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John Pemble/IPR

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann says he will seek another term after leading his party to major victories in the 2016 election.

Iowa's top Republicans, including Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Governor Branstad, and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, wrote Kaufmann a letter Friday, asking him to stay on as the party's chairman.

No one else has emerged to challenge Kaufmann, so it's likely he'll be re-elected January 28th when the Iowa GOP's state central committee meets.

Sarah Boden/IPR

Protesters gathered at the offices of the Iowa Utilities Board on Monday to celebrate the Army Corps of Engineers stopping pipeline construction in North Dakota. Iowa’s Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition also delivered a letter to the state utilities board, urging it to revoke the pipeline’s Iowa permit. 

The Army Corps’s decision to not allow the pipeline to cross a reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is not a fatal blow to Dakota Access. The pipeline could be rerouted, and the Corps’s decision may be appealed.

Jimmy Centers / Office of Governor Terry Branstad

Governor Branstad will meet later this week in New York City with president-elect Donald Trump amid speculation the governor will be asked to become U.S. Ambassador to China. 

Branstad is rumored to be among Trump’s top choices for the job.   This past weekend, a Bloomberg Politics report said Branstad is the frontrunner for the post.

Branstad leaves for a previously-scheduled economic development trip to New York City Tuesday and is scheduled to meet at some point with Trump before he leaves New York.    

Jessica Reznicek

An Iowa woman says she ended her two-week fast in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline last night. Jessica Reznicek had a bowl of chicken soup after the Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement that puts completion of pipeline construction at an impasse.

The Army Corps has denied permission of pipeline construction for a section of the route in North Dakota. But it said the pipeline may be rerouted, so Reznicek is continuing her efforts to oppose Dakota Access, including a Wednesday sit-in at the utilities board.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A top Republican in the Iowa legislature is calling for a comprehensive review of state tax policy, including cutting taxes, now that his party is in full control at the statehouse.   

House GOP leader Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights)  answered questions at a meeting of the Iowa Taxpayers Association today.  

“I think we need a completely fresh look at tax policy in this state top to bottom and we're going to go through that,”  Hagenow said.  “Fundamentally, it’s 'are we going to find a way to reduce the tax burden  of Iowa taxpayers?'”  

Iowa Reading Research Center

The Iowa Reading Research Center is out with the results of a study into the effectiveness of summer reading programs. The report comes as every school district in the state approaches a deadline to enact some form of summer reading program.

Flickr / thenicole

All 902 plow trucks owned by the Iowa Department of Transportation now equipped with a new GPS system. It allows vehicles to gather all sorts of data, which the DOT will use for clearing Iowa’s roadways of snow and ice more efficiently. 

Craig Bargfrede heads DOT winter operations. This new system costs about $850,000, but Bargfrede says the upgrade will pay for itself in time and money savings. 

Marco Antonio Coloma/flickr

A tax break Iowans enjoy on digitally-delivered goods is under consideration at the statehouse.

Officials with the Iowa Department of Revenue today briefed a panel of state lawmakers who are charged with reviewing the tax credits that cost the state treasury hundreds of millions of dollars a year.    

DOR economist Amy Harris said Iowans currently do not pay sales tax when they download e-books, movies, or software from the internet.   

A long-planned highway extension in Cedar Rapids is nearing completion of its first phase. Development officials say the project will eventually lead to massive growth on the city’s west side.

By mid-December, a four-mile stretch of Highway 100 between Edgewood and Covington roads should be open to traffic. The four-lane divided highway includes a bridge over the Cedar River. The Director of Community Development in Cedar Rapids, Jennifer Pratt, says the bypass will ease traffic congestion in the city and open up a huge swath of land for development.

Emily Woodbury/IPR File

$34,113 a year. That's the average annual amount the I0wa Department of Corrections spends per inmate according to an audit of DOC institutions from 2011 to 2015. 

The audit also shows that the average annual cost per inmate rose by 15 percent since 2011, and during this same time period the total inmate population decreased by seven percent.

Steve Dick, financial manager for the DOC,  says when you have fewer prisoners the daily costs of running an institution are not as spread out. So expenses are divided by a smaller number of people. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

The director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy is watching as President-elect Donald Trump makes key appointments affecting drug enforcement.  

He’s optimistic strong anti-drug administrators will be named.  

Steve Lukan says Iowans in the drug enforcement and treatment community have noted the appointment of  Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General.   

Lukan says there’s speculation the Trump administration may have different ideas about enforcing federal marijuana laws than the current administration.

Flickr / Ryan J. Reilly

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, met with Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama this morning to discuss his nomination for U.S. Attorney General. Grassley’s committee will consider the appointment before the entire Senate votes.

In 1986, Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship due to allegations of racially insensitive remarks, some of which he says were taken out of context, and others he denies. Grassley was on the Judiciary Committee at the time, and voted in favor of Sessions, though he says he couldn’t recall the hearing.

Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance

Economic development officials in Cedar Rapids are preparing a plot of land on the city’s southwest side for a future industrial park. They say the site has the potential to become the state’s biggest certified location for large-scale industries.

Today is the fifth annual Giving Tuesday. This day, which always follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday, promotes charitable donations with a heavy emphasis on social media. 

Brianne Fitzgerald of Volunteer Iowa says nonprofits can leverage the impact of Giving Tuesday by encouraging people to post the reason they donated to the organization on social media.     

Iowa Department of Transportation

A new high-tech method for finding carpool partners is up and running at the Iowa Department of Transportation’s website. 

At IowaRideshare.org a motorist or passenger enters basic information to locate someone with similar transportation needs.   

The proposed route will show up on an Iowa map.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

Iowans with family members who are addicted to heroin or narcotic painkillers now have an easy way to acquire a potentially life-saving antidote, after action by the medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.   

