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Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad and First Lady Chris Branstad will not be leaving their entire family behind when they move to Beijing for Branstad to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China.    

Speaking in Des Moines Tuesday,  Branstad said his daughter Allison and her family will also be moving to Beijing.  

“My daughter has interviewed for a teaching job in China via Skype,” Branstad said.    “She got an offer from the Beijing International School.”

Costa accepted the offer to teach 3rd grade.

Rep. Blum Opposes GOP Health Care Plan

18 hours ago
rod blum
Rod Blum for Congress

Iowa Republican Representative Rod Blum said Tuesday he will not support the House GOP’s health care plan in its current form.

The 1st District congressman tweeted that the American Health Care Act “doesn’t do enough to lower premiums for hardworking Americans.”

The repeal and replacement of much of Obamacare is supposed to get a vote on the House floor on Thursday. Dozens of Republican House members oppose the bill or have expressed major concerns.

President Trump met with House Republicans Tuesday to urge them to pass the health care bill.

Governor Branstad Tuesday reminisced about the history of home-schooling in Iowa, in an address to homeschool families in town for their annual Day at the Capitol.  

Branstad told a crowd of about 300 parents and children that Iowa is known for its supportive environment for home schools.   

He recalls the 1991 legislation to legalize homeschooling in Iowa:

Clay Masters / IPR

  A federal judge has dismissed The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three counties, claiming their agricultural drainage districts have been sending nitrate pollution into the rivers the water utility uses for drinking water. The lawsuit has been a hot button issue across Iowa and country because if the utility had been successful it could have regulated farming.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A Republican-sponsored committee at the statehouse Monday got an earful from Iowa businesses and individuals who might be affected if the GOP succeeds in scaling back hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks.   

Both parties agree tax credits are one of the fasting-growing pieces of the state budget.  

The cost of one list of credits approaches half a billion  dollars, ranging from incentives for businesses to attract new jobs, to tax breaks for families who adopt kids, to credits for contributions to private school tuition.

Brice Gibson/K-State Research and Extension

Iowa cattle producers are gathering donations of cash, feed and supplies to help farmers and ranchers in four states who’ve fallen victim to wildfires in the past two weeks.

Iowa Cattlemen’s Association president Matt Deppe says the fires killed seven people. They also wiped out thousands of cattle and burned an estimated two million acres of pastureland in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

John Pemble/IPR

A Democratic state senator says the head of Iowa’s Department of Human Services is lying about his lack of availability to attend an informal hearing, in order to cover up the “failure” and “incompetence” of DHS from investigating circumstances that lead to the death of a West Des Moines teen.

Sen. Matt McCoy of  Des Moines and other Democrats say Director Chuck Palmer is hiding that fact that staffing cuts prevented reports of child abuse and neglect from being properly investigated, and a result, 16-year-old Natalie Finn died of starvation back in October.

cessna plane
DLR German Aerospace Center

Three Iowa airports could lose commercial air service under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

Airports in Burlington, Fort Dodge and Mason City depend on federal subsidies to provide regular flights to major cities in the Midwest. Trump has proposed eliminating the Essential Air Service program, which makes those flights possible.

Dean Borg/IPR file photo

Trustees at Auburn University in Alabama voted this morning to approve ISU President Steve Leath as AU's 19th president.  The voice vote was unanimous. Leath will replace Jay Gogue, who has announced his retirement effective this summer.

Leath has been ISU's president since 2012.  He begins his new job at Auburn on July 15.

In a statement to the Trustees following this morning's vote, Leath said, "I could not be more excited, or frankly more humbled, by this once in a lifetime opportunity."

Clay Masters / IPR

A federal judge has dismissed The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three counties, claiming their agricultural drainage districts have been sending nitrate pollution into the rivers the water utility uses for drinking water. The lawsuit has been a hot button issue across Iowa and country because if the utility had been successful it could have regulated farming.

Problem gamblers would have a new option for keeping themselves out of Iowa casinos under legislation that passed the Iowa Senate last week.  

Currently, gamblers can voluntarily ban themselves from casinos for life.  

Under the bill, a problem gambler who earlier agreed to a lifetime ban could get back onto the gaming floor once five years have passed.    The gambler would then be subject to a renewable ban every five years.

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst fielded several questions about health care today at a town hall-style meeting in Cedar Rapids.

Several questioners among the 1,000 or so people in the auditorium at Coe College pushed her to state her position on the House GOP health care plan.

"I can't say today whether I support it or don't support it," Ernst said. 

Ernst added the plan does not solve all health care issues.

WIKICOMMONS / EPA

A hog confinement that could contain nearly 7,500 animals is being proposed in north-central Hancock County. County Supervisor Jerry Tlach says he’s in support of the new Peacock Farms facility. He says it will provide jobs for young farmers hoping to remain in area.

John Pemble / IPR

Week 10's podcast begins with the state of Iowa being low on money, again.  The Revenue Estimating Conference projects a $131 million shortfall by July 1st. Legislative leaders say budget cuts this close to the end of the fiscal year aren't practical, so the state's rainy day funds will be used.

Flickr / Richard D Green

Legislation that limits the amount an injured employee can be compensated has passed the Iowa House along party lines. Republicans say changes to Iowa’s more than century-old workers’ compensation law are needed to keep the state's business climate competitive.

"I believe it’s a situation where we’re seeing rates go up across industry sectors," says GOP Representative Gary Carlson of Muscatine. "If I look at where Iowa used to be at the fifth or sixth lowest in the United States, and now we’re up in the 24th highest."

