Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Home Goods to Follow Walmart in Raising Starting Wages

NEW YORK (AP) — TJX Cos., the owner of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods stores, says it will boost pay for U.S. workers to at least $9 per hour. The announcement comes a week after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it would increase wages for its employees. Low-paying retailers are having a harder time retaining workers as the job market improves. A TJX spokeswoman declined to say what workers currently earn. A recent Credit Suisse report estimates TJX’s current hourly pay at about $8.24. Continue Reading

New University of Iowa Dormitory to be Largest on Campus

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The University of Iowa plans to construct a residence hall that will house more than 1,000 students and be 12 stories tall, making it the largest dormitory on campus. The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that the university plans to open the 303,000-square-foot dorm in two years at the site of the old Iowa City water plant, overlooking the Iowa River. According to university officials, construction for the $95 million building is scheduled to start late this spring, and be completed before the fall 2017 semester. The new dorm will have twice as many beds as another residence hall that is being built on the university’s campus. Plans for new construction come at a time when the university is trying to make room for larger incoming classes, and increase its in-state recruiting. Continue Reading

Walmart Announces Higher Starting Pay As Legislature Discusses Wage Hike

The nation’s largest employer is announcing plans to increase its starting pay to nine-dollars an hour this spring, with plans to boost the rate another buck to ten-dollars an hour next year. Walmart has 67 stores in Iowa. The move by the retail giant will have a “significant” ripple effect on the markets across Iowa and nationwide, according to Creighton University economist Ernie Goss. “Their competitors like Target and Costco are going to have to raise wages and for one of their competitors, Sears, this may push them further into the economic abyss,” Goss says. “They’ve been in, I won’t say dire circumstances, but I will say not good over the last few years. Continue Reading

Iowa Legislature Advances Bill that Would Ban Powdered Alcohol

A bill to ban powdered alcohol in Iowa has cleared its first hurdle in the Iowa House. Stephanie Strauss of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Commission says the bill would prohibit bars and retailers in the state that are licensed to sell alcohol from selling “Palcohol” — a product developed by a company based in Phoenix, Arizona. “This is an emerging issue,” Strauss says. “Last year about this time a product was approved at the federal level for sale in the United States and then that approval was quickly reversed. Since that time, states have been deciding how they want to regulate this new product.” Continue Reading

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Gas Tax Bill Advances to Governor’s Mansion, Could Go Into Effect March 1st

The Gas Tax bill has officially made it through the Iowa Legislature. The Legislature approved a 10-cent increase to the fuel tax to help pay for road improvements yesterday. The Senate voted 28-21 and the House 53-46. The plan would provide over $200 million annually for at least the first two years for Iowa’s network of bridges and roads, many of which are in disrepair. For years, the Legislature has considered raising the tax, which hasn’t been changed since 1989. Continue Reading

Lawmakers Remain at Odds Over School Funding

DES MOINES (AP)– Lawmakers in the Democratic-majority Senate and the Republican-controlled House have not yet found consensus on a school funding level for the coming academic year. Both sides stuck firm to their original funding proposals Tuesday. Senate Democrats are standing by a plan that would provide more than $200 million in new funding for K-12 education, which is more than double the increase sought by House Republicans. The House and Senate proposals both include funding specifically dedicated to teacher leadership training. Sen. Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames who chairs the Senate education committee, said he expected the issue to move to a negotiating committee to try and find a compromise solution. Continue Reading

Leader: Iowa House Committee could make Broadband Changes

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The leader of a House committee tasked with deciding whether to approve Gov. Terry Branstad’s broadband expansion bill says there could be major changes to the legislation. The Republican-led commerce committee made a last-minute change to its Monday meeting and removed discussion of the bill, which would help service providers expand broadband, also known as high-speed Internet, in Iowa. Rep. Peter Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines and chairman of the commerce committee, says Republican lawmakers are considering whether to keep a proposed grant program that would assist service providers with the costly process of expanding broadband. Cownie says lawmakers may expand a property tax program. Democrats in the committee say they also have concerns about the grant program. Continue Reading

Iowa Gov. Branstad’s Cannabis Oil Idea Faces Roadblocks

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad has suggested Iowa residents could one day buy cannabis oil in neighboring Illinois, a move that industry experts say has major legislative roadblocks if it’s ever seriously considered. Branstad recently said he was open to working with officials in Illinois, which has a pilot program to produce and distribute medical marijuana. Iowa has a law that allows residents with some forms of epilepsy to use oil with an ingredient derived from marijuana for treatment. Illinois law would need to be changed to let Iowa residents purchase the oil there. Federal law would prohibit them from bringing it back to Iowa. Continue Reading

University of Iowa Students, Staff Weigh in on New President

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Students, faculty and staff at the University of Iowa are making it clear they want candidates for university president committed to addressing sexual assaults on campus and creating a more diverse and inclusive campus. The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports the university held three town hall meetings Friday as the process of finding a successor for Sally Mason begins. She retires in July. Some students expressed their desire to have a president with a faculty background and research experience rather than one coming from the corporate world. Faculty member Laurie Haag says she wants “an intellectual leader for the state” and faculty Senate Vice President Christina Bohannan is looking for someone who understands that “freedom of expression and the marketplace of ideas are not in tension with racial diversity.” Continue Reading