March 18, 2021
Week 10 Concludes With ABI Priority Passing Senate

It was a very significant week at the Capitol as a number of bills that ABI supports advanced. Perhaps the most consequential news is that the Iowa Senate passed SF 361, which would enact important and positive changes to Iowa’s private sector drug and alcohol testing statute. The legislation flips the burden of proof from the employer to the plaintiff. It gives employers additional flexibility as to how they communicate with employees regarding testing results. It also makes it clear that employers can designate certain jobs as “safety-sensitive positions." The bill passed 30-17 and now heads to the House. ABI would like to thank Sen. Zach Whiting for his leadership in managing this ABI priority legislation.

A number of other pro-growth bills advanced through the Legislature this week. You can view those below.

  • SF 295 - Housing Omnibus - The Senate Ways & Means Committee held a subcommittee that considered Governor Reynolds’ housing bill. The legislation does a number of things to increase Iowa’s housing stock, including doubling the workforce housing tax credit, creating a new tax credit program to incentivize more affordable housing, and more. Legislators noted that as the bill involves significant tax policy, how the Legislature decides to craft the budget will ultimately determine what the final language in the bill looks like. ABI position: For.

  • HF 796 - Broadband - The House Appropriations Committee passed this legislation this morning and the bill creates incentives for industries to deploy higher speeds of broadband infrastructure across the state. There were two amendments adopted to the bill, but they didn’t change the overall purpose of the bill. ABI position: For.

  • HF 555 - Preemption of Local Gas Regulations - This legislation, which passed the House 57-36 on Monday, preempts cities and counties from regulating the use and sale of natural gas and propane. Jurisdictions in other parts of the country have enacted such ordinances which will raise energy and construction costs. There is a companion bill in the Senate that could be debated at any time. ABI position: For.

  • HF 523 - Flood Mitigation - The bill amends the definition of essential county purpose as it relates to the issuing of general obligation bonds by a county. The new definition will make it easy for counties to build infrastructure aimed at mitigating flooding. The legislation went through a Senate subcommittee this week and has previously passed the House unanimously. ABI position: For.

  • HF 309 - Donor Privacy - A Senate subcommittee approved legislation related to the protection of privacy of individuals who are involved with tax exemption organizations. The bill prohibits a public agency from seeking the disclosure of, or publishing, personal information from a 501(c) tax-exempt organization that would reveal the identity of a member, supporter, volunteer or donor of a tax-exempt organization, or from requesting from a contractor a listing of tax-exempt organizations that the contractor has supported. The bill has already passed the House. ABI position: For.

  • SF 576 - Tax Triggers & Inheritance Tax - The Senate unanimously passed this legislation which phases out the inheritance tax and also eliminates the revenue and growth triggers from the 2018 tax reform law. It now heads to the House. Whether this ultimately becomes law will depend upon budget negotiations the leaders of the House and Senate will have in the next few weeks. ABI position: For.

REC Meets Tomorrow

The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) is set to convene Friday morning to provide the Legislature an updated budget forecast for Fiscal Year 2022. The panel is composed of the Governor’s designee, a member of the Legislative Services Agency and a member of the public. The conference previously met in December and estimated the state’s revenue would hit $8.26 billion in FY22, which is 3.7 percent growth over FY21. Their projections will have a significant impact on what tax policy the Legislature decides to implement as the budget is constructed over the course of the next several weeks. Look for an update on this issue in next week’s newsletter.

Air Quality Bureau Proposes No New Fee Increases at EPC Meeting This Week

The Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) held its monthly meeting on Tuesday and there a couple of highlights to note. The Air Quality Bureau (AQB) stated they are not requesting any fee increases in their proposed budget for FY22. This reaffirms the initial decision that was made during the stakeholder meeting on the budget earlier this year. The AQB will come back to the EPC in May for final approval of their budget. Industry emissions are continuing to decline at a steady pace. PFAS is another topic of interest to ABI members around the country and the state recently put together its plan. Read more to find out DNR's plan for PFAS.

Governor Announces Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund Awardees

13 awardees have received the Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund. This fund is a matching grant aimed at assisting employers with getting their employees postsecondary training and education. The Iowa Workforce Development estimates this grant will serve 2,665 Iowans. Read more about Future Ready Iowa's goal for the state's workforce and what grant funds help cover.

Unemployment Rate Hits 3.5% for January

Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent from December, which had a rate of 3.7 percent. Iowa’s rate is lower than the U.S. unemployment rate for January, which fell to 6.3 percent.

