The House and Senate have made some agreements and last Tuesday the House passed 3 bills which will be sent to the governor for her signature:
Biofuels Bill: Agriculture and its related biofuels industries are very important and critical to Iowa’s economy. No matter how many other varieties of business we have, agriculture and its related industries remain the backbone of Iowa’s economy. The governor and legislators have been working with farmers and the biofuels industry and the fuel retailers to help find ways to boost the sale of homegrown ethanol and biodiesel and help fuel retailers with the expensive infrastructure costs they must pay to offer these fuels and still maintain choice for consumers. Here are the provisions in the final bill:
1. As of January 1st, E-15 is the new standard for ethanol instead of E-10. E-15 fuel is cheaper, cleaner, and made right here in Iowa. The bill requires fuel retailers who are compatible to offer E-15 to consumers.
2. If a fuel retailer is not compatible, they must install compatible infrastructure to offer E-15 in at least half of their pumps. However, they can apply for a waiver from this requirement under certain circumstances:
- If the age of the underground fuel tank is too old
- If the cost to the retailer to install the infrastructure is too high. This change was made to ensure the bill does not put small fuel retailers out of business. For years now the state has been helping retailers with the high cost of installing this infrastructure. More funding is being invested into this. Priority for helping fund infrastructure for fuel retailers will be to upgrade existing retailers and non-exempt retailers.
- If the retailer sells less than 300,000 gallons of gasoline (based on a 3-year average). Provision added by the Senate.
After President Biden came to Iowa and announced allowing E-15 to be sold year-round, Governor Reynolds, along with all the Midwestern governors, is asking to make that permanent.
Unemployment Insurance Reform: This bill is intended to address the workforce shortage and get unemployed people back to work sooner. The goal is to return unemployment to what it was originally intended: provide financial support for a limited time while working towards re-employment. We need to ensure that government is not incentivizing Iowans to remain out of work, but instead is incentivizing folks to return to the workforce as quickly as possible.
This bill lowers unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks and it reduces the extension of benefits for plant closings from the current 39-week maximum benefit to 26 weeks. The bill does not change who is required to search for employment in order to receive unemployment benefits. However, if you are required to be looking for employment, the percentage of benefits you receive, if you refuse a suitable job offer, will decrease.
The House and Senate had disagreed over whether to have a 1-week waiting period before you can receive unemployment benefits. The House didn’t want it but the Senate did. It ended up being without the 1-week waiting period.
Child Care Supervision: Allows 16 and 17-year-olds to provide child care in a center for school-age children without supervision. Also changes the ratio of staff to children at a child care center. It would allow one worker to be able to watch seven 2-year-olds instead of 6 and allow one worker to watch ten 3-year-olds instead of eight. These changes are designed to help address the staffing shortages in child care centers and also create more child care slots for additional families, thus allowing child care facilities to take in more money. However, I have heard concerns about possible safety issues with watching additional children and with inexperienced workers, so I voted No.