard for service stations in the state to encourage expanded availability of renewable fuels and ensure that ethanol blended gasoline of at least 15 percent, often referred to as E-15, is available at more locations around the state.
With oil prices starting to decline, it’s essential that the lower price be passed on to Iowans through lower prices at the pump. Oil companies and gas retailers shouldn’t use the lower price to line their own pockets with record profits.
Governor Reynolds Closing Glenwood Resource Center
Last week, Governor Reynolds announced plans to close one of the state’s resource centers for Iowans with intellectual disabilities. Located in Glenwood, the center provides a full range of active treatment and habilitation services for individuals with severe intellectual disabilities. The goal is to prepare and support these Iowans to live safe and successful lives in the home and community of their choice.
After years of neglect and the failure of leadership from the Governor, Iowa’s resource centers have been under investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for putting the residents in danger.
Glenwood is currently home to over 150 residents and approximately 550 employees. The last time the Governor and the GOP closed state facilities at Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant, three elderly patients died shortly after being transferred to a private facility that could not meet their needs due to no post-closure plan.
House Democrats believe that we have an obligation to ensure the safest and smoothest transition possible for all those impacted by the planned closure. The people whose lives are affected deserve the dignity and respect of a transition that ensures their safety, security, and futures.
Lawmakers Pass Changes to Iowa’s Bottle Bill
An update to the long-standing beverage redemption program, known as the bottle bill, passed through the Iowa House this week.
Senate File 2378, as passed by the Iowa Senate, would allow retailers, like grocery stores, to opt-out of redeeming cans and bottles. While Iowans would still pay the five-cent deposit, distributors would pocket the unredeemed deposits. Overall, this version would reduce the number of places for consumers to return their containers and claim nickel deposits across the state.
In the Iowa House, lawmakers changed the bill to allow fewer retailers to opt-out of redeeming cans and bottles as long as they are near a redemption center or mobile redemption system. The House version also provides a larger incentive to redemption centers in the hopes to have increased access. It also requires stores that reject bottle returns to post on the front door the location of the nearest redemption center.
The five-cent deposit that Iowans already pay also remains the same. However, distributors would still pocket unredeemed deposits. The bill passed the House with an amendment and now awaits full Senate consideration.
A recent poll found:
- 84 percent of active Iowa voters say the bottle bill has been good for the state.
- 86 percent of Iowa voters want there to be more places to return bottles and cans to redeem their five-cent deposit.
Some Majority Party lawmakers have threatened to repeal Iowa’s popular redemption program if they couldn’t come to an agreement.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Bill (LEAD-K) Approved
Many deaf and hard-of-hearing children come to school with no or limited language skills at a critical time for learning. House File 604, known as the Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K), will impact high-quality services that support equitable early language acquisition in deaf and hard-of-hearing children. This should reduce the need for intensive remedial education services provided by a school, and will push for the coordination of deaf services for students.
There are approximately 430,000 individuals in Iowa who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. This legislation will encourage assessments, provide data, and help parents make informed choices and improve resources for deaf or hard-of-hearing children so that they will be ready for kindergarten.
The bill is awaiting the Governor’s approval, and funding for the coordinating staff to implement this bill is contingent on a financial appropriation.
Improvements to Iowa Breweries and Wineries Passes House
Those visiting their local Iowa winery or brewery may notice some upcoming changes because of a new alcohol reform bill that just passed the Iowa House. Although subtle, this legislation will allow individuals to purchase Iowa-produced spirits at wineries, and it will also increase overall alcohol content in beer that is produced in the state.
The wide-ranging alcohol reform bill, Senate File 2374, streamlines the licensing process in the state for establishments, such as bars and grocery stores, and eliminates duplicative or unnecessary permits. The bill additionally allows for the purchase of an Iowa-produced spirit such as whiskey or vodka, while increasing the alcohol content of “high alcoholic” from 15 percent to 19 percent.
The legislation has agreement from many in the alcohol industry including the brewer’s guild and the wine growers. The Iowa Brewers Guild has approximately 100 breweries throughout the state as members and there are nearly 100 wineries that are members of the wine growers institute. In 2021 tax revenue from wine and beer sales was more than $18 million and licensed facilities sold more than 95.8 million gallons of beer and 6.2 million gallons of wine, of which 1,149,911 gallons were Iowa beers and 167,436 gallons of Iowa wines.
Other Iowa News
BOOST TO IOWA TOURSIM: Thanks to President Biden and the American Rescue Plan, Iowa recently announced $100 million for tourism grants. Grants will go to cities, counties, nonprofit organizations, and other organizations for projects that attract both visitors and new residents to Iowa. Projects that fall under four program fund categories; economically significant development, outdoor recreation, tourism attraction, and creative placemaking will be considered. The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) will accept applications on a rolling basis starting May 9th. More information on the four grant programs can be found at: iowaeda.com/destination-iowa.
WEIGHT LIMIT EXCEPTIONS FOR PLANTING SEASON: To ease in this year’s planting season, the Governor has signed a proclamation allowing a temporary weight limit exemption for trucks operating on Iowa roads. The proclamation specifically increases the weight allowable for shipment of corn, soybeans, other agricultural seed, water, herbicide, pesticide, fertilizer, manure, gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and biodiesel, up to a maximum of 90,000 pounds, without the need for an overweight permit. The proclamation applies to all loads transported on all highways within Iowa, excluding the interstate system. Trucks must still comply with posted limits on roads and bridges. The proclamation also suspends the law pertaining to hours of service for crews and drivers transporting goods covered by the proclamation. The proclamation is effective through May 11th.
MARCH RAINS LEAD TO IMPROVED DROUGHT CONDITIONS: Precipitation across the state averaged almost half an inch above normal for the month of March. This increased rainfall improved drought conditions around the state, mostly in Southern and Eastern Iowa. There are still issues in Northwestern Iowa. Approximately 60 percent of the state remains at some level of drought or dryness. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the state is currently in the three month period that is typically the wettest across the state. Storm flows are normal across most of the state. For a complete review of the water resources in the state go to iowadnr.gov/watersummaryupdate.