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A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Wednesday, June 23, 2021:
NEW CLERKS, JUDGES: Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court have approved a “transformational” budget for fiscal 2022 that they say will provide the courts the resources needed to transition from COVID-19 pandemic court services and processes to post-pandemic operations.
The $189,640,252 budget, a 4.7 percent increase over the current fiscal year's budget, includes additional funding for four district associate judges and 17 clerks of court positions, mostly in rural counties.
“This is a transformational budget for the judicial branch that allows us to invest in rural communities and in the people who serve our state in all 99 counties,” Chief Justice Susan Christensen said.
With the new funding, two district associate judges will be appointed in October and two more in January 2022.
Adding the 17 clerk positions will allow the judicial branches to offer full-time services in all Iowa counties, she said.
Currently, staffing in clerk of court offices in 32 counties is below the recommended level of 2.5 full-time positions, which is recommended to ensure safety, fiscal responsibility and full-time coverage in county courthouses.
The new budget also includes a 3 percent salary increase for judicial officers and a 1.1 percent salary increase for court employees other than judicial officers plus a 1 percent step increase.
The judicial branch also plans to fill positions left vacant or frozen during the last fiscal year.
CHILD CARE SUPPORT: There is additional financial support available for child care providers across Iowa.
The funding includes increased Child Care Assistance rates, stipends to accelerate COVID recovery efforts, and enhancements to programs promoting educational opportunities for child care providers, said Gov. Kim Reynolds.
She said the additional assistance is needed as the Governor’s Child Care Task Force continues to develop policy recommendations in advance of the 2022 legislative session.
“Access to affordable child care is critical to Iowa’s sustained economic recovery from COVID-19,” said Reynolds.
To support providers accepting federal Child Care Assistance, DHS officials have completed an updated 2020 Market Rate Survey, resulting in increased rates effective July 1.
Also, the agency will continue to pay providers impacted by the pandemic monthly stipends and unlimited absent days until Aug. 31.
Gazette Des Moines Bureau