January 31, 2020

    Mobile Salons and Barber Shops Approved by House Committeebr
    Unemployment Rate Rises, Economy Lags
    Public Input Wanted on Hunting Seasons
    Reports on K-12 Schools and Community Colleges Available
    Utilities Board Approves Alliant Energy Electric Rate Increase
    Water Quality Monitoring Grants Available

    Mobile Salons and Barber Shops Approved by House Committee

    A House committee has approved a measure that could expand business opportunities for Iowans looking to take their business on the road. The State Government Committee approved legislation that will allow for mobile barbers and salons.

    Current law limits salons and barber shops to normal brick and mortar facilities. This law change is viewed as opportunity to expand access to underserved communities who may not be able to travel to get a haircut. According to an industry magazine, 26 states allow some type of mobile salons. The mobile salons and barber shops will be under the same regulations and standards of salons in buildings.

    The legislation will now head to the House floor where it is expected to have strong bi-partisan support.

    Unemployment Rate Rises, Economy Lags

    Iowa’s unemployment rate increased to 2.7% in December, up from 2.4% a year ago. Iowa lost 3,100 jobs in December, with the largest losses coming in manufacturing (1,400) and business services (1,200). It is the sixth straight month that the manufacturing sector has lost jobs.

    Iowa’s unemployment rate remains lower than nationwide rate of 3.5%, and is currently ninth lowest in the nation. Despite this, troubles remain. A recent study by Iowa State University detailed how Iowa’s recovery from the Great Recession was less than half of the national average. During that time, Iowa’s growth rate was worse than every neighboring state, and the sixth lowest in the country.

    The slower than expected recovery has also faced significant headwinds with the Trump Administration’s decision on tariffs impacting agricultural exports. The recovery has also been slowed by waivers for big oil companies to not produce ethanol under the renewable fuel standard and decreased demand for corn by 1.4 billion bushels.

    Public Input Wanted on Hunting Seasons

    Public input is being sought on hunting seasons and possible changes to hunting rules and regulations by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Hunters are encouraged to attend one of the town-hall style meetings around the state to give their feedback. DNR staff will be on hand to listen to comments and answer questions.

    Locations include:

    • Sioux City, Feb. 19, 7 p.m., Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, 4500 Sioux River Road
    • Chariton, Feb. 20, 7 p.m., Pin Oak Lodge, 45996 Hwy. 14
    • Council Bluffs, Feb. 25, Fish and Game Club, 531 Commanche Street
    • Okoboji, Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m., Dickinson County Nature Center, 22785 Nature Center Road
    • Burlington, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., Starr's Cave Nature Center, 11627 Starr's Cave Road
    • Iowa City, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., Johnson County ISU extension building, 3109 Old Highway 218 South
    • Algona, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., Water’s Edge Nature Center, 1010 250th Street
    • Bloomfield, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., Pioneer Ridge Nature Center, 1339 Hwy. 63
    • Creston, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., Multi-Purpose Room adjacent to the YMCA, Southwestern Community College, 1201 West Townline Street
    • Decorah, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., Decorah City Hall, 400 Clairborne Drive
    • Dubuque, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., Swiss Valley Nature Center, 13606 Swiss Valley Road, Peosta
    • Jefferson, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., The Jefferson Depot, 509 East Lincoln Way
    • Ventura, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., Clear Lake Wildlife Unit headquarters, 15326 Balsam Ave.
    • Waverly, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., Waverly Public Library, 1500 W Bremer Ave.
    • Des Moines, March 3, 7 p.m., Izaak Walton League, 4343 George Flagg Parkway
    • DeWitt, March 5, 7 p.m., DeWitt Community Center, 512 10th Street
    • Sac City, March 5, 7 p.m., Sac County Conservation Center at Hagge Park, 2970 280th Street
    • Toledo, March 5, 7 p.m., Tama CCB Nature Center at Otter Creek Lake Park, 2283 Park Road

    Reports on K-12 Schools and Community Colleges Available

    The annual Condition of Education report regarding Iowa’s PreK-12 system has been released by the Department of Education, along with another report on community colleges. The Condition of Education report shows an increase in the number of teachers, along with a gain in students.

