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Statehouse Republicans are interviewing candidates, hoping to have a new human resources professional on hand before the legislature reconvenes next month.  

The new position is being created after a former GOP Senate staffer won a $1.75 million settlement alleging a sexually-charged work environment.

Des Moines University

The osteopathic medical school Des Moines University is using grant money to launch a pilot project to address a shortage in Iowa of mental health professionals. It’s designed to train future primary-care doctors in treating psychiatric illness.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture faces a lawsuit that argues the federal agency must bring back a proposed rule that defined abusive practices by meatpacking companies.

Farmers from Alabama and Nebraska and the Organization for Competitive Markets, a nonprofit that works on competition issues in agriculture, filed the suit Thursday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Peyton Manning, the NFL quarterback-turned-pitchman, apparently has another side hustle: Certifying shipments of grain as organic for a Nebraska-based agency called OneCert.

Problem is, OneCert president Sam Welsch doesn’t remember hiring Manning for his business, which is accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect everything from small vegetable farms to processing plants and international grain operations.

grinnell walk
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Five years after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, some Grinnell residents are asking their neighbor, the president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), to speak with them about curbing gun violence.

Iowan Pete Brownell is CEO of Brownells, an international firearm business with a large warehouse and retail store in Grinnell. He was elected president of the NRA in May.

university of iowa
Vladimir Kulikov / Wikimedia Commons

A now-defunct student organization is suing the University of Iowa in federal court for religious discrimination. Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) lost its status as a registered student organization after it allegedly denied a leadership position to a gay student. 

According to the lawsuit, BLinC told a member he wasn’t eligible for a leadership position because "his decision to enter into same-sex relationships was inconsistent with BLinC's religious beliefs."

inkknife_2000/flickr

A north Iowa business consultant is painting a picture of deteriorating finances for Iowa farmers, as the agricultural economy continues to languish.    

David Underwood of Mason City  is one of three members of the Revenue Estimating Conference, which this week predicted essentially flat state tax collections this year due in part to weakness in the farm sector.      

Underwood said up to now, farmers had enough reserves to get them through the recent lean times.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The value of Iowa’s farmland has increased 2 percent over the past year, but the uptick may not indicate improvements to the overall farm economy.

The annual Iowa Land Values Survey found the small increase this year after three consecutive years of farmland values slipping.

Chatterkick

The Technology Association of Iowa is launching a first-of-its-kind podcast in the state highlighting women leaders in high-tech. The project is known as “Technically Iowa.”

The series of interviews for the podcast is hosted by a woman who is already at the forefront of using technology to start a business. Beth Trejo is CEO and founder of the Sioux City-based social media agency Chatterkick. She says the goal of the show is to develop a network of women techies.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

 

The so-called “Unity Commission” formed by the Democratic National Committee is recommending historic changes in the way Democrats conduct the Iowa Caucuses.

The state party would be required to let people who cannot attend the neighborhood meetings on Caucus Night cast their presidential preference vote.

"We've got to figure out what that process is," says Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price. "Our goal is to make sure that with the changes we make to this we don't lose the spirit of our caucuses."

ipers press conference
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Two Democrats say the upcoming legislative session may threaten retirement benefits for Iowa’s public employees. State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald and State Senator Matt McCoy say there are signs that Republicans want to make major changes to the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS) next year.

"Some current legislative proposals to change IPERS, including a bill that was introduced last session, could break the promise we have made toward hardworking Iowans," Fitzgerald says. 

Kay Henderson

The former state senator who has agreed to advise the Iowa Senate on sexual harassment issues says it was a problem during her tenure, and she wishes she had set up a policy to address it back then.

Ambassador Mary Kramer who had a long career as a human resource manager in the private sector served in the Senate from 1990 to 2003, including two terms as president.  

In a taping for Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, Kramer said while she was Senate president, she handled sexual harassment complaints.

It’s a common story: Ambitious kids move from small towns to larger cities, never to look back. When their parents die, the family wealth that’s been built over generations through farming, ranching or agriculture-related businesses often follows the kids, draining the economic lifeblood from those rural communities.

The largest generational transfer of wealth in modern times is expected to happen in the next 10 years and rural foundations in states like Iowa and Nebraska are working hard to retain at least a bit of those hundreds of millions of dollars. 

A congressional watchdog agency called on the federal government Thursday to better protect meatpacking workers, who are often exposed to dangerous chemicals, not allowed bathroom breaks and refused medical treatment.

The General Accountability Office’s report said the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration faces a challenge when it comes to addressing safety concerns in meat and poultry plants because workers may not report problems out of fear of retaliation.

astrid gale
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Cameras and smiles were flashing at a Cedar Rapids church Saturday as more than a thousand people filed in to get their photos taken.

Parents and assistants were snapping, clapping, waving squeaky toys and stuffed animals, and talking about farts—anything to get stubborn kids to crack a smile.

Valerie Jedlicka’s family was trying to wrangle two toddlers in matching red and black plaid. After her family’s photo session in a church classroom-turned-portrait studio, Jedlicka says she’s thankful for the opportunity to create happy memories.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has been….in his words…..dropped from the conference committee charged with writing a final version of the giant tax cut bills which have passed the U.S. House and Senate.       

