News

John Pemble

Iowa has a law mandating life in prison without parole for teen killers, but this law is deemed unconstitutional by both the U.S. and the Iowa Supreme Courts.

A proposal moving through Iowa’s legislature would modify the state’s current law mandating life in prison for juveniles convicted of murder. The legislation gives judges three sentencing options. One of those options is still life in prison without parole.

John Pemble/IPR

Uber says a bill regulating operations in all Iowa cities for alternative transportation businesses will help the company expand to more communities. Uber offers rides like a taxi, except the drivers use their own cars and drum up business through a smartphone app.   

“This bill provides a uniform standard,” says Uber General Manager Pooneet Kant. “With Des Moines, there’s also West Des Moines a driver could be going through. We think having a uniform standard makes more sense.”  

Photo Courtesy of Ash Bruxvoort

One of the best ways to learn anything is through experience. Farming is no exception.

Over the course of the last year, Iowan Ash Bruxvoort has been traveling the country apprenticing on organic farms. She started out on a small CSA in Atlantic and says getting on farm experience has taught her more than anything else she could have done.

 

John Pemble / IPR

Iowa lawmakers are facing another funnel deadline this week at the statehouse. Bills must have cleared one chamber and a committee in the other chamber in order to continue to be eligible for consideration. IPR's Julie Englander spoke with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about some of the bills facing this deadline. One would make it a primary offense to use your cell phone while driving. Another would make speeding tickets issued by traffic cameras more detailed.

Some Farmers Warming Up to the Affordable Care Act

16 hours ago
file: Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Until the federal health insurance marketplace opened in late 2013, farmers and ranchers were more likely to be uninsured than many other occupational groups. The Affordable Care Act changed that by requiring them to buy insurance. But it also gave them coverage options they didn’t have before.  

Jon Bailey, of the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs, says it’s hard to make sweeping generalizations about how the health care law is working for farmers and ranchers.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Last night, swimming history was made in Iowa City. David Nolan of Texas swam the fastest 200-yard individual medley in history. It took him only one minute and thirty nine seconds to swim eight lengths of the pool doing four different strokes. 

For the first time in decades, Iowa is host to the NCAA men's Swimming and Diving Championships. On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Marc Long, University of Iowa's men and women swimming and diving coach about the significance of the event.

Nepal Gateway Trekking / Flickr

Marijuana is often branded as harmless by its proponents, but according to the 2012 Iowa Drug Report, 26% of Iowans seeking drug treatment cite the plant as their drug of choice. Ned Presnall, keynote speaker of the upcoming Governor's Conference on Substance Abuse, says decriminalization has led to decreased perceptions of risk.

TexasEagle / Flickr

Monarch butterflies, like a quarter of butterfly species in Iowa, are dwindling in numbers. In January, there was talk of placing the monarch on the endangered species list. 

Across the corn belt, Iowa State University Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis says that there have been 125 million acres of milkweed habitat lost in the last few decades. He says individuals planting milkweed won't make up for the lost of all those acres, but it's a start. 

Emily Woodbury

March is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) awareness month. TBI has been called a silent epidemic. In many cases, resulting injuries are not visible to others, and it affects more than 95,000 Iowans.

Wikimedia Commons

The names of two of the four seasons we have in Iowa come from Germanic languages; such is not the case with “spring.”

That's according to Patricia O’Connor, author of the book “Woe is I." The word evolved in English and the story behind it is actually quite poetic.

 O’Connor says it’s a wonderful example of how a word develops.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill backers say would benefit African-Americans in the criminal justice system failed to advance in a Republican-dominated panel in the Iowa House today.    

The NAACP favors the bill to expunge the criminal record when charges against a defendant are dropped.  

Currently online court records don’t indicate a charge was dropped.    So an employer can go online and see only that a job applicant was charged with a crime. 

Clinton Democrat and defense attorney Mary Wolfe says she hears from young African-Americans who had unfounded charges dismissed.

Claudia McGehee / Sasquatch Books

Claudia McGehee uses scratchboard illustrations to bring her readers into nature.

"A picture of a heron is going to tell [children] one thing, but I can show the heron just about to eat a frog in a way that maybe they wouldn't see in a photograph," she says.

McGehee is an illustrator and author whose recent children's book My Wilderness: An Alaskan Adventure recounts the 1918–1919 winter spent on Alaska’s Fox Island from the point of view of nine-year-old Rocky, son of the painter Rockwell Kent.

Ready Campus

Mar 26, 2015
IPR's Pat Blank

The University of Northern Iowa today hosted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Campus Fair. This event reached out to students, staff, and faculty and community members to encourage them to prepare for emergencies.

First in the state, FEMA’s disaster relief event featured other organizations such as the Iowa National Guard, Star One Search and Rescue, UNI student organizations, and more disaster-relief groups.

Jack Rubin / Penn State Special Collections via Flickr

50 years ago this week, Martin Luther King led a march from Selma to Montgomery to advocate for voting rights for disenfranchised African Americans. One Iowan was there.

Reverend Milton Cole-Duvall, then a senior at William and Mary, left school for a week to march in solidarity. On this Talk of Iowa segment, host Charity Nebbe talks with Cole-Duvall about the Selma march. Dr. James Randall, professor emeritus of English and African American Studies at Coe College, also joins the conversation.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Ted Cruz officially announced his presidential bid Monday.

