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Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today signed what’s being called one of the strongest anti-texting laws in the country.  

It’s part of a broader effort to combat distracted driving, which is contributing to an increase in traffic fatalities in Iowa.

The bill will make texting while driving a primary offense so law enforcement can pull over a driver for looking at a hand-held screen for texts or social media or e-mail.   

John Pemble/IPR

The chief administrator for the judicial branch of state government is warning court employees across the state of possible layoffs or reduced courthouse hours, if a proposed GOP judicial branch budget is approved at the statehouse.   

In a memo to staff, David Boyd briefed employees on the proposed budget for next year which reduces judicial branch spending by $3 million compared to this year. 

Boyd said tough decisions will need to be made.

Roland Ferrie

Iowa Public Radio’s 2017 Arias in April series this year includes the University of Northern Iowa Opera Theatre in concert. IPR’s broadcast will present the UNI Opera Theatre’s performance of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah on Saturday, April 22 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 23 at 11:00 p.m.

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Conor Oberst's latest record, Salutations, follows closely on the heels of last fall's Ruminations.  The songs from Ruminations were recorded solely by Oberst, accompanying himself on guitar and piano, over a two day period in his native Omaha.  Salutations is a full band recording, with those same ten songs plus seven more.  It's a generous selection of music, with Fleet Foxes and veteran drummer Jim Keltner joining Oberst for these spirited renditions. 

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Supreme Court says the state of Iowa is not liable for a sexual assault allegedly committed by a man who for years had lived at the state’s Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders, because the assault occurred after William Cubbage was discharged from state custody. 

John Pemble / IPR

According to Dr. David Soll, who is Carver Professor of Biological Science at the University of Iowa, there's renewed hope for scientists to find a so-called "magic bullet" when it comes to looking for a cure for cancer. In a study published last week, he's documented the process by which cancer cells join together to form a tumor in 3-D. He modeled the way melanoma cells come together. 

Growing Asparagus is Worth the Wait

Apr 14, 2017
Rob Ireton / flickr

A patch of asparagus can be a great addition to your vegetable garden as they can live up to 30 years. But without immediate visible results, the process can seem discouraging to some. Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University and Extension Commercial Vegetable Specialist, Ajay Nair, says that waiting the 3-4 years prior to a full harvest is worth the wait.

He offers instructions for planting your young asparagus plant, generally referred to as a crown.

John Pemble / IPR

As the end of the session nears, leaders are often asked a simple "yes or no" about the likelihood of a bill becoming law.  The Senate president says a bill that would change how independent water utilities are managed isn't moving forward.  This bill's passage would affect the Des Moines Water Works, for example. 

Sarah Boden/IPR

A Republican-dominated panel at the statehouse last night approved a human services budget that changes how family planning programs are paid for across the state.  

The bill will eliminate state funding that used to go to clinics that also perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood.  

Up to now, the state spent just under half a million dollars, or $482,000,  for family planning services including birth control and pregnancy tests.  

The rest came from the federal government.

Jens Olaf-Walter/flickr

A controversial program to  require struggling 3rd graders to get summer reading instruction in order to be promoted to 4th grade is falling victim to  budget cuts at the statehouse.  

As part of a massive education funding bill, a GOP-led committee has eliminated the program, after failing again to find the money to help local schools pay for the summer classes.  

Critics say without a state appropriation, the program amounts to an unfunded mandate for local schools.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Breast cancer survivors and their supporters were at the capitol Thursday for a bill-signing of legislation known as Patty’s Law, named for a West Des Moines cancer patient.  

The new law directs mammogram providers to let a woman know if she has dense breast tissue, so she can get an ultrasound in addition to a mammogram.  

Advocates say dense tissue can prevent tumors from showing up.      

Fifty-nine year old Patty Bernard is suffering from stage four breast cancer.

Christian Steiner

This week’s Symphony of Iowa features Orchestra Iowa’s Showcase Chamber “A Point of Departure” concert on Sunday, April 16 at 4 p.m. and Monday, April 17 at 7 p.m.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Calling it an honor, Governor Branstad today signed into law what’s being called the most expansive gun  rights bill in Iowa history, to the applause of a roomful of supporters.  

The bill expands self-defense rights for gun owners, so-called Stand Your Ground. It also allows gun owners with permits to carry weapons into the statehouse. And it protects the confidentiality of permit holders.  

Branstad said he has always supported the second amendment.

Lit City Episode Ten: Forgotten by History

Apr 13, 2017
IMDb

Like the title character of her 1933 novel Miss Bishop, Iowa-born author Bess Streeter Aldrich is finally getting the recognition she deserves. Although she wrote 14 novels and countless popular short stories, Aldrich was long forgotten... until recently, that is, when her hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa decided to name an elementary school after her.

ISTOCKPHOTO

Media violence researchers at Iowa State University published a study this month that finds media violence affects aggressive behaviors across a variety of cultures. 

