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NEWS 6.16.22: Iowa Abortion Ruling Expected Tomorrow, Unemployment Changes for Iowans, Flood Prevention for Hornick, and More

The Supreme Court

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to release a decision tomorrow that could have a broad impact on abortion rights in Iowa.

The Court is reviewing a previous state Supreme Court decision from 2018 that established strong legal protections for abortion under Iowa’s constitution

A lawyer for the state argued earlier this year the decision was wrong and should be overturned.

The ruling makes it very difficult for Iowa lawmakers to pass further abortion restrictions.

This comes as the U-S Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case this month that could overturn Roe versus Wade.

If both opinions are overturned, it could pave the way for Iowa’s legislature to pass more abortion restrictions and revive previous laws struck down by courts.

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled this afternoon at five for the new berm protecting the community of Hornick from future flooding.

A flood in March of 2019 damaged or destroyed many homes and impacted farmland.

The Iowa Flood Protection Fund helped pay for the $2 million project. Mayor Scott Mitchell says “We are grateful for these funds so we are able to protect our community in the years to come.”

Construction on the berm is expected to start on July 1st with completion by the end of September.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has signed a bill into law cutting unemployment benefits.

The new law shortens the time Iowans can receive unemployment from 26 weeks to 16. It also requires unemployed Iowans to take a lower-paying job more quickly.

Coming out of the pandemic, Reynolds argued that the safety net was leading Iowans to not take jobs, thereby worsening the workforce shortage. Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill at an Iowa business convention in Dubuque.

Iowa unemployment insurance claims peaked in April 2020 with over 64,000 initial claims. But as of January, claims returned to pre-COVID levels.

Iowa Workforce Development reports Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.7% in May, down from 3% in April. The level was 4.5% a year ago. The United States unemployment rate is about one percent higher than Iowa’s level at 3.6%.

Iowa’s child care providers will soon be able to oversee more toddlers without increasing staff. Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill at an Iowa business convention in Dubuque. 

In addition to raising the child-to-staff ratio for 2 and 3-year-olds, now 16 and 17-year-olds can work for providers without supervision. At-home child care programs will be unaffected.  

Another bill signed Thursday would allow Iowans receiving government-funded child care assistance to enter into agreements with providers to pay extra money for services.  

South Dakota senators are staying silent on how they will vote as they weigh whether to remove Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office for his conduct surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash. Most say they will be impartial, likening themselves to jurors or judges who must give a fair hearing to an ordeal that has fractured the state’s Republican Party and galvanized public opinion. But the circumstances surrounding the two-day trial may have already tipped some of them. The senators have had copious evidence from the crash investigation and a House impeachment investigation, but little from Ravnsborg's side. It's not clear whether he will testify. The proceedings taking place at the state Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday will decide the political and professional fate of the 46-year-old Republican and Cherokee, Iowa native who's been South Dakota's top law enforcement officer and prosecutor since 2019.

Authorities say a Canadian bicyclist who was raising money for his granddaughter’s kidney transplant with a long-distance ride has died from injuries suffered when he was struck by a truck driver in South Dakota. Jean-Pierre Petit, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was hit from behind by the cargo truck Thursday while riding on the shoulder of Interstate 29. Petit died Monday at a Sioux Falls hospital. The 53-year-old was planning to cycle from Winnipeg to Hot Springs in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where there’s a fountain of natural spring water called the Kidney Springs. The Highway Patrol is investigating whether to file charges against the 65-year-old truck driver.

The treated drinking water of a northeast Iowa city had nearly 3,000 times the safe amount of a toxic, man-made chemical that persists indefinitely in the environment when it was tested in February, according to new federal advisories announced Wednesday.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has been sampling water in dozens of cities in the past year to help determine the pervasiveness of PFAS or “forever chemicals.”

They have been used for decades to make non-stick and waterproof products, firefighting foams and other items. Recent studies have shown that they can accumulate in people’s bodies over time and can cause numerous ailments, including cancers, liver damage, diminished immune systems and infant and childhood development delays, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2009, the EPA set a safety threshold of 70 parts per trillion for the two most-prominent PFAS.

Sioux City’s Water supply has 9.2 parts per trillion.

However, on Wednesday, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports the EPA lowered the health advisory of one of the PFAS to .004 parts per trillion and the other to .02 parts per trillion.

Current testing technology is unable to detect concentrations that small.

The DNR’s testing can detect concentrations as small as 1.9 parts per trillion. That means that one of the PFAS would have to be 475 times the safety threshold before it is detected.

News release from Iowa Workforce Development:

DES MOINES, IOWA – Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month to 2.7 percent in May – down from 3.0 percent in April and from 4.5 percent one year ago. Job growth was mirrored in the Labor Force Participation Rate, which grew to 67.6 percent in May, up from 67.4 percent last month and 67.1 percent a year ago. The U.S. May unemployment rate remained at 3.6 percent. The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,657,200 in May – a figure that is 10,400 higher than April and 52,300 higher than one year ago. The number of unemployed Iowans decreased to 46,800 in May from 50,900 in April. “The May report is outstanding and welcome news!” said Beth Townsend, Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “Every month that passes brings us closer to Iowa’s pre-pandemic employment level. But our real goal is higher. We want to continue to accelerate the recovery and get as many of Iowa’s 85,000 open jobs filled as quickly as we can.”

Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment

Iowa’s total nonfarm employment is up 34,900 for the year despite shedding 500 jobs between April and May, with total employment now standing at 1,565,000 jobs. Goods-producing sectors declined by 1,100 with job gains in manufacturing being overmatched by specialty trade losses in the construction sector. Private service industries were unchanged versus last month. Government advanced by 600 jobs due mostly to growth within education. This sector now is up 4,400 jobs versus last year, with most of the growth being in local government. Financial activities added the most jobs in May (+1,300). Most of the increase stemmed from insurance carriers and related activities. This is the first increase for financial activities since January. Manufacturing added 1,000 jobs due to hiring in nondurable goods shops. This is now the sixth consecutive gain for manufacturing stretching back to November 2021. Other services gained jobs in May (+600) and has now added jobs in three straight months. Leisure and hospitality increased slightly (+100) as arts and entertainment hiring overmatched declines in accommodations and food services. Job losses in May were highest in construction (-2,100 jobs), the first loss for this sector after six straight months of job growth. Many of these losses were due to specialty trade construction projects paring jobs, possibly reflecting apprehension about launching new projects amid higher costs. Trade and transportation shed 900 jobs with much of the decrease stemming from retail trade (-800). Other sectors losing jobs in May included education and health care (-500) and professional and business services (-400). Annually, leisure and hospitality has added the most jobs (+12,300). Most of these jobs have come from hiring in accommodations and food services (+9,300). Manufacturing establishments continued to grow their payrolls this month and are 8,100 jobs higher than last year’s mark. Retail trade has shown recent signs of cutbacks yet remains up 3,500 jobs. Annual job losses are sparse and limited to health care and social assistance (-1,600) and administration and support services (-1,400).

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