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John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

John Norris is no stranger to politics. He worked as chief of staff to former Governor Tom Vilsack, a job he retained when Vilsack became U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Norris has also served as U.S. Minister Counselor for Agriculture to the United Nations in Rome, and has served on the Iowa Utilities Board and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Now, he’s running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa’s court system could soon be filling vacant judge positions across the state that have been causing delays in court proceedings, if a proposed House GOP budget becomes law.  

To balance the budget for the fiscal year that ends in June, the courts eliminated 67 positions statewide and held open judicial vacancies for an average of one year.

Under a House GOP Judicial Branch budget that advanced this week, the court system would get a $4.3 million increase in its appropriation next year.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

There were emotional remembrances from the floor of the Iowa House and Senate Tuesday as gay and lesbian lawmakers honored Iowa civil rights activist Donna Red Wing, who died Monday at the age of 67.   

Red Wing led the advocacy organization One Iowa from 2012 to 2016, and was nationally recognized for her work on behalf of the LGBT community.      

Rep. Liz Bennett (D-Cedar Rapids) recalled her own history dealing with discrimination from a young age because of her sexual orientation.

John Fowler via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/snowpeak/27057517509/

A rollback of federal rules on migratory birds has conservationists worried. The federal government has announced it will stop prosecuting companies that accidentally kill species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They fear the changes could pave the way for industrial developments that pose a threat to the species in Iowa.

iowa senate
John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa Senate adopted a new sexual harassment prevention policy Tuesday as part of its response to a high-profile $1.75 million harassment settlement against Senate Republicans.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Bare bones budgets keeping state agency funding at the levels of three years ago won preliminary approval at the statehouse today, as work began in earnest on next year’s overall state budget. 

Lawmakers from both parties expressed concern about short-staffing in public safety jobs.  

On a party-line vote, the GOP-dominated House Appropriations Committee approved what they’re calling status quo funding for the justice system, which covers highway patrol, prisons, and the state crime lab.   

John Pemble/IPR

Republicans and Democrats sparred today over GOP plans to cut income and other taxes before lawmakers wrap up their 2018 legislative session.  

Separate bills in the House and Senate would cut taxes by as much as $2 billion over five years.  

Both chambers would also increase sales taxes to help cover the cost of the income tax cuts.  

Sen. Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque) is ranking Democrat on the Senate Ways and Means Committee.   Speaking on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River, she predicted low to middle income taxpayers would barely come out ahead.

Clay Masters / IPR

The Missouri River has seen several devastating floods in the past decade. Now, a federal judge says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property damage over how it handled some of these floods. The ruling has intensified a debate about how best to manage the river that runs from Montana to Missouri.

A sign on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge over the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska calls the Big Muddy “forever changed by the power of humans.”

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

Republicans who control the Iowa House unveiled a more than $1 billion tax cut bill. And, Republicans who control the Senate have their own new $2 billion tax plan. Time is ticking on the Iowa legislative session because lawmakers’ expense accounts expire on Tuesday. IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell breaks it down. 

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Animal feed mixed from ingredients sourced around the world could be carrying more than the vitamins and nutrients livestock need. Seven different viruses that could cause widespread illness and big economic losses for meat producers in the United States can survive in certain imported feed products.

study published in March in the journal PLOS One looked at 11 viruses that are not yet in the U.S. but infect herds in other places, such as African swine fever and foot and mouth disease.

John Pemble/IPR

State lawmakers return to the capitol today, starting another week of negotiations within the Republican party over how much to cut state income taxes.   

The GOP-controlled House and Senate last week unveiled updated and competing tax plans.   

House members call  their tax cut bill “significant but responsible,” while the Senate’s is, in  their words “bold but prudent.”

Under the House bill, the average individual income tax cut would reach nearly 9 percent.   The bill would cost $1.3 billion over five years.  

university of iowa
Vladimir Kulikov / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Iowa is putting construction and maintenance on hold in order to absorb an estimated $5.5 million worth of budget cuts from state lawmakers. School officials say stalling necessary repairs will cost more in the long term. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

There are only a few days before per diems stop for legislators. It's the goal for the session to end by the 100th day -- April 17th -- but with two different tax codes in the works and no fiscal year 2019 budget, it's likely the session will continue longer. 

courtesy / U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall's Office

Held up over disagreements over federal food stamps, the first draft of the 2018 farm bill arrived Thursday, bearing 35 changes to that program, including starting a national database of participants.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30; in the past, Congress has had to extend their work beyond deadlines. The bill released Thursday came from the House Agriculture Committee, which is headed by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

Wearing a heavy smock and rubber boots, Amadedin Eganwa stands over a large conveyor belt that’s carrying unconscious lambs. He faces east, towards Mecca, gently lifts the animal’s head in the same direction and under his breath he quickly says a prayer — bismillahi allahu akbar, or “in God’s name” — before swiftly cutting the lamb’s throat.

