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John Pemble / IPR

During this weekly podcast of highlights from the Iowa legislature, nobody knows how long Governor Terry Branstad will remain in Iowa.  President Trump wants him to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China, but a timeline for the confirmation process is not set.

Once he makes the move, Branstad will serve at a delicate time in U.S.-China relations under President Trump, who is off to a rocky start in his relations with that country. Iowa Public Radio reporter Clay Masters looks back to a few months ago when it started to become clear what was to come for governor.

Emily Woodbury

The night before President Donald Trump's inauguration, Iowans gathered in Cedar Rapids for another round of "Pints and Politics." At the end of the show, panelists: Gazette columnists Lynda Waddington, Todd Dorman, and Gazette political reporter James Lynch, each geared up for inauguration day by reciting their own Mad Libs inauguration speeches.

(Remember Mad Libs?  It’s the word game where one player prompts others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story, before reading the – often comical or nonsensical – story aloud.)

Dwolla

The Des Moines-based payment network Dwolla has completed a round of funding that will enable it to expand its Iowa operation. The announcement comes as the company adjusts its business focus.

A group of venture capitalists have invested nearly $7 million in Dwolla. The money will allow the company to add about 20 people to its sales and account management teams over the next year.

Dwolla CEO Ben Milne launched the payment network in late 2010. He says since then, the mission has changed somewhat.

angela n. / Flickr

As Donald Trump is inaugurated today, President Obama will be in attendance, following a tradition that highlights one of the most important aspects of inaugurations.

"It's an amazing event in that it signifies the peaceful transition of power, usually from one party to another," says Cary Covington, Associate Professor of political science at the University of Iowa.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Voting absentee would get a little more complicated under Secretary of State Paul Pate’s proposed legislation he’s  calling the Election Integrity Act.    

On Thursday, Pate briefed the House State Government Committee on the proposed bill which includes a controversial plan for Voter ID.  

In a packed committee room, Pate discussed the identification of both voters who go to the polls, and those who request an absentee ballot.  

“Because more than 40% of voters are voting absentee ballots, I want to ensure the integrity of those ballots,” Pate said.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Representatives of university towns are back at the capitol this year, trying to get relief from loud and drunken student parties that are disrupting life in residential areas.  

They oppose a bill that pits landlords against residents who want peace and quiet for their single-family neighborhoods.     

IPR's Emily Woodbury

Still printed on a 19-century letterpress printing machine in Anamosa, IA, publisher Tim Fay has just released his 23rd issue of "The Wapsipinicon Almanac."  It's a homegrown, homemade journal and features essays, stories and articles by Iowa writers.  The first issue was published in 1988 and you can't order it or read it online.  You'll have to find it in a bookstore or other shop.

Justin Sloan / Flickr

As President Obama's presidency draws to a close, the nation is reflecting on his eight years in office. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Jessica Welburn, assistant professor of sociology & African American studies at the University of Iowa, Lori Chesser, Chair of Immigration Department at Davis Brown law firm in Des Moines, Donna Hoffman, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa, about the legacy Obama leaves as a president, as a politician, and as a man.

John Pemble, IPR file photo

Many of the nation’s mayors are meeting in Washington just as the Trump administration is moving into office. The mayor of the state’s largest city is voicing hope the new president will pay attention to the needs of local governments.

Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

Around 1,000 refugees resettled in Iowa in 2016. Most of them arrive in the state with nothing to their name and have three months of support to learn a new language, get a job and find a place to live. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with representatives from organizations that help refugees get settled and work with them after other services to help them expire. 

Global Greens, a project of Lutheran Services in Iowa, is helping refugees find land to farm, and is helping people to learn the business of farming. 

Bryan Thompson for Harvest Public Media

School lunch has long been a target of jokes. Those jokes turned to complaints from students and parents alike in 2012 when new congressionally mandated nutrition standards took effect.

usembassy_montevideo/Flickr

President-elect Donald Trump plans to pick former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead the Agriculture Department, a transition official and a source close to the process confirmed to NPR.

Trump is expected to make a formal announcement on Thursday, ending a months-long process that left Agriculture Secretary as the final Cabinet post to be filled.

Chris / Flickr

Shumpei Yamaki never thought dance would work out. He assumed hip hop would be a hobby.

"Then I started to go to school in Philadelphia and I was skipping classes to learn to dance," he says.

Realizing where his passion truly lay allowed him to focus more of his time and energy in the art. He felt he was on his way when someone else's choice sent his life spinning in a different direction once again.