    According to the report, $10,536 is the state’s total per-pupil expense in the 2017-18 school year. This is up from $10,203 the year before which gives Iowa a ranking of 30th in the nation for average spending per pupil. However, the strain of students living in poverty continues to increase, with 43% of Iowa students on free and reduced priced lunch compared to 40.5% the year before.

    For the first time, about one in four Iowa students are a minority student. There are 6.5% of Iowa students whose native language is not English, up from 6.1% the year before. 47.9% is the percent of students from Iowa’s class of 2019 who took higher-level mathematics, including calculus, statistics, and trigonometry. This is up from 47.7% the year before.

    A copy of the full report is here: https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/2020-01-23ConditionOfEducation2019.pdf.

    Highlights of the Community College Report

    The number of community college students, 128,624, is down from last year to 131,144. However, the percent of students under the age of 18 enrolled in community college courses, is the highest in the nation at 34.5%.

    There are 50,587 students who enrolled in college courses while in high school (known as concurrent enrollment) which is down slightly from 51,001 from the year before. Jointly enrolled high school students account for 39.3% of total community college enrollees and 24.8% of total credits.

    A copy of the full report is here: https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/2019%20Condition%20of%20Community%20Colleges_0.pdf.

    Utilities Board Approves Alliant Energy Electric Rate Increase

    Earlier this month, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) approved Alliant Energy’s request to increase Iowa residential consumer electric rates.

    On March 1, 2019, Alliant filed an application with the IUB seeking an electric rate increase and requesting a permanent annual $203.6 million revenue increase. During October 2019, the parties agreed to reduce Alliant’s request for an annual revenue increase to $127 million.

    IUB’s final decision approved the Alliant’s $127 million annual revenue increase and resolved other contested issues including:

    • Approving a refund of $7.5 million for customers who paid interim rates;

    • Increasing the monthly customer charge from $11.50 to $13 for residential customers and from $19 to $20 for general service customers;

    • Setting a monthly fee of $4.06 for customers who opt out of having an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) meter;

    • Prohibiting Alliant from charging a fee to customers who choose a reduced-pulse meter;

    • Approving a renewable energy rider (RER) as a line item on customers' bills to recover costs of wind projects known as New Wind I and II, which will go into service in 2020; and

    • Establishing a regulatory principle that the return on equity on interim rates cannot be higher than the return on equity for proposed final rates.

    Part of the Board’s decision was based on evidence that demonstrated Alliant has not efficiently managed customer relationships. As a result, Alliant must file a comprehensive improvement plan within 90 days and review their own internal process, identify improvement opportunities, and correct ongoing deficiencies.

    As part of the electric rate case proceedings, the IUB received more than 5,600 written public comments and held 10 public customer comment meetings throughout Alliant’s Iowa service territory. IUB’s disapproval of Alliant’s AMI meter technology implementation, their management practices, and lack of transparency and misrepresentation led the board to find Alliant did not meet the expected standard of conduct for a regulated monopoly. As a result, the Board will continue to monitor and review Alliant’s management efficiency practices and may take necessary action under Iowa law.

    This electric rate case was the first filling to base rate increases on a future test year as permitted by Alliant’s Solar Bill (SF 2311). SF 2311 passed the Iowa House (52-42) and Senate (28-20) during 2018 on a party-line vote.

    Water Quality Monitoring Grants Available

    Statewide Water Quality Monitoring grants are available from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The grants are available to develop and implement a statewide campaign to inform people about water quality issues and to encourage greater public participation in the monitoring and evaluation of water quality. The grant will provide up to $100,000 to carry out the projects.

    The grant recipient will also have to develop a volunteer monitoring program to train local watershed groups. The local groups will be taught how to use monitoring equipment and interpret data. A volunteer water quality monitoring program is a goal of the Iowa Nonpoint Source Management Plan.

    The federal Environmental Protection Agency requires a state to develop an approved Nonpoint Source Management Plan to be eligible for federal Clean Water Act Section 319 funding. The plan represents the state’s goals and objects to reduce nonpoint source pollution and improve water quality in the state. The plan is updated every five years.

    Applications will be accepted until February 10, 2020. Grant submissions and questions can be sent to Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov or 515-725-8388. Additional information on the grants and application forms can be found at https://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Water-Quality/Watershed-Improvement.