Patricia Quinlisk has issued a standing order so that any family member who demonstrates a need can go to a local pharmacy and purchase naloxone which can reverse the effects of an overdose. 

In an overdose situation, naloxone reverses the drug-induced slowing of the respiratory system.   

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Des Moines Area Community College and Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant are joining to offer a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing completion program. It will be open to students who earn their Registered Nurse associate degrees at DMACC.

It’s being called the RN-to-BSN 3+1 completion program. Graduates of DMACC’s nursing program will be able to complete their BSN degrees in one year by taking on-line courses provided by Iowa Wesleyan. 

For nontraditional students such as Lashaina Woods of Waterloo, the initiative comes with significant cost savings.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The corn and soybeans so abundant in Iowa could someday replace many of the plastic pots and flats at your local garden shop.

Researchers at Iowa State University set about to create pots for plants that were not made from petroleum products and that could biodegrade. They started with a corn-based bioplastic and tried a number of different formulas. Some of those included a polymer made from soybeans.

Mandie/flickr

Women who use legal drugs such as alcohol during pregnancy could be reported for possible child abuse under proposed legislation state lawmakers may be considering in January.   

Currently, mandatory reporters of child abuse must speak up if it appears an infant is born with exposure to illegal drugs. 

However, mandatory reporting does not kick in if the baby is showing signs of withdrawal from other substances.

Stuartia.com

Thousands of people across Iowa are starting their holiday shopping today, and many communities are hoping you’ll give locally-owned small businesses some attention tomorrow.  The annual “Small Business Saturday” campaign urges people to spend some of their shopping dollars in independent stores.  Jennifer Pruden of the Czech Village-New Bohemia Main Street District in Cedar Rapids says local businesses there are hoping a good holiday season will help them recover from September’s flood.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A workgroup studying how to protect drug-endangered children is considering changes in state law to address caregivers involved with illegal and legal drugs.   

The current law was designed to protect kids in homes where methamphetamines were being used, sold, or manufactured.           

Under a proposed bill, a wider variety of controlled substances could lead to a child abuse assessment.     

Janee Harvey with the DHS Child Welfare Bureau says currently cocaine, heroin, or opioids are treated differently from meth.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Americans may find more meat on their holiday tables this year, at cheaper prices.

U.S. livestock production is in full swing. Beef and pork together set a new record recently -- commodity analysis firm Urner Barry reported an all-time high of 1.0618 billion pounds of beef and pork produced in U.S. slaughterhouses the week that ended November 19. Meanwhile, Midwest turkey producers have recovered from a massive 2015 avian flu outbreak.

Holiday Volunteering

Nov 24, 2016
United Way of Central Iowa

During the holidays many Iowans seek out volunteer opportunities, but some aren’t sure where to start. Some ideas include organizing a food or clothing drive at your place of work, or spending time with an elderly person who doesn’t have family nearby. 

For those new to volunteering,  Shirley Burgess of the United Way of Central Iowa recommends asking yourself which people in your community are you most interested in serving?

Flickr / Selena N. B. H.

The delicious foods of the holiday season can wreck havoc on a person's health.

One or two days of over indulgence isn’t going to ruin anyone. But beginning with Halloween candy, and then going to Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas cookies, cocktails on New Year’s Eve and then Super Bowl Sunday, and all the merriment in-between, a person can consume an astonishing number of calories this time of year.

Flickr / TumblingRun

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to boost the amount of ethanol blended into the nation’s fuel supply under new rules issued Wednesday.

The EPA finalized the rules governing ethanol production, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), for 2017, adding about 1.2 billion gallons in total renewable fuel. That’s an increase of about 6 percent year-over-year.

ILEA

The director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy this week briefed Governor Branstad on morale at the school after the recent shootings of Des Moines area police officers Justin Martin and Anthony Beminio. 

The comments came as director Judy Bradshaw presented her agency’s budget request to the governor and his advisors.

Bradshaw says she gathered students together for a briefing shortly after the assault on the officers. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A new program to get severely ill psychiatric patients into a hospital in a timely manner is working, according to a new report by the Iowa Department of Human Services.  

Officials say the 29 hospitals in Iowa that serve psychiatric patients are now reporting available beds into a statewide database, so law enforcement officers and others can know where there’s an opening in an emergency situation. 

“We now have 100% involvement of all the hospitals,” said DHS director Charles Palmer.  

The DHS director briefed Governor Branstad’s budget panel on the program.

Sarah Boden/IPR

A panel of local, state and federal law enforcement officials met in Urbandale Wednesday morning at the Westside Conservative Club meeting to discuss changes and challenges faced by law enforcement. One topic that weighed heavily in the conversation was recent fatal attacks against law enforcement both here in Iowa and nationwide. 

Chief Mike Venema of the Clive Police Department says his officers know police work comes with risk. But this year's unprovoked attacks have changed how he feels about his job.

file: Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Can food be organic even if it's not grown in soil?

Many hydroponic growers in the U.S. want access to the $40 billion organic market, but a board that advises the U.S. Agriculture Department on organic industry policy signaled Friday it would recommend excluding produce not in grown in soil from the federal organic program.

Currently, fruits and vegetables grown using hydroponics – an artificial system with added nutrients carried in water, but without soil – can be labeled as organic.

Sarah Boden/IPR

The days surrounding Thanksgiving, especially the following Sunday, are the busiest travel days of the year for the Des Moines International Airport. The Transportation Safety Administration says the DSM airport sees 3,000-3,500 travelers on a routine day, but around Thanksgiving those numbers will be up to 4,500. 

The type of flyers are different as well. Airport Executive Director Kevin Foley says usually it’s about a 50-50 split between business and leisure travelers, though around Thanksgiving 90 percent of travelers are not frequent flyers. 

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