More than 2,100 participants from Australia, China, Croatia, Germany, Japan, Romania and the U.S. named three of their most frequently-watched or played TV shows, movies or video games, and then rated how often they used each title. Then researchers evaluated the violence level of the media, and contrasted that data with survey answers that looked at behaviors like physical aggression or arguing. 

Alan Light/flickr

A hydroscience professor at the University of Iowa is praising the work of the Iowa Flood Center, as state lawmakers consider eliminating all state funding for it.  

The center was established to conduct research following the historic floods of 2008.   

Professor Larry Weber heads the UI’s Hydroscience and Engineering department, which oversees the work of the center.

He says the center provided critical information for communities affected by last year’s flooding in eastern Iowa.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A Republican-dominated committee in the Iowa Senate today, on a nearly unanimous voice vote, approved a bill to legalize the production and sale of medical marijuana in Iowa to provide treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.   

The bill is similar to legislation approved in the past when Democrats controlled the Senate. 

It appears to have no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled House.    

Sen. Tom Greene (R-Burlington), called the bill a natural progression.

D Sharon Pruitt / Flickr

According to professor of psychology, Marianne Lafrance, our hair plays a bigger role in our lives than we might think. She says there is a psychological impact of having a bad hair day. 

In her research, Lafrance found that a majority of people are inclined to have lower self-esteem on bad hair days.

Flickr / Scott McLeod

Iowa’s high school graduation rate has increased for the fifth year in the row, reaching a new high of 91.3 percent. However dropout rates also rose in the past year, up to 2.8 percent. 

The two measurements track different cohorts of students.  The graduation rate looks a single class over the course of four years, and the dropout rate counts the number of kids who quit high school in a single year.

Staci Hupp of the Iowa Department of Education says the latter metric on drop outs is a reminder that Iowa still has work to do. 

United Nations Photo / Flickr

President Donald Trump has called the United Nations "just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time," and he's calling for major UN budget cuts. The United Nations does much more than host meetings, and there are local organizations across the country meant to support and educate the public about its endeavors. 

During the second half of this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa's United Nations Association executive director Andrea Cohen about the UN's role globally and locally to promote international cooperation and peace. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

More than 200 activists converged on the state capitol today, urging more funding for water quality, conservation, and outdoor recreation across the state.  

A Republican-sponsored bill in the House would raise the state sales tax for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund which was approved by the voters as a constitutional amendment in 2010.  

The bill also creates a water quality revolving fund by diverting dollars currently spent elsewhere in the state budget.

Chiot's Run / Flickr

Many changes have taken place in agriculture over the last 100 years. While most of the emphasis in commercial agriculture has been on maximizing yield, with truly remarkable results, this shift in focus also led to an incredible loss of bio-diversity and significant cultural losses in some communities around the world.

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Sen. Joni Ernst told constituents in Elkader Monday that health care has been the biggest topic at town hall meetings, and Congress needs to work hard on new health care legislation.

She says she is worried the one remaining statewide health insurance carrier on Iowa's individual market will be free to raise its prices or will also pull out of the state.

Ernst says there is a new plan in the works to replace the Affordable Care Act, and she hopes it is ready before open enrollment starts for 2018.

John Pemble

Mandatory minimum sentences require felons to serve a predefined term for certain offenses, and a proposal being considered at the Iowa Statehouse would lower mandatory sentences for certain, non-violent drug crimes.

David Wade Couch/flickr

A bill to enhance bicycle safety has failed to advance at the Iowa statehouse this year, in spite of the growing number of bicycle fatalities on Iowa roadways. 

The bill’s sponsor says he’ll continue to work after the session to reach consensus on the bill.   

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition reports 11 fatalities last year, the deadliest year for cyclists in more than a decade.   

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) says increasing the visibility of cyclists is critical.

Claire McAdams

The third opera in Iowa Public Radio’s 2017 Arias in April series showcases the Des Moines Metro Opera’s production of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice. The opera, dating from 1762, will be broadcast on Saturday, April 15 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 16 at 11:00 p.m.

Three staffers from Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign were at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis last week. They're appealing criminal convictions related to a conspiracy to hide payments to former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson, who resigned endorsed Paul days before the Iowa Caucuses.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says a controversial gun rights bill that gained final legislative approval last week is reasonable and fair with adequate safeguards to protect public safety.   

He says he will thoroughly review the bill before making a final decision, but he appears poised to sign it into law. 

The bill includes new legal protections for gunowners who fire to defend life or property, as well as a wide range of other gun rights provisions.     

Michael M. Huang/Studio Reserved

In Iowa there are hundreds of old schools, post offices, and churches that sit vacant. Some of them have been given new life as apartments, or as makers spaces and hubs for creativity. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Michael Wagler of Main Street Iowa. We also check in with several Iowans who have been working to reimagine these old buildings. 

roxanna moritz
Kayla Trail / The Great Scott Times

Four Democratic county auditors say they are considering running for secretary of state in 2018.

They all say they are concerned about a voter ID bill working its way through the legislature and with how Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate has promoted it.

Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz is considering entering the race. 

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