"I got hit by a drunk driver, so I had to stop dancing," he says.  "That was one of my questions for the doctor: 'Can I back flip again?'"

C Tanti / Flickr

Jennifer Holliday has performed at the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. When President-Elect Donald Trump's team reached out, asking her if she would perform at his inauguration Friday, she received a huge amount of backlash, including death threats. She canceled.

When asked on The View yesterday why she originally considered taking the gig, her answer was simple.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Internet download speeds for more than a million households may soon become much faster. The communications company Mediacom is making Iowa its first gigabit state. 

Flickr / ~W~

Iowa lawmakers are considering tougher regulations to keep drivers from texting. Right now, a texting driver can only be ticketed if they’re stopped for another offense, but a bill that passed out of a Senate subcommittee this afternoon would allow law enforcement to pull someone over for texting.

Since it’s hard to prove whether someone is texting or using their phone for another purpose, lawmakers say they’ll also consider “hands-free” legislation which would make it illegal to even hold a phone while driving.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

A bill passed out of subcommittee late this afternoon allows a woman to sue her physician for the emotional distress that results from an abortion. Currently a only handful of states, including Nebraska and Wisconsin, have similar laws. 

IPR Images

A plan to cut more than $100 million out of this year’s state budget is taking up much of the oxygen at the statehouse in the opening days of the legislative session.   

As a result, lawmakers are off to a slower start than usual dealing with other bills.

Twenty-two bills on various subjects were introduced into the House today after a full week with no House Files read in.

“It is unusual,” said Republican House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake).  “Other years we've read them in sooner.”  

John S / Flickr

There’s been a lot of talk about “fake news” and what “the media” do and who “the media” are. During this hour of River to River, we talk about fake news, real news and what makes a fact.

Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications at Merrimack College, says it’s hard to tell sometimes what is real and what is not.

Amy Mayer/IPR

President Obama’s two-term agriculture secretary will soon slip through one of Washington’s revolving doors and switch from government official to private sector executive eager to push for an industry agenda.

 

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that his first job outside the Cabinet will be heading up a dairy industry trade group that pushes for access to foreign markets, the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

 

Charity Nebbe

When wolves disappeared from Iowa in the early 20th century, coyotes filled the vacancy left behind.

"The coyote, then, was mostly a western species - a great plains species that gradually moved eastward," says emeritus wildlife extension specialist, Jim Pease.

In addition to adapting to a new area, coyotes have also adapted to live alongside humans.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

West Des Moines is becoming the first city in Iowa to sign on to the national program known as Stop the Bleed. The effort is meant to train citizens to become first responders in cases of mass injuries.

The White House launched the project in partial response to the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Stop the Bleed is designed to train and equip people to save lives in emergency situations involving serious bleeding. 

John Pemble

The governor laid out what will most likely be his final Condition of the State Address last week. Lawmakers had Monday off for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but they’re back at it on Today. Here are a few items IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell is watching.

Planned Parenthood funding is in the crosshairs of Republicans. The plan to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood is part of the governor’s budget and has strong Republican support.

Courtesy Elliot Chapman

Farmers across the Midwest are trying to figure out how to get by at a time when expected prices for commodities from corn, to wheat, to cattle, to hogs mean they’ll be struggling just to break even.

“Prices are low, bins are full, and the dollar is strengthening as we speak and that’s just making the export thing a little more challenging,” says Paul Burgener of Platte Valley Bank in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

DMSO

IPR’s Symphonies of Iowa is back for the New Year! The season kicks off on Sunday, January 22nd at 4 p.m. and again on Monday, January 23rd at 7 p.m. with the Des Moines Symphony presenting their season debut concert “Beethoven’s Ode to Joy!” under Joseph Giunta with The Drake Choir, the Simpson College Chamber Singers, and the Des Moines Vocal Arts Ensemble. Soloists include flutist Kayla Burggraf, violinist Jonathan Sturm, Gregory Hand at the harpsichord, soprano Mary Ellen Giunta, alto Mary Creswell, tenor Scott Ramsay, and bass Dashon Burton.

IDOT

Iowa seems to have avoided the worst effects of an ice storm that began Sunday evening and still lingers this afternoon, left 1/3 of an inch of ice on parts of Iowa, and sent hundreds of crews onto roads and highways to remove the ice.  As of this afternoon, most of the state’s major roadways were listed in good or “seasonal” condition, or only partly ice or slush-covered.

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