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Iowa Politics Roundup: State Won’t Claim $14.5 Million for Unemployment Benefits PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 04 March 2011 20:26

House Republican leaders said Thursday that they do not support or intend to pass a bill that would allow Iowa to receive $14.5 million in federal money for extended unemployment benefits. Iowa is one of nine states that have yet to request the benefits.

“The Labor Committee is going to look at that, but the House Republican caucus is not interested in making it harder to be an employer in the state of Iowa,” said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha). “What’s going on with unemployment compensation right now is making it harder to be an employer.”

The Iowa Senate approved the measure on a 27-22 vote this week. The money would benefit the more than 7,000 Iowans who have been out of work for more than a year. Democrats urged the House and governor to act on Senate File 303 by March 10, or they said the state will almost certainly lose the $14.5 million in federal help for the unemployed.

“It would be an outrage if we miss this opportunity to help Iowans who have been out of work for more than a year and, at the same time, fail to give the economy a $14.5-million boost,” said Senator Pam Jochum (D-Des Moines).

Democrats maintained that these extended unemployment insurance benefits will be entirely paid for by the federal government and will have no impact on state unemployment taxes. But Republicans disagreed and insisted that businesses fund the unemployment system.

“The bill went too far,” said Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton). “The cost of that unemployment, that insurance is paid out by the previous employer.”

Meanwhile, Iowans who lose their jobs would be ineligible for unemployment benefits for one week under a bill that cleared the House Labor Committee this week on an 11-6 party-line vote.

Representative Ron Jorgensen (R-Sioux City) said the move levels the playing field with 37 other states that have a one-week waiting period.

Jorgensen said the change will be especially helpful for manufacturers who shut down for a week to take inventory, noting that workers have been filing for unemployment benefits during that week off. He said it would affect about 13,417 – or 8.1 percent – of those unemployed, for a savings of $4 million to $5 million.

But Representative Nate Willems (D-Lisbon) questioned whether there is another way to accomplish that goal without also affecting the other 92 percent of unemployed Iowans.

“When you lose your job and start going on unemployment benefits, it really likely becomes a matter of choosing which bill you can pay and which bill absolutely needs to get paid,” Willems said. “A one-week delay of having any sort of money coming in will just allow people to get more and more behind on credit-card bills.”

Bill to Legalize Internet Poker Receives Committee Approval

A bill that would legalize Internet poker in Iowa on Wednesday evening cleared the Senate State Government Committee on a 9-6 vote, advancing it to the Senate floor and making it safe from this week’s legislative funnel.

Backers of the bill argued in subcommittee that it would allow the state to regulate something that’s already being done illegally by 150,000 Iowans each day, and they also said it would generate $30 million to $35 million a year for the state of Iowa.

Senate Study Bill 1165, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection & Revenue Generation Act of 2011, would legalize “advanced deposit wagering,” authorize creation of an intrastate Internet poker network, give authority to the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission, and establish fees. It would also eliminate the requirement of county referenda to continue a facility’s gambling license, allow slot machines to continue to supplement horse-racing purses in perpetuit.y and prohibit live standardbred horse racing at Prairie Meadows.

Senator Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls), the bill’s floor manager, called the bill a “win-win,” a “modest first step” and a “consensus bill” that would authorize Iowans to play online poker with other Iowans through a secure network that he likened to an intranet. He predicted the bill would gain broad bipartisan support.

“There’s a generational disconnect by those gambling on the Internet illegally and those of us who have a public interest, clear legal framework to protect them and the rest of Iowans,” Danielson said. “For me, the bottom line is I think technology has gotten ahead of our public policy."

Three Iowa groups that are philosophically opposed to gambling spoke against the bill. Naomi Sea Young Wittstruck of the Iowa Conference of United Methodist Church said the bill and its Internet component could have a detrimental impact on families who can least afford it. Tom Chapman said the Iowa Catholic Conference is concerned about online-gambling addiction. And Norman Pawlewski said the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition is against the bill for the same reasons.