Thomas Hawk via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/14471621099/

As Iowa’s local law enforcement officers are beginning to adjust to the state’s new sanctuary cities law, they’re running into some constitutional questions.

mike cormack
Joyce Russell/IPR

Senate Democrats Thursday blocked Iowa Public Employment Relations Board Chairman Mike Cormack from returning to his position.

They voted down Gov. Kim Reynolds’ nominee for his role in administering a controversial collective bargaining law passed last year. Cormack’s board oversees the elections public-sector unions must now hold before each contract negotiation.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa legislature honored accomplished native daughter and record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson with a joint House and Senate Resolution today.   

Whitson is from Mount Ayr and grew up on a farm near Beaconsfield.  

When she returned from her most recent mission last September, Whitson had spent over 289 days in orbit, and had cumulatively spent over 665 days during her three missions aboard the International Space Station, more time living and working in space than any other American or any woman worldwide.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Gov. Reynolds’ nominee for a position on the Iowa Board of Medicine went down to defeat in a  confirmation vote in  the Iowa Senate today.  

Nevada resident Katherine Asjes is the wife of a NATO flight officer with a background in public relations who has lived all over the world, but settled in Iowa in 2005.     

The Senate voted 30 to 18 for confirmation, short of the two-thirds majority required.

Senate Democrats objected to a post on a Catholic blog in which Asjes agreed with negative views about the LGBT community.    

Rachel Samerdyke/USFWS Midwest via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmidwest/9260033969/

Wildlife biologists need the help of Iowa residents to monitor frog and toad populations. The research could tell scientists more about the state’s water quality.

Joyce Russell/IPR

On a strict party-line vote, Republicans in the Iowa House today approved a proposed constitutional amendment to clarify the line of succession when an Iowa lieutenant governor assumes the governorship.     

Republicans say that will correct what some saw as an error over the appointment of acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg last year. 

When Gov. Reynolds assumed the governorship last year, according to an opinion from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, she was not able to formally appoint Adam Gregg to the second-in-command position.    

cathy glasson
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Workers on Democrat Cathy Glasson’s campaign for governor have become the first campaign staffers in Iowa to unionize. Glasson is a union leader, and making it easier for Iowans to join unions is one of her central campaign promises.

Organizing Director Michael Fasullo said Glasson campaign workers want to set an example.

supreme court
John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could determine whether the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) has the power to regulate cities’ traffic cameras.

Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine are challenging a 2015 IDOT order to remove some of their traffic cameras. The cities have been ordered to stop issuing tickets from the cameras in question while this case is being considered by the state’s highest court.

Kate Payne

Eastern Iowa officials are encouraging people to report any hate-related incidents. In the past few months Iowa City has seen white power fliers handed out in a neighborhood and anti-Semitic graffiti on the University of Iowa campus. Now local law enforcement and community leaders are asking for residents' help to identify and prevent potential hate crimes.

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A leading Iowa maker of agricultural equipment today warned of the impact on Iowa’s manufacturing sector from a trade dispute between the U.S. and China.      

On March 23, the United States put a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. In response, China placed retaliatory tariffs of 15-25 percent on 128 American products, including pork.

Additional threatened tariffs from both sides are now in play. 

John Pemble/IPR

Gov. Reynolds' $1.7 billion tax cut bill was the subject of a public hearing at the statehouse last night, where dozens of Iowans weighed in for and against.  

The bill which is under consideration in the House cuts personal income taxes by up to 23 percent as well as small business taxes.    It would cost the state treasury $300 million a year starting next year.

One supporter, Amy Boozell, is a mother of five who works with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Story County.    She says working people deserve a break on their taxes.

Gage Skidmore via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/17649805888/

Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg will have to answer to members of Congress this week about the company’s management of user data. He's slated to testify before a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees on Tuesday, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Here's some insight on what Iowa’s senior senator wants to hear.

John Pemble/IPR

  

The Head of the Iowa Department of Human Services is defending the state’s privatized Medicaid system, after a scathing report last week by the state ombudsman.  

The report said complaints from patients and providers jumped by 157% last year, making Medicaid one of the top targets of complaints from citizens reporting difficulties with the government.

Since April of 2016, for-profit companies have managed the program for 640,000 Iowans who are poor or disabled.

kim reynolds
John Pemble/IPR

We’re headed into the last few weeks of the legislative session, and as usual for a Monday, IPR’s Clay Masters and Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell chatted about the legislature on Morning Edition.

Gov. Reynolds won’t face a primary challenge, but the possibility of a challenge hasn’t seemed to affect her work.  Russell says the governor had a limited legislative agenda this year, primarily consisting of the “Future Ready” workforce development legislation, which she has already signed. 

traffic camera
Adrian Pingstone / Wikipedia

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in one of four cases involving traffic cameras.

Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine argue the Iowa Department of Transportation doesn’t have the authority to regulate how cities enforce their traffic laws.

In 2015, the IDOT ordered the three cities to remove some of their speed cameras. The cities sued, and in 2017, a district court upheld the IDOT order. The cities appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

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