Cedar River Water Quality Project to Expand This Year

Mar 16, 2017
cedar river
Braden Kopf / Vimeo

An effort to improve water quality and decrease flood risks on the Cedar River will “ramp up” this year.

Cedar Rapids Utilities Director Steve Hershner made the announcement Tuesday at a water quality discussion.

The quality of Cedar Rapids' drinking water is influenced by nutrient levels in the Cedar River.

Flickr / Vance Shtraikh

Legislation that allows private companies in Iowa to test employees’ hair for drug use has passed out of the House Labor Committee along party lines with Republican support. 

"This is about testing for chronic long-term use," says Representative Jarad Klein of Washington County. "Is there a chronic long-term history of abuse of an illegal substance that would give them pause?"

Democrats raise concerns regarding the fairness and the efficacy of testing.

Man Shot by Cedar Rapids Police Officer Sues City

Mar 15, 2017
jones and mitchell dash cam
YouTube

A man who was shot by a Cedar Rapids police officer last fall is suing the city. Jerime Mitchell has been paralyzed from the neck down since the shooting, which happened during a traffic stop in November.

Mitchell and his wife are suing the city and Officer Lucas J0nes for negligence, “reckless, willful and wanton” actions, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.

The details of the shooting presented in the lawsuit are very different from those made public by county and state authorities late last year.

John Pemble/IPR

There was bad economic news from the statehouse today and budget writers are making plans to adjust.

A panel of economic experts revised downward their projections of growth in state tax receipts for the fiscal year that ends in June.  

They estimate growth of less than 3%, while the budget was based on expected growth of nearly four-and-a-half percent.   

Holly Lyons with the Revenue Estimating Conference stresses the state is not heading into a recession.

Iowa Lt. Gov.'s office

The alliance of business leaders and educators assigned the job of developing strategies to prepare tomorrow’s workforce in Iowa is hearing from its co-chair, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. She says the group is on track to meet its stated goals.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act by House Republicans will have to be rewritten. Yesterday the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a report that found some 24 million people who currently have health insurance would not be covered by 2026 under the GOP proposal. 

Joey Gannon/flickr

After bitter partisan debate, the Iowa House last night approved a bill to change the rules for Iowa workers filing asbestos-related lawsuits.   

Critics say workers exposed to the cancer-causing substance could be harmed by the bill.   

But backers say meritless cases are clogging up the courts.

Lee County Supervisors To Consider Minimum Wage Increase

Mar 13, 2017
keokuk, iowa
WIKICOMMONS / Billwhittaker

The Lee County Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance Tuesday that would raise the county’s minimum wage to $8.20.

Meanwhile, a bill working its way through the Iowa Legislature would prohibit minimum wage increases by local governments. The Iowa House of Representatives passed the bill on to the Senate last week.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says the state’s poultry producers are reviewing their biosecurity measures now that new cases of avian flu have been reported in other states.   

The disease caused millions of dollars in losses in Iowa in 2015, with the destruction of as many as 31 million birds.  

“We have seen this new case in Tennessee, and a couple low-pathogenic cases in Tennessee and Wisconsin,” Northey said.     “I'm sure everybody's checking their biosecurity plans again.”

A group of mostly Democratic state lawmakers met with the head of Iowa’s Division of Adult, Child and Family Services Monday, and asked if a lack of social workers contributed to the starvation death of a West Des Moines teen in October. 

"The social workers are telling us that we should be protecting kids, we’re not because we’re over worked. 'Our staff load is too high. We’ve doubled our overtime in the last year,'" says State Senator Matt McCoy of Polk County. "Are we leaving vulnerable children out to fend for themselves when we don’t have adequate staffing?"

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today condemned anti-immigrant comments that appeared in a weekend tweet from Republican 4th District Representative Steve King.   

King wrote in support of anti-immigration Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders who wants to ban the Quran in the Netherlands and shut down mosques.   

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” King tweeted.   “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.”

University of Northern Iowa's Center for Business Growth and Innovation

Economic development officials in the state are on the hunt for the next great idea. They are a launching a contest to find a new batch of innovative start-up companies.

The Center for Business Growth and Innovation at the University of Northern Iowa is behind the Great Idea Challenge. A senior program manager at the Center, Patrick Luensmann, says winners of the contest will be guided on how to build a strong, sustainable business.

“We really want to try and grow the pipeline for new, innovative companies to start and grow in Iowa,” he says.

John Pemble / IPR

This week, the House passes a bill expanding gun rights.  Among the things it will allow includes a person with a permit can bring a concealed pistol to city council meetings, but not school board meetings.  Similarly, one can be brought inside the state Capitol. 

Representative Matt Windschitl leads the effort to pass this bill. During the debate he says, “If I had my druthers, a law-abiding Iowan would be able to carry a firearm wherever they are lawfully present.”

'Bridges of Madison County' Author Robert James Waller Dies

Mar 10, 2017
robert james waller
Courtesy of Scott Cawelti

Iowa-born author Robert James Waller has died in Texas at the age of 77. He wrote “The Bridges of Madison County,” which topped the New York Times bestseller list in 1993.

The book was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. Waller wrote the novel, which was his first, after photographing covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa.

Scott Cawelti, a longtime friend of Waller, said he died of complications related to cancer. 

Flickr / Ted Murphy

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission can consider the economic impact of a potential new casino on existing gambling operations, before approving the new casino’s application. That's according to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled that commission was acting within its authority.

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