"Over and over again when we faced impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge. You know compared to that, repealing Obamacare and abolishing the IRS ain't all that tough," Cruz said.

Frederick W. Kent / Iowa Digital Library

Some Other Town is a debut novel from native Iowan Elizabeth Collison, and the nameless Midwestern town in the book bears striking similarity to Iowa City.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks with Collison about her life and her work.

Collison grew up in Marshalltown and received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed changes on Tuesday to the rules that govern which farmers can receive government subsidies.

The goal is to cut off payments to people who claim they’re involved in the management of a farm, but aren’t doing much managing.

Farmers who own land, run cattle, or spend their spring planting corn can relax – the proposed rule change doesn’t impact their ability to collect up to a $125,000 a year in government subsidies.

Wan Mohd / Flickr

Katie Roche is no stranger to the stage. She's in both the all-female folk band The Awful Purdies and the swing band The Dandelion Stompers.

But one of her recent efforts is with a special band member--her six-year-old daughter Stella Roux. Roche and Roux have a song featured on "For Kids & By Kids: Songs from Iowa Rock City Volume One." 

John Pemble / IPR

Five Republicans and five Democrats met again at the statehouse Tuesday without resolving an ongoing conflict over how much state money K-12 schools should get next year.  While districts around the state await word, the House and Senate remain 100 million dollars apart. Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen couldn’t say what the resolution will be.

”We didn't have it today obviously,” Paulsen says.  “Educators are looking for us to get this resolved and my hope is that we can get that done.” 

Okki via Wikimedia Commons

Over his writing career spanning more than 30 years, W.P. Kinsella has become one of the finest storytellers in baseball’s history. He is also an acclaimed satirical author.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Kinsella about his writing and his new book, "The Essential W.P. Kinsella",  a collection of some of his best short stories over the years.

Tim Lucas / flickr

"We gain so much more when we focus on people’s positives," says lawyer, speaker, and freelance disability consultant, Matan Koch.

Koch will speak at Coe College the evening of March 24. Ahead of his appearance, Ben Kieffer talks with Koch about how to encourage the talent, purchasing power, and experience of the disability community.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A Republican-dominated panel in the Iowa House Tuesday signed off on a Senate bill to revise sentences  for underage offenders who commit homicide. Backers say the bill would bring Iowa into compliance with court rulings that Iowa’s current law is unconstitutional. 

Both the U.S. and the Iowa Supreme Courts threw out Iowa’s law mandating life in prison without parole for teen killers. The Senate bill gives courts other options. Courts could allow parole immediately. But they could also still hand down the life without parole sentence.   

Flickr / Tobias Leeger

The Iowa House passed a bill on the contentious issue of school start dates for Iowa K-12 students today. The legislation allows middle and elementary schools that follow year-round calendars to set an early school start date; however, all other schools could start only as early as August 23.

State Rep. Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, voted against the bill. She says the one-size-fits-all start date for high schools is a bad approach.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio

The U.S. Senate agriculture committee heard testimony today on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

Nearly a year ago, the EPA proposed a change to the Clean Water Act that it says would clarify its authority over certain wetlands and streams. But Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who serves on the agriculture committee, says the proposal has met strong opposition in farm country.

Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media

More than a dozen federal agencies form a patchwork system that aims to keep food from making Americans sick. But critics say the old system has worn thin. And some think we would all be safer if food safety at the federal level was brought under one roof.

Walking through Heartland Gourmet in Lincoln, Neb. shows how complicated the food safety system can be. Inside the warehouse pallets are stacked with sacks of potato flour and the smell of fresh baked apple-cinnamon muffins is in the air.

Iowa Public Radio

Republicans would dominate on the Iowa Board of Regents if three new nominees are confirmed, and one Senate Democrat says Governor Branstad is not following the intent of the law with the appointments.  

The governor nominated Vermeer executive Mary Andringa, Des Moines community volunteer Patty Cownie, and UNI student Rachel Johnson.  

Coralville Democrat Bob Dvorsky says with the appointments the nine-member board will include five Republicans, two Democrats, and two Independents.    

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Senate is unlikely to take up the issue of collective bargaining, so why did the House debate it until 10 PM last Tuesday?

State Rep. Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, felt that the bill was a distraction from the bigger issue of school funding.

"They are waiting to know what their funds will be for this upcoming school year and we felt like this entire bill was a distraction and that's why we totally opposed it," Steckman says.

But State Rep. Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia, says that these processes sometimes take years. 

Mama Jan Smith / flickr

Fifty years ago The Sound of Music hit the big screen, and people all over the world fell in love with the von Trapp family.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks with Sofia and Amanda von Trapp. Along with their brother and sister, they are carrying on the family legacy, but not quite in the way you might expect. 

Photo by John Pemble

Lawmakers in the Iowa Republican House last week passed legislation that would weaken bargaining rights for teachers unions. It’s unlikely to even be taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate. It’s just another part of the fights over education at the Iowa statehouse. IPR's Clay Masters checks in with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the week ahead at the capitol. 

Photo by John Pemble

March 21st, 2015 was the 330th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s birth, a prominent composer of classical music. On Saturday across the world, his life was celebrated through performances in unexpected public places, including one on the steps of Iowa’s former Capitol in Iowa City.

Pages