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NEWS 3.28.22

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Iowa is nearing passage of a dramatic reduction in unemployment benefits to try to force people to fill thousands of open jobs and reverse a trend in which the governor argues the state’s “safety net has become a hammock.” A measure supported only by the Republicans who control the Legislature would reduce allowable unemployment payments from 26 weeks to 16 weeks, placing Iowa among only six states with such severe limits. Currently, 40 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico pay up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The proposed reduction comes as Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in February and the state’s businesses have struggled to hire enough workers. GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds has made the cutbacks a priority.

The South Dakota Legislature has failed to override three vetoes from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem. The three bills on Monday all failed to garner the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto. It sends defeats to proposals that would have given lawmakers more control over spending federal aid, allowed pregnant minors to consent to medical care without their parents’ permission and removed old marijuana charges from South Dakotans’ criminal background checks. Each of the bills lost support from lawmakers after Noem vetoed them last week, showing her sway in the Statehouse.

A South Dakota House committee investigating whether the state’s attorney general should be impeached for his conduct surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash is set to finish its work this week. House lawmakers are wrapping up a monthslong investigation that has splintered the state’s Republicans over the fate of Jason Ravnsborg. The House Select Committee on Investigation plans late Monday to issue a final report, which will include parts of the crash investigation that have not been redacted by the committee. Lawmakers will also discuss recommending Ravnsborg’s impeachment. The committee’s report will set the tone for House lawmakers as they prepare to vote on his impeachment

Nebraska lawmakers have given initial approval to a measure that could require the state to reimburse cities, school districts and other local governments anytime the state imposes a new expense on them. The proposed constitutional amendment advanced through the first of three required votes in the Legislature, 34-5. If lawmakers pass it, the amendment would appear on the November general election ballot where voters would approve or reject it. The measure was introduced by state Sen. Carol Blood, of Bellevue, to help local governments and reduce their reliance on property taxes. Property owners often complain to state lawmakers about their high property tax bills. Many local governments argue that their expenses are partly driven by unfunded state mandates.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska says he will resign from office, effective March 31, after a California jury convicted him of lying to federal authorities about an illegal campaign donation from a foreign national. Fortenberry’s announcement over the weekend follows concerted pressure on him to step down from political leaders in Nebraska and Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Friday urged Fortenberry to resign. Nebraska Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts said Fortenberry should “do the right thing for his constituents” and leave the office he has held since 2005.

Iowa is nearing passage of a dramatic reduction in unemployment benefits to try to force people to fill thousands of open jobs and reverse a trend in which the governor argues the state’s “safety net has become a hammock.” A measure supported only by the Republicans who control the Legislature would reduce allowable unemployment payments from 26 weeks to 16 weeks, placing Iowa among only six states with such severe limits. Currently, 40 states plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico pay up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The proposed reduction comes as Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% in February and the state’s businesses have struggled to hire enough workers. GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds has made the cutbacks a priority.

Iowa’s refugee resettlement agencies are expecting at least some Ukrainian refugees after President Joe Biden announced the country would accept up to one-hundred thousand. As of now, it’s unclear how many will come to Iowa, but resettlement agencies are already expecting some challenges. Kerri True-Funk is the director of the Des Moines field office of the U-S Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. She says finding permanent housing for Ukrainian refugees could be difficult, but she says Iowans are already showing their support.

“Similar to when people from Afghanistan were being evacuated, people wanted them to come here. And I think it will be a very similar situation for Ukrainian people.”

True-Funk says her organization is still currently looking for permanent housing for Afghan refugees who resettled in the state.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.