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Governor Branstad Monday went to a John Deere dealership in Perry to sign a bill to facilitate more broadband in Iowa.     

It’s dubbed the Connect Acre Bill, and Branstad says agriculture is just one business that will benefit from more high-speed internet access.   

The bill includes property tax breaks for communications companies to build out broadband to underserved areas, but not the five million dollars in grants the governor asked for. 

Lisa L. Wiedmeier/flickr

Iowa dog breeders would undergo new inspections and pay new fees to cover the cost, under a bill advancing in the Iowa Senate today by critics of so-called “puppy mills.”   Des Moines Democrat Matt McCoy says the United States Department of Agriculture is not keeping up with inspections of more than 200 Iowa breeders and more than 1,500 dogs.  He says nearly half of the operations the USDA inspects are cited for violations.

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Republicans and Democrats joined hands at the Capitol Tuesday arguing for landowner rights in the face of two large energy projects, the Bakken crude oil pipeline and the Rock Island Clean Line,  a proposed 500 mile electric transmission line.  

 Lawmakers say Iowa’s law is out of date when it comes to condemning land for big private projects.     

Photo by John Pemble/IPR

A Republican-dominated committee in the Iowa House has approved a controversial Board of Regents plan to give more money to state universities that attract more Iowa students.

It’s called performance-based funding.   

But the panel approved no money to soften the blow for the University of Iowa. 

Photo by John Pemble

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds is in Brazil this week.  

She’ll return on Saturday from a week-long trade mission to one of the state’s largest trading partners.     

Reynolds says Iowa and Brazil are both leaders in agriculture and agricultural equipment.

“The delegation is comprise of 15 individuals representing various Iowa industries,” Reynolds says, “and the mission will include two cities, Sao Paulo and Ribeirão Preto.”  

Travel will be paid by private donations to the Iowa Economic Development Authority Foundation.

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Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter says he’s still lobbying hard for a controversial plan to redistribute state funds to Iowa’s Regents Universities.   

The plan would appropriate money on the basis of how many Iowa students each university attracts, with more money going to University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University, and less to the University of Iowa.  

Neither the House nor the Senate education budget includes money for the proposal, but Rastetter says that’s not the final word.

Photo by John Pemble/IPR

A  transportation expert in the Iowa House warns Iowa's gas tax increase will fall short of meeting the state's transportation infrastructure needs.   

Burlington Democrat Dennis Cohoon says the Department of Transportation  estimates the state will need more than $215 million for road and bridge work.  The gas tax increase will bring in $204 million or less.

“Most of us are aware that this is not a long-term solution,” Cohoon says. “The revenue from the gas tax will diminish over time.” 

Cohoon says other ideas floated by the DOT should be on the table.

John Pemble/IPR

Governor Branstad is urging an eastern Iowa town not to violate the spirit of the state’s new law raising the gas tax by ten cents a gallon.   

 The city of Clinton’s share of the new revenue is 470-thousand dollars, and the city council proposes spending more than half of that to hire new employees whose work would include street repair.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate say the money should go directly into infrastructure, and Branstad agrees.

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa drivers with handicapped parking permits are being warned of a safety hazard, and the head of the Transportation Committee in the Iowa House is taking steps to fix it.  

The House has approved a measure by Osage Republican Josh Byrnes that will redesign the parking placards so it’s clearer they should be taken down while driving.  

“It’s an obstruction to the vision of the driver,” Byrnes says. “It's been brought to my attention from bicyclists and motorcyclists. Because they're smaller than a car or truck, it’s harder to see those folks.” 

John Pemble/IPR

The head of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy was in charge when an assistant director was accused of sexual harassment.

Now a deadline has passed for the Iowa Senate to confirm ILEA Director Arlen Ciechanowski for another term.   

Problems at the agency surfaced during a Senate Oversight Committee hearing last year on the hiring and firing practices of the Branstad administration.     A 2012 investigation concluded assistant director Michael Quinn made offensive remarks to female recruits.   Quinn stayed in his position until Director Ciechanowski fired him last year. 

John Pemble/IPR

At least one school district in the state has notified teachers they’ll be getting pink slips while an impasse continues at the statehouse over how much money schools should get next year.     

Governor Branstad is downplaying the impact of the layoffs on schools.    

By April 30, schools must either renew contracts with teachers or lay them off at least temporarily  if they still don’t know how much money they’ll get from the state.   

John Pemble/IPR

Governor Branstad’s reappointment of the Iowa  Department of Human Services director gained the necessary 2/3 vote in the Iowa  Senate yesterday.  

Democrats argued against Chuck Palmer because of what they call the illegal closings of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo and the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant.  

Cedar Rapids Democrat Rob Hogg calls Palmer a capable administrator.