Grassley is the current senior ranking member and past chair of the Senate Finance Committee.    

Diocese of Des Moines

The Bishop of the Des Moines Catholic Diocese is joining Catholic Bishops across the country in calling for Congress to enact the so-called Dream Act.

Bishop Richard Pates spoke with reporters after meeting with some 25 inmates of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement holding cell at the Polk County Sheriff’s office.

He tells the story of one young man who was recently picked up on suspicion of being in the country illegally.

Burlington Hawkeye

The Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have lost the latest round in their struggle to keep private certain records from a fatal police shooting in Burlington. 

In January of 2015 Officer Jesse Hill accidentally shot and killed 34-year-old Autumn Steele at her home after answering a domestic abuse complaint. 

The Iowa Public Information board has hired Des Moines attorney Mark McCormick as a special prosecutor in the case, seeking the release of police body camera videos, emergency calls, and other evidence.

brad hart
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Brad Hart was elected mayor of Cedar Rapids Tuesday night.

Hart won 54 percent of the vote against Monica Vernon in the runoff election for Cedar Rapids mayor.

Hart is an attorney, and this was his first run for public office. He says voters may have wanted someone with a new perspective.

"We tried to get a message out that we’re going to be inclusive and accessible and just make the best decisions we can, and I think that resonated," Hart says.

RecycleMe Iowa

The Iowa grocery and beverage industries are gearing up again to try to repeal Iowa’s popular bottle deposit law when lawmakers return to the capitol in January.   

They released a survey today they say shows Iowans would prefer better recycling programs.      

The Iowa Grocery Industry Association and the Iowa Beverage Association are offering a bill that’s similar to legislation that advanced through one House committee last year.

TSA

As one of the year’s busiest air travel periods heats up, the Transportation Security Administration is putting in place new procedures for screening electronics. The changes were announced earlier this year and are now reaching Iowa airports.

Passengers at TSA checkpoints will now be required to do with their e-readers, computer tablets and DVD players what they have long been doing with their laptops. Carrie Harmon is the regional public affairs manager for the TSA.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Progressive groups are protesting outside of Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Des Moines and Waterloo offices Tuesday evening because of a comment he made related to the estate tax.

Grassley told The Des Moines Register scaling back the estate tax would recognize people who are investing as opposed to "those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies." The comment went viral on social media.

Iowa Secretary of State

Thousands of Iowans should be watching the mail for new state-issued Voter ID cards they’ll need at the polls starting next year if they don’t already have an official government-issued ID.       

It’s part of Iowa’s controversial new voter ID statute approved by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Gov. Branstad.    

Mel Andringa, Legion Arts, Flickr

The photographer who documented life in a small eastern Iowa town in a book titled “The Oxford Project,” has died.

Peter Feldstein was a professor of photography at the University of Iowa in 1984 when he asked the 670 residents of Oxford, the Johnson County town in which he lived, if he could take their pictures. Twenty years later he reshot the photos of those who remained alive and in town, and with writer Stephen Bloom, published “The Oxford Project.” In it, they told the sometimes revealing stories of people growing up and growing old in a small Iowa town.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

It’s one month into the sign-up period for the Affordable Care Act, and the number of Iowans who have signed up for health insurance is much higher than at this time last year.

John Pemble / IPR

This week Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds says she’s not backing down from yet another big change to Iowa’s privatized Medicaid.

“I’ve never said it was perfect," Gov. Reynolds said on Tuesday. "I’m willing to put the time and the effort into making sure that Iowans get the care that they deserve in a managed and coordinated and more modern delivery system.”

She says she’s “not going back” on how Iowa’s Medicaid is managed.

police car
Diego Parra / Pixabay

Four civil rights groups are asking the Iowa Supreme Court to ban pretextual traffic stops on the grounds they are unconstitutional and perpetuate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. 

A pretextual traffic stop is when a police officer stops a driver for a minor issue like a broken taillight with the intent to investigate a suspected criminal offense. 

"African-Americans and other Iowans of color are more likely to be stopped, and that’s what we’re trying to prevent," says Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP. 

The Iowa Law Enforcement Academy trained a record number of law enforcement personnel this year.

Director Judy Bradshaw says that’s because more Iowa law officers are leaving the profession after a relatively short time on duty. So law enforcement agencies are sending more and more new recruits to the academy for training.

Bradshaw was a career police officer with the Des Moines Police Department for 34 years.

Mighty Earth

Environmental activists were at the Tyson meatpacking plant in Perry Thursday delivering a petition bearing more than 1,000 names. It was part of a nationwide drive calling for the company to purchase sustainable grains as a way to reduce water pollution.

A group calling itself Mighty Earth is delivering petitions at seven Tyson locations across the country, A field organizer for the Iowa chapter of Mighty Earth, Elise Peterson-Trujillo, says the environmentalists are asking the nation’s largest meat producer to live by its pledge to pursue sustainable practices.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The head of the Iowa Department of Corrections briefed Gov. Reynolds today on an increase in violent crime in the state that he called shocking.  

Statistics from a national survey show that from 2006 through 2016, Iowa was one of only two states in the country where the incidence increased for all four categories of violent crime, including homicide, robbery, rape, and aggravated assault.  

At the same time, the recidivism rate is on the rise for perpetrators of violent crime. 

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