The construction sector experienced its second-consecutive monthly increase and had the most jobs added in January, with 1,000 jobs. Read more to learn about what other sectors in Iowa are experiencing.

Federal Spotlight: Latest COVID-19 Aid Package Signed by President Biden

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 contains several measures related to employee benefits and employer-related issues. President Joe Biden signed this stimulus bill into law on March 11. Read more to learn about how the bill affects COBRA continuation costs and tax credits for employers who have voluntarily continued providing paid emergency sick leave and family medical leave.
Next Tuesday: Virtual Meeting on Workers' Compensation

Hear from experts about best practices and get important updates on Iowa's workers' compensation through a virtual meeting on March 23 at 9 a.m.

Learn more and register here.

Reminder: Connecting Statewide Leaders is Coming to Mason City

Join ABI members, Leadership Iowa current class and alumni, and community leaders for an engaging conversation about business/education partnerships. Learn how the business community and the education sector are working together to help move our state forward. Lunch and networking will follow. The event is on April 8 at 11 a.m. in Mason City. Learn more and register here. Seating is limited and safety protocols will be in place.

Meet Our New Members

CRB Group
PMC Integrity, LLC
ABI Launches Weekly Business Report Video Series
ABI started its Weekly Business Report video series this week with ABI President Mike Ralston and ABI Executive Vice President Nicole Crain. These videos will discuss the latest business and policy issues important to ABI members, as well as association news. ABI will also feature a member spotlight each week and share the company’s story about how it is contributing to Iowa’s economy.

Click the video to the left to watch the Weekly Business Report and read more about this week's discussions.
Deadline Extended to Take Survey: Assessing the Pandemic's Impact on Iowa Businesses and Nonprofits

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) is once again partnering with the University of Northern Iowa to undertake a survey to assess the current impacts of the pandemic on Iowa’s businesses and nonprofit organizations. Please take the survey by March 24 at 5 p.m. The IEDA will use the information collected through the survey to inform its public policy and programming in response to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on Iowa.

Advance Iowa to Host March 26 Breakfast Series Session on Compensation

Advance Iowa, the State of Iowa's comprehensive consulting program that works with midsize companies to enhance their growth, will host a Breakfast Series session on March 26 about compensation in a family business. Read more for information on how to register.

Google Products Help Iowa Businesses and Creates Jobs

Google released its Economic Impact numbers today specific to Iowa. The company continues to support businesses in this state through collaboration and training programs such as its Grow with Google Small Business Fund and Google IT Certificate program. In 2020, Google:
  • Helped provide $1.5 billion of economic activity for 11,000 businesses, publishers, nonprofits, creators and developers.
  • Provided $3.2 million of free advertising to nonprofits in Iowa through the Google Ad Grants program
  • Connected 163,000 Iowa businesses with customers through directions, phone calls, bookings and reviews

Read more about Google’s contributions in the company’s Iowa report.

EMC Insurance Companies Announces Promotions and Officer Appointments

EMC Insurance Companies has announced several officer elections and elevations:
  • Lucreia Smith, MBA, CPCU, AINS, has been promoted to vice president - strategy execution, where she will oversee the strategic execution of business priority goals and organizational change. Smith most recently held the title of assistant vice president - change management.
  • Karey Anderson, CFA, has been named vice president - portfolio manager. Anderson will be involved with all facets of the investment process, including implementing philosophy and strategy for the investment portfolio of member companies.
  • Derek Dunnagan, MBA, FCAS, CPCU, has been promoted to vice president - pricing and modeling. Dunnagan is co-leading the company's actuary department.
  • Sarah Buckley, APR, was elected assistant vice president - community involvement. Buckley oversees charitable giving, media relations, social media and volunteerism at the company.
  • Lee Henderson, J.D., CIPP/US, has been named assistant vice president - associate general counsel - contracts and privacy. Henderson provides legal expertise in the areas of contract negotiation and management, information privacy and security, innovation and real estate.
  • Natali Justiniano Pahl, MBA, has been promoted to assistant vice president - team member development. She will lead people development strategies for the company.

Vertex Software Awarded New US Patent for 3D Object Visualization & Manipulation Across Multiple Devices

Vertex Software, the premier visualization platform for 3D-powered digital twin applications, announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Pat. No. 10,950,044, titled, “Methods and apparatus to facilitate 3D object visualization and manipulation across multiple devices.” This is a comprehensive foundational patent that covers the core of the Vertex platform. It is the first of an extensive portfolio that is under development. Read the full news release.