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Lawmakers send unemployment, child care and renewable fuels bills to governor’s desk

The Legislature passed three key priorities on Tuesday as lawmakers continue to work past their scheduled end date last week.

Lawmakers passed the date when they stop getting paid on April 19 as they couldn’t reach agreement on several bills that were priorities for the governor this session, but on Tuesday the Legislature passed bills that addressed access to higher ethanol blends of fuel, unemployment benefits, the age requirement to work unsupervised in daycare centers and increasing the child-employee ratio in daycare centers.

The bills now go to Gov. Kim Reynolds desk for her signature to become law.

Here’s a roundup of the action taken Tuesday:

Unemployment: House File 2355 reduces the unemployment benefit period from 26 weeks to 16 weeks, and reduces the period that unemployment would be paid for someone who is laid off due to their employer going out of business from 39 weeks to 26 weeks. The Senate wanted to include a one-week waiting period before someone would be eligible to begin collecting benefits, but the House stripped the waiting period from a version of the bill it passed earlier and used a procedural motion to insist the Senate accept its version of the bill. The measure also lowers the amount of time a person can be on unemployment before they would be required to accept a lower-paying job from six weeks to one week. It passed the Senate 30-14 along party lines. Republicans suggested that reducing the number of weeks a person is paid unemployment will get people back into the workforce sooner and help close the state’s labor shortage. Democrats disagreed, calling it unfair and suggesting it will drive more people from Iowa.

Renewable Fuels: House File 2128 increases access to E15, requiring most gas stations to offer the higher biofuel blend. The Senate passed the bill on a vote of 42-3 and the House later passed an amended version of the bill 78-13. Under the bill, gas stations must sell E15 at at least one pump. Federal regulations prohibit the sale of E15 during the summer months but President Joe Biden said during a recent visit to Iowa that he would waive that restriction to help lower the cost of fuel to consumers. E15 generally costs up to a dime or more less than the more commonly sold E10 blend. Supporters of the bill said increasing access to E15 would help the state’s economy and its corn producers.

Child care: House File 2198 amends Iowa Department of Human Service rules to allow someone as young as 16 years old to care for children unsupervised in a daycare center. Currently, a person has to be 18 to work unsupervised. The House passed the measure 52-42. The bill also raises the maximum ratio at child care centers for 2- and 3-year olds, increasing the number of children one worker can supervise to seven 2-year-olds, up from six, and raising the number of 3-year-olds from eight to 10. Supporters said the measure would help ease labor shortages in the state’s daycare centers and increase access by adding space for children. The United Way of Central Iowa opposed the bill, saying it doesn’t make child care more affordable, accessible or enhance quality of care.

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