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As many as 10,000 are expected to attend the Iowa Women’s March on Saturday. The Des Moines demonstration is one of dozens taking place across the country, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. 

"The whole point of this is to bring people together of all genders and backgrounds, so we can stand together in social justice and human rights issues that deeply impact all of us," says Sandy Mostaert, the state representative for the Iowa Chapter of the Women’s March. "Women’s rights are human rights."

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.

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.

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.     

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.

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.

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.”  

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.

 

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.

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.

Sarah Boden/IPR

The Republican-controlled Iowa statehouse aims to limit abortion access by cutting off public funding to Iowa’s 12 Planned Parenthood clinics, which serve a reported 26,000 patients.

Lawmakers say they’ll fund sexual and reproductive healthcare services provided by organizations other than Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. But the healthcare organization said in a conference call this morning this will create a vacuum for critical services.

John Pemble / IPR

This new podcast from Iowa Public Radio highlights the activity at the Iowa Capitol during the legislative session.

Our first week begins with the opening of the 87th General Assembly, where Republicans control the Senate, House, and the governor’s office.  In the first half hour of the session, outgoing Senate President, Democrat Pam Jochum hands Republican Senator Jack Whitver the gavel. Republican priorities this year include changing collective bargaining, implementing voter ID, and defunding Planned Parenthood.  

USDA/Flickr

And then there was Agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary is the only post in President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet without a nominee, mystifying many in rural America and spurring worries that agriculture and rural issues will land near the end of the line among the new president’s priorities.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who served for all 8 years of Barack Obama’s presidency, announced Friday was his last day in office.

Joyce Russell/IPR

As Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds prepares to succeed Governor Branstad in the state’s highest office, a Democratic state senator wants a say in who becomes the next lieutenant governor.   

Sen. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) has filed a bill to require House and Senate confirmation for anyone becoming lieutenant governor without having been voted into office.   

The bill would require a simple majority vote, so Bisignano says Republicans could easily confirm Reynolds’s choice.

John Pemble/IPR

Governor Branstad delivered what will likely be his final Condition of the State Speech at the statehouse Tuesday, outlining plans to improve education, public safety, health care and water quality.   But he also unveiled a proposal to cut more than $100 million from this year’s state budget, which hits higher education the hardest.   Majority Republicans haven’t ruled out cutting some of the areas the governor would protect.     

The governor has never been known for his prowess as a public speaker, and he got off to a rocky start.

Join Iowa Public Radio as NPR reporters fact check President-Elect Trump's Press Conference. This page will update as his speech is transcribed and reporters complete their fact-checking.

Live updates begin at 10 am Central Time.

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John Pemble/IPR

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is signaling support for changes to the state’s collective bargaining laws, that some say would weaken them. In his Condition of the State address this morning, the governor took aim at public employee health plans.

“The cost of these benefits has grown dramatically because of our antiquated collective bargaining system that has led to over 500 healthcare plans,” says Branstad, "many of which are inefficient and way too costly for public employees and Iowa taxpayers."

Join Iowa Public Radio as NPR reporters fact check President Obama's Farewell Address. This page will update as his speech is transcribed and reporters complete their fact-checking.

Live updates begin at 8 pm Central Time.

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Joyce Russell/IPR

Amid pomp and circumstance and Republican celebration, the 87th  General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature convened in Des Moines today for the 2017 legislative session.   The new Republican majority promises significant conservative change on a number of fronts.      Minority Democrats say get ready for a fight. 

The house and Senate gaveled in nearly simultaneously at 10 a.m for a day dominated by traditional opening speeches expressing hopes of working together to get things done.     

Des Moines Public Schools

Iowa’s K-12 school year is only about half-way over, but many districts around the state have begun the process of hiring for the 2017-2018 academic year. Des Moines Public Schools, the state’s largest district, says it plans to hire more than 100 teachers based on anticipated retirements and resignations. 

More than 10 percent of the new hires will be special education teachers. These instructors are particularly difficult to find, due to the various certifications within this area of teaching.

John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa legislature starts its new session on Monday. It’s the first time Republicans have controlled both chambers and the governor’s office since 1997. IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell lays out some of the big issues at the capitol this year.

Danville Station Library and Museum

In 1940, weeks before Amsterdam was occupied by Germany, Anne Frank and her sister Margot wrote letters to eighth graders in Danville, Iowa as part of an international pen pal exchange.  Enlarged copies of these documents have been available to view by appointment only, but this year they’ll become more accessible in a museum. It will be in a building called The Danville Station which also houses a new public library that just opened.

John Pemble / IPR File Photo

As Governor Branstad awaits confirmation as U.S. Ambassador to China, he is declining to comment on some controversial actions by his new boss, President-elect Donald Trump.  

China’s foreign ministry lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. after Trump took a phone call from Taiwan’s president congratulating him on his election.  

At a statehouse forum this week, Branstad was asked if the president-elect’s action would make his job more difficult.

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