Newscast 04.20.23: Iowa unemployment rate drops slightly; Iowa House and Senate still working on education and property tax relief bills
Iowa’s unemployment rate has dropped a tenth of a percent in the last month, according to Iowa Workforce Development.
Last month’s 2.8% unemployment rate is half a percent lower than it was a year ago. The percentage of working age Iowans who have a job or are actively looking for one increased to 68.2%. Iowa Workforce Development director Beth Townsend says it’s a sign people who quit a job or retired during the pandemic are returning to the labor market.
The Iowa Senate has confirmed two new members to the state board that will decide whether proposed carbon pipelines get built in Iowa, according to Radio Iowa.
Attorney Erik Helland, a former Republican member of the state legislature, was confirmed to serve as chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board on a 39-11 vote. After two terms in the Iowa House, Helland worked in Alaska’s state government.
In a separate vote today, all 50 Senators supported confirming Sarah Martz, the director of engineering for utilities on the Iowa State University campus, to the Iowa Utilities Board. Martz has degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
The Iowa Senate has passed Gov. Kim Reynolds’ education bill for the second time as the two legislative chambers send the proposal back and forth.
Senate and House Republicans appear to agree on removing books with sexual content and banning instruction related to LGBTQ topics in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Both versions also require schools to report to parents when a student asks for gender affirming accommodations in school.
The Senate yesterday (Wednesday) restored proposed penalties for violating the rules on books and informing parents. An educator could land before the state licensing board for a disciplinary hearing.
Sen. Zach Wahls, a Democrat from Coralville, says that possibility could drive some out of the profession.
This bill fundamentally is putting teachers in a position that they don’t want to be in.
The Senate also removed several House proposals from the education bill regarding changes to mandatory reporting and membership of the Board of Educational Examiners.
It passed the Senate on party lines and now goes back to the House.
House and Senate lawmakers have passed competing bills to cut property taxes as they seek to reach a deal to lower Iowans' tax load and rein in spending growth.
Iowans have seen skyrocketing home assessments this year as the value of their property has rapidly increased, and the Republican proposals are seeking to make sure those higher assessments don't result in spiking tax bills for homeowners.
Both bills received nearly universal support, indicating a bipartisan interest in lowering property tax bills. But neither the House nor Senate version is likely to become law in its current form. Republicans in both chambers are still seeking to find a compromise.