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GOP flag-waving falls flat on military unemployment bill

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JANUARY 28, 2010 7:30 AM

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On Tuesday, the Iowa House of Representatives passed a common-sense measure that would bring the state up to speed with the majority of the country. It would extend unemployment benefits to spouses of those enlisted in the military who leave their jobs because of duty-related relocations.

When the legislation goes to the Senate, members of both parties should embrace this measure to update Iowa’s antiquated system. Military families deserve the best.

Representatives passed the measure on a nearly party-line vote of 56-44. The sole Republican supporter was Rep. Richard Anderson of Clarinda.

Because there are no special provisions at this time regarding benefits for military spouses, they are held to the same “good cause” requirement as all other unemployment cases, with a vow to review these specific instances on a case-by-case basis. The legislation, if approved, would qualify a spouse’s military relocation under the aforementioned “good cause” standard, ensuring that they are eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said the bill is “poorly written” and “doesn’t require the spouses to actually ‘trail.’ ”

The bill clearly states, however, that legislation applies to individuals whose “leaving was caused by the relocation of the individual’s spouse by the military.” In addition, Forristall and other Republicans didn’t attempt to amend what they perceived to be a flawed bill.

Forristall also objected to the source of funding for the legislation. According to the Legislative Services Agency, the approximate yearly price tag of $200,000 would come from the Iowa Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which has more than $300 million in it.

“If the state wants to give money to a specific group of people, then the state should pay the bill,” Forristall said.

The trust fund is funded primarily through employer contributions, but individual businesses would not be responsible for specifically paying for this legislation.

Members of the GOP opposed to this measure are reneging on the right’s constant wave of support-the-troops banter; voting against such legislation is a clear indication that one’s allegiances lie not with the troops and their families but rather with the pocketbooks of businesses.

“It’s a small price to pay to help military families,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville.

He is right. While it will cost a couple hundred thousand dollars per year, the measure is simply the right thing to do. Iowa is one of only five states that does not expressly offer benefits to military spouses and also requires a “good cause” for resignation in order to qualify for benefits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan group.

We as a country venerate those who brandish the role of soldier and call on families to selflessly sacrifice the company — and, possibly, lives — of their loved ones. So we owe it them to ensure that they are treated with the utmost amount of respect for their service. Denial of these benefits stains our state and evinces a lack of respect for their extraordinary sacrifices.

Legislators of both parties should stand united in their allegiance to provide the best possible care for the men and women who serve our country and their families alike. That is what it means to truly support our troops.


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