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While my caucus has been spending lots of time in meetings, discussing the bills coming up for debate and writing amendments with the hope of improving or revising the bills, the majority party has been in caucus even longer most days this week.  That is unusual.  While I am not sure what that means, it seems as if some of their members may be having misgivings about parts of their agenda.

The report from the Secretary of State’s office naming candidates who had turned in their papers to run for office had some surprises in it.  The deadline for submission was last Friday, so the candidate field is pretty set.  I was amazed by the fact that eleven majority party incumbents are being primaried.  When I look at the list, I can only presume that they are being challenged for their more moderate views.

On Wednesday, we debated HF 2355 which reduces the amount of time during which people can receive unemployment insurance from up to 26 weeks to 16 weeks. All but about nine states allow employees who are unemployed through no fault of their own to draw 26 weeks.

It also contains a sliding scale that requires that an unemployed job seeker be required by week eight to accept an offered job that only pays 60% of their former wage.  In other words, the longer a person is on unemployment, the lower wages the person must accept.  Their benefits will immediately cease if they don’t.  Although we offered a variety of amendments, most of them were ruled “not germane” by the chair.

We need a wholistic approach to our workforce problem and this is not the way to solve our shortage – by forcing people to take underpaid jobs.

On a more positive note, we passed two long-overdue bills.  HF 2384  regulates PBM’s (Pharmacy Benefit Managers) and will lower costs for consumers and help save small pharmacies.  (Fifty-eight  mostly rural small pharmacies have closed in the last four years.)  The second bill, SF 522 increases penalties in elder abuse cases.

Several appropriations bills are on the Debate Calendar this week: Judiciary; Agriculture; Natural Resources and Environmental Protection; Economic Development; Transportation and Infrastructure; State Administration and Regulation.

It would seem that we are moving quickly toward adjournment. I have to wonder if the high number of June primaries in the majority party is influencing a possible three-week earlier-than-planned adjournment.

Author: Sharon Steckman


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