John Pemble/IPR

A bill to get criminal records expunged for defendants charged with crimes that are later dismissed won unanimous approval in the Iowa House.  

That’s after lawmakers told stories about constituents who met with unfair treatment from the courts.

A woman in Democrat Sharon Steckman’s district was charged with dealing meth, but it was a case of mistaken identity, so the charges were dropped.

“You would think it would be over,” Steckman says. “For her it was not over.”

Sean McCann/Flickr

Getting into the business of raising honeybees would get a little easier under legislation that has advanced in the Iowa House. 

To address a decline in the pollinator's population, lawmakers want to exempt the purchase of honeybees from the state sales tax. They say that will encourage hobbyists to raise more bees.

Keokuk Democrat Jerry Kearns opposes the bill.

“First off, let me tell you I’m not a honeybee hater,” Kearns says.  “But taking the sales tax off of honeybees is not going to help at all.”

United Nations Photo/Flickr

Some Iowa industries would pay fees for the first time in order to enforce clean air regulations, under a bill making its way through the Iowa Senate.   

The Department of Natural Resources says fees are based on the weight of emitted pollutants and the state has collected less money as industries have reduced emissions.

The DNR is negotiating with regulated industries to come up with a new fee structure. 

Photo by John Pemble

Republicans in the Iowa House say they still support so-called stand your ground legislation, even though it has not been a gun rights priority this year.    

The House and Senate are considering a wide-ranging bill backed by the NRA, but it does not include a provision that says you can defend yourself with lethal force outside your home with no duty to retreat or avoid conflict.     

Senate Republican leader Bill Dix says stand your ground legislation remains a constituent priority.


Republicans in the Iowa House Wednesday revived wide-ranging firearms legislation, agreeing to some demands from Senate Democrats.  

Senate Democrats argued an earlier bill threatened public safety.  

The GOP agreed to drop a proposal to eliminate the three day waiting period to purchase a handgun.  

Earlier this week the differences between the House and Senate seemed insurmountable.   Democrats wanted to preserve the required permit to acquire a handgun including a three day waiting period and mandatory background checks.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

An eleventh hour attempt is underway in the Republican-dominated Iowa House to delay Governor Branstad’s plan to close the mental health institutes at Mount Pleasant and Clarinda.

Republicans and Democrats alike want to keep the facilities open until alternative arrangements can be made for patients. 

Acute care at Mount Pleasant is scheduled to shut down next Monday and staff will be laid off.   A bill from the Democratic-controlled Senate has now cleared a three-member panel in the House to continue to accept patients through the end of the fiscal year. 

John Pemble/IPR

An executive with the alternative transportation company known as Uber was at the capitol today, lobbying for a bill the company says would help them expand to more Iowa 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.”  

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.

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.” 

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.    

Jess Calhoun

Members of a gun safety group that formed after the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut were at the Iowa statehouse today. They’re lobbying against a bill awaiting debate in the Iowa Senate that critics say will expand access to firearms. 

Jess Calhoun of Ames is with the Iowa affiliate of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“We want to work to see more common sense solutions to gun violence in our country,” Calhoun says.

Joyce Russell/IPR

After a roughly nine hour debate, Republicans in the Iowa House today voted strictly along party lines to scale back Iowa’s collective bargaining law for public employees, but only for teachers and other school employees. Dozens of education groups lobbied hard against the bill, which could make it more likely that teachers would get smaller raises when the school and teachers union disagree. Mason City Democrat Sharon Steckman calls the bill an attack on public schools.

John Pemble/Ipr

More than a thousand documents about the delayed opening of the new Fort Madison prison have arrived at the Capitol at the request of the House Oversight Committee .   The committee chairman says the documents reveal construction issues that prison officials have not previously discussed.   

The documents from the Department of Administrative Services include contracts and bills covering the months of construction.    Oversight Chief Republican Bobby Kaufmann is asking his nine-member committee for help sifting through the information.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill to raise the state sales tax for natural resource protection is being revived at the statehouse, and dozens of environmentalists and wildlife advocates crowded a committee room Tuesday in support.   The bill would raise the tax by three-eighths of a cent for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, a constitutionally protected fund approved by Iowa voters in 2010.    

Ocheyedan Republican David Johnson says the new tax would bring in roughly 150 million dollars a year.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad’s appointee to head the Iowa Workforce Development Agency was questioned by a panel of State Senators. They are charged with confirming or denying the appointment.      

Joyce Russell/IPR

The bill would allow the production and dispensing of marijuana in Iowa for the treatment of certain medical conditions.  


After an hour and a half of emotional debate, the Iowa Senate Tuesday on a bipartisan vote, agreed to let school districts decide when to start classes in the fall.   

House Republican Caucus

By a wide margin and without debate, the Iowa House today approved a wide-ranging gun rights bill.