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IN THE NEWS
JOBLESS BENEFITS: Iowa will become just the fourth state with 16 weeks or fewer of state unemployment benefits under legislation that needs only Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signature to become law.
The reduction in state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 was approved Tuesday by majority Republicans in the Iowa Legislature. Reynolds made a similar proposal earlier this year, and is likely to sign it into law.
Now, a person receiving unemployment benefits has six weeks before having to accept a lower-paying job. The bill shortens that time frame.
After one week, a person on unemployment would have to accept a job offering 90 percent of previous wages. That would drop to 80 percent after three weeks and 75 percent after five weeks, and to 60 percent of the previous wage after eight weeks.
E15 ETHANOL: More Iowa gas stations will be selling a higher blend of ethanol under a proposed mandate that is about to become state law.
State lawmakers on Tuesday approved — with strong, bipartisan support — a proposal to require that most Iowa gas stations have at least one pump offering the E15 blend of ethanol for sale.
To become law, the legislation now needs only the signature of Gov. Kim Reynolds, who made the proposal. She told reporters Tuesday the E15 requirement will help the state’s economy and its corn farmers: Just more than half of corn grown in Iowa goes to ethanol plants.
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: The congregation at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church has voted to allow same-sex couples to marry in the church.
It’s the first United Methodist Church in the state to put the issue to a vote of the congregation, with 85 percent of the 195 members voting last Sunday approving the measure.
“We were at the point where St. Paul’s either had to make history or become history,” said Gary Lindsay, a member of the church since the mid-1980s.
MORE HY-VEE MOVES: West Des Moines-based retailer Hy-Vee — citing economic challenges and “uncertain times ahead” — said it will ask “up to 500 additional employees” to move from corporate-level jobs to retail positions at its stores.
Hy-Vee in March eliminated 121 corporate-level positions, with 102 of those employees offered retail positions at its stores.
The retailer, in a full-page advertorial in Wednesday’s Gazette, laid out the current challenges it says it and other companies in the retail food sector face.
“It’s another slap in the face to Iowa workers. We believe it will continue to exacerbate the Reynolds’ workforce crisis that’s gripping literally every industry here in our state." — Iowa state Sen. Zach Wahls of Coralville, the leader of the minority Senate Democrats, about the cuts to jobless benefits
“I’m hoping this will be some sort of beacon of light, maybe an example for other churches to follow.” — Gary Lindsay, member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, after members voted to allow same-sex couples to marry in the church
TRAFFIC DEATH TOLL SIGNS: A Texas study found that highway crashes may actually increase on days the state’s death toll is displayed on those large electronic signs that span highways.
An Iowa Department of Transportation official — whose office creates the messages that go on Iowa’s signs — said she knows of no other study that replicates the Texas finding.
More in the news
BREAST CARE CENTER: University of Iowa Health Care has opened a new Breast Care Center in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.
UIHC has had a nationally certified breast center since 2010, but it was spread out in several locations. A remodeling brings the services into one space, allowing “us to become more patient-focused, patient-friendly and patient-centered,” said Dr. Sonia Sugg, the center’s medical director.
FIRE DEPARTMENT KERFUFFLE: With the clock ticking toward a Tuesday deadline for West Liberty to lose service from the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department, the city's public safety committee last Tuesday couldn't decide on a way forward.
In a letter, firefighters threatened to resign and set a May 1 deadline for negotiations with the city. That deadline was extended to May 3, when the city council meets. If the council agrees to bargain in good faith with the firefighters, the deadline could be extended to June 1, the fire chief said.
West Liberty firefighters are proposing a new 28E intergovernmental organization to run fire services for the city and rural fire district after a long-running dispute over how the city runs the department.
The fire department claims the city has been "actively waging war" on the department for three years, citing issues such as mixing department funds, micromanaging the department, and deliberately stalling attempts to hire new EMTs.
The city says those allegations are unfounded.
PANDEMIC CHECKS: Johnson County has begun taking applications from low-income residents for a one-time $1,400 check.
People can apply for the one-time assistance — funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act — until noon May 23.
About 2,500 residents will be randomly selected to receive payments.
Johnson County set aside $2 million for the direct relief payments and Iowa City contributed $1.5 million from its share of ARPA funds.
PATE RESPONDS: Although he disagrees, Secretary of State Paul Pate said he respects the Iowa Supreme Court decision clearing the way for Abby Finkenauer to be on the June 7 Democratic primary election ballot.
“I felt that 200 candidates plus got it right and were able to get the dates and signatures done correctly. From where I sat, the (Iowa) Code did say not ‘maybe,’ but ‘shall'" he said on the Iowa PBS series "Iowa Press."
Gazette Des Moines Bureau