Iowa SOS will need permission for future emergency election changes

Secretary of State Paul Pate will need approval from the Legislative Council in order to use his emergency powers to alter election procedures, under a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed on June 25.

While Republicans have a majority on that legislative body, it’s not clear they would use that power to prevent Pate from repeating steps that led to record-breaking turnout for the June 2 primary.

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Iowa OSHA visits two more meatpackers; other plants cleared with no inspection

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staff conducted on-site inspections of two more Iowa meatpacking plants this week, the Iowa Division of Labor confirmed to Bleeding Heartland on June 2.

Documents provided the following day show regulators closed at least four coronavirus-related complaints against Iowa pork processors with no inspection.

Inspectors toured the Tyson Foods turkey plant in Storm Lake and the Perdue Premium pork facility in Sioux Center on June 1. Both site visits stemmed from “media referrals” rather than complaints, meaning officials acted on unspecified news reports or information relayed to OSHA by a journalistic source.

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OSHA inspected five Iowa meatpacking plants on site

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staff have conducted five on-site inspections of Iowa meatpacking plans during the past six weeks, the Iowa Division of Labor confirmed to Bleeding Heartland on May 28.

According to Mary Montgomery, who works in the office of Iowa Labor Commissioner Rod Roberts, OSHA inspectors examined COVID-19 mitigation measures at the Tyson Fresh Meats pork processing plant in Waterloo on April 20, the Tyson plant in Columbus Junction on April 30, Iowa Premium Beef in Tama on May 21, the JBS pork plant in Marshalltown, also on May 21, and the Tyson plant in Perry on May 26.

Montgomery indicated that a complaint prompted the Waterloo inspection, while “media referrals” led to the others. Asked to define that term, Montgomery said either “news items reported in the media” or information relayed “directly to OSHA by a media source” had prompted the site visits. She did not specify which news reports or journalistic sources influenced OSHA staff.

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Axne, Finkenauer vote against latest Democratic COVID-19 relief bill

Iowa’s two first-term members of the U.S. House were among fourteen Democrats to oppose the latest bill drafted to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The so-called HEROES Act cleared the lower chamber on May 15 by 208 votes to 199 (roll call). It called for an estimated $3 trillion in spending, including “nearly $1 trillion in aid to battered states, cities and Native American tribes, and another round of bolstered jobless benefits and direct government payments to Americans.”

Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate oppose the bill, so its passage in the House serves primarily to communicate preferred Democratic policy.

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Iowans who quit over unsafe conditions may still receive unemployment

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend acknowledged on April 30 that Iowans who refuse to go back to their jobs because of unsafe working conditions will not automatically be excluded from receiving unemployment payments.

However, she warned that “it takes more than a mere assertion by the employee” to qualify for benefits under those circumstances.

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