A roundup of state government and Capitol news items of interest for Monday:
DES MOINES --- Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday that she has appointed Beth Skinner to lead the Iowa Department of Corrections, effective immediately.
Skinner, a veteran of 17 years with the department, replaces Dan Craig, who has been interim director since December 2018. He plans to retire this month after 34 years with the department.
Skinner, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s and doctoral degrees in social work, served as the department’s director of risk reduction, where she oversaw to the department’s recidivism reduction initiative, its research division, the training department and the continuous quality improvement initiative.
Skinner “brings a wealth of talent and expertise in reducing recidivism, aligning with my vision for a corrections system that rehabilitates offenders so they can find purpose and become productive members of society, ” Reynolds said in a statement.
“I look forward to Beth implementing new practices, training and long-term planning, so that redemption and second chances can guide the department.”
Skinner, who lives in Des Moines with her wife, Katrina, and their three children, said she was humbled by the governor’s decision to name her corrections’ chief.
Her annual salary will be $154,300, according to the governor’s office.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office has sent letters to the dioceses of Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque and Sioux City requesting information by Aug. 1 on records of clergy sexual abuse.
Miller’s office also has launched a hotline (855-620-7000) for survivors to call to report abuse. Trained advocates will be available to gather information from survivors.
Survivors also can fill out a questionnaire at iowaattorneygeneral.gov. (A Spanish-language version is available.)
An investigator will review reports and may seek more information. The identities of survivors will remain confidential.
In the letters to the bishops, the Iowa attorney general said his office has met with survivors of abuse by clergy and invited victims to contact the office.
“In some cases, their stories have never been made public. These survivors have urged us to investigate and bring attention to the injustice they and others have suffered,” Miller wrote. “We agree that full transparency is necessary to provide justice and ultimately, reconciliation and healing.”
Miller said he appreciated that bishops met with him and made public the lists of credibly accused priests.
“But we believe that in this context, a credible third-party review is warranted,” the attorney general added.
Miller is seeking records and files on several topics, including lists of all priests, deacons, or other clergy who have been deemed as “credibly accused” and “not credible” accusations of sexual abuse by the dioceses, as well as the definition of “credibly accused,” “sexual misconduct” and “sexual abuse.”
The attorney general also is requesting notes from meetings of diocesan boards of reviews that were convened to consider accusations; documentation of reports of abuse received by diocesan officials and actions taken; and copies of all settlement agreements that diocesan officials entered into with abuse survivors.
Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, praised Miller’s actions.
“While the attorney general’s request of the Catholic dioceses was limited only to clergy, I am hopeful he will expand the scope of the investigation to include any sex abuse reported in their dioceses,” Petersen said in a statement.
She also called on the Legislature next session to pass meaningful legislation “to remove Iowa’s criminal and civil statute of limitations and give adult survivors a five-year period to seek justice.”
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Iowa’s economic indicators are showing weakening signs, according to the state Department of Revenue’s monthly index.
State officials reported Monday that the index decreased to 107.3 in April 2019 from 107.5 in March — marking a return to negative change after a 0.1 percent increase in March
The brief positive level in March broke a previous five-month streak of either unchanged values or declines.
Only two of the eight index components were positive in April — diesel fuel consumption and agricultural futures profits index.
Negative contributors included residential building permits, the new orders index, average weekly unemployment claims (inverted), average manufacturing hours, the Iowa stock market index, and the national yield spread.
The annualized six-month change remained at minus 1.7 percent in April for the fourth month in a row — close to the negative 2 percent threshold that signals a downturn, according to state revenue officials.
With a slight increase in April, Iowa’s nonfarm employment index has had 18 consecutive months of positive growth, although the last three months have averaged the slowest growth since 2017, Department of Revenue analysts reported.
Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday announced about $16 million in new funding for a workforce policy initiative covered in three bills she signed into law last month.
The legislation means more new high school graduates and adult learners will have access to career opportunities, the governor said Monday.
Much of the new state investment will fund three program areas:
$13 million for Last-Dollar Scholarships that will help more Iowans achieve education or training beyond high school leading to high-demand jobs by helping pay tuition for designated programs of study up to two-year degrees.
$1 million in Future Ready Iowa Grants that will provide stipends to Iowans who left college after earning at least half the credits toward a four-year degree in a high-demand field, and who return to complete a degree.
$1.2 million in Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund grant opportunities for employers and other partners to collaborate and carry out innovative, creative initiatives to address local workforce issues. A state matching grant is available to qualifying applicants.
Iowa Workforce Development officials said Monday they have launched the new IowaWORKS online employment services system across the state.
The IowaWORKS site provides employment resources, tools and services to meet the needs of customers, employers and staff members.
Iowa Workforce Development officials said they upgraded the system to align with the regulations of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, which streamlines employment resources and makes services more accessible.
Users can connect to the IowaWORKS system at regional IowaWORKS offices and anywhere they have internet access.
Key IowaWORKS features include an individual user portfolio, an assisted job search, a resume and letter builder, a virtual recruiter and advanced skills matching.
For more information, visit IowaWORKS.gov.