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May 2: Last week at the Iowa Legislature

iowa statehouse
IPR News
Iowa statehouse

The Iowa legislature is still in session in Des Moines. After a couple of fairly quiet weeks at the statehouse, there was some action again last week as lawmakers work toward adjournment.

Here's what went on at the Capitol last week:

What the ethanol bill on the governor's desk would mean at the pump

The Iowa Legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk with bipartisan support that would require many Iowa gas stations to sell fuel with higher blends of ethanol. Gas stations that open after Jan. 1, 2023 would have to sell gas blended with 15 percent ethanol from at least half of their dispensers. Existing stations with compatible infrastructure would have to sell E-15 from at least one dispenser by 2026. The state-level E-15 mandate is one of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ priorities this year. Lawmakers amended her bill to add options for gas stations to get out of the E-15 mandate. Gas stations selling less than 300,000 gallons of fuel per year would be exempt. Other gas stations could get waivers based on having infrastructure that’s incompatible with E-15.

Lawmakers pass bill relaxing some child care workforce regulations

The bill would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to provide child care to school-aged children without additional supervision. It would also allow a child care worker to care for seven 2-year-olds or 10 3-year-olds. That’s up from the current law allowing one worker to care for six 2-year-olds or eight 3-year-olds. Republican supporters of this say these changes are just an option for child care centers to expand their capacity or deal with the workforce shortage. Democrats say these changes could lower the quality of child care and that this is just a piecemeal approach that won’t help families find or afford child care.

Unemployment cuts approved by Iowa legislature

Iowa Republican lawmakers sent a bill to the governor’s desk Tuesday that would make cuts to unemployment benefits. The bill would cut the maximum duration of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks. It would also require people receiving benefits to accept a lower-paying job more quickly. The bill doesn’t include Gov. Reynolds' proposed one-week waiting period to start receiving benefits. House Republicans insisted that be left out of the bill, and their Senate counterparts ultimately agreed to it.

A separate bill passed with bipartisan support last week as part of Reynolds' workforce proposal. It aims to expand work-based learning in high schools, it would waive various fees for veterans to try to attract them to the state, and it would expand health care provider recruitment programs. Some things that Reynolds proposed as part of this package got left out, like a proposed statewide building code and limits on damages awarded in trucking lawsuits.

Education bill still holds up the end of the session

Reynolds’ proposed state-funded scholarships for some students to go to private schools is still a point of contention among lawmakers. The Senate passed the private school scholarships bill, but a group of House Republicans has been adamantly opposed to the bill. Last week Reynolds said she’s still working on it, still having meetings with lawmakers and educators, but she also acknowledged that she might have to work on the issue over the summer if it doesn’t pass this session.

For even more on Iowa politics and legislation, subscribe to the Political Sense weekly newsletter and check out the weekly podcast Under the Golden Dome.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter
Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.