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Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A House panel has sent the education committee a bill that would help school districts with high transportation costs. Some rural districts spend twice as much as the state average on getting students to school.

Lee Enterprises

First quarter results at Davenport-based Lee Enterprises demonstrate the ongoing changes in the newspaper industry. Content and advertising are rapidly moving to digital.

Overall revenue at the newspaper chain has dropped 6.6 percent from a year ago. Subscription revenue was off by more than a percent. But on the digital side, earnings from advertising grew by around three percent. Lee’s executive chairwoman Mary Junck says the results are remaking how editors and reporters go about their jobs.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Des Moines-based Meredith Corporation is completing the deal the buy magazine publisher Time Inc. The purchase vaults Meredith to near the top of national media companies.

Meredith announced it planned to purchase the publisher of Time, People, Sports Illustrated and other magazines last November in a deal valued at $2.8 billion. Meredith Chair and CEO Steve Lacy says the deal makes his company a leader in entertainment, food, lifestyle, news and sports.

syringe briefing
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Advocates for a bill to legalize syringe exchange programs in Iowa told lawmakers Wednesday it would help mitigate some effects of increasing injection drug use in the state.

Dr. Chris Buresh, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Iowa, says dirty needles are spreading HIV, hepatitis C, and a bacterial infection that reaches the heart.

John Pemble/IPR

A limited exception to Iowa’s law making it a felony to carry firearms onto school property has cleared an initial hurdle at the statehouse, with the backing of the Iowa Firearms Coalition.

Under the bill, a gun owner with a permit to carry can remain armed while driving onto school property for the sole purpose of transporting a student, but without entering the school building.

The bill cleared a three-member bipartisan panel and will now be considered by the full Senate Judiciary Committee.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds today signed her first bill into law as the state’s chief executive, approving water quality legislation while surrounded in her formal office by supporters from inside and outside the legislature.   

Senate File 512 appropriates $282 million over the next 12 years to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into Iowa waterways.     

It’s designed to help the state meet the goals of its Nutrient Reduction Strategy to reduce nutrients in the water by 45 percent.

Reynolds said good work is already being done on the farm.

tom greene
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A three-member Senate panel is delaying a decision on a bill that would require all medical providers to electronically submit drug prescriptions to pharmacies.

Sen. Tom Greene, (R-Burlington), who worked as a pharmacist, says the bill would help curb the abuse of opioids and other controlled substances.

“I’ve so blatantly had people hand me a handwritten prescription the doctor wrote for 10 sleeping pills, and they changed the one to a four,” Greene says. “Easy change.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

Opponents of a bill backers say would outlaw so-called sanctuary cities in Iowa filled a committee room to overflowing at the statehouse today.

The bill would deny state funds to any community that approves policies to prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Under the bill, communities would be required to detain a jailed person for possible deportation at the request of federal officials. 

Kristofor Husted / file: Harvest Public Media

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union Address Tuesday and the nation’s roads, bridges, rails and rivers will be on many people’s minds in the Midwest.

Trump has said he’s committed to improving the country’s infrastructure and now Mike Steenhoek, director of the Soy Transportation Coalition in Ankeny, wants to hear some specifics. Steenhoek says it’s an issue that cuts across many industries and speaks to people in all corners of the country.

John Pemble / IPR

The first month of the 2018 legislative session comes to a close this week. Here are a few takeaways from IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell:

Ninja Cherepashka/flickr

As large consolidated rural school districts struggle with soaring transportation costs, a bill advanced in the Iowa Senate that could reduce costs for some districts.  

Under current Iowa law, one-way bus rides are limited to 60 minutes for elementary students and 75 minutes for secondary students.    

The bill would allow 75 minute one-way bus rides for elementary students, or even longer rides for students of any age if public hearings are held and parents are notified 30 days before a route is changed.  

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

After two major livestock diseases ravaged Iowa’s poultry and hog industries, state and federal officials are asking farmers to prepare for future outbreaks. They are particularly concerned about viruses not yet found in North America.

Three illnesses they’re most worried about, foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever and African swine fever, wouldn’t sicken humans but could shut-down meat exports, which Iowa producers depend on for much of their income.

John Pemble / IPR

Updated at 4pm to add the committee's vote.

Republicans and Democrats split their votes Monday as a House local government subcommittee approved by a 3-to-2 vote the first step in blocking a controversial plan for constructing a $21-million health services building in Cedar Rapids.  

The plan was developed by the Democratic-dominated Linn County Board of Supervisors, and is drawing fire from the Republican-controlled legislature.

Linn County isn’t constructing the building, but will eventually own it.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

A water quality bill with a long history in both chambers passes and will be the first law Governor Reynolds signs.  It started in 2016 during the last general assembly. It passed in the house, but did not get debated in the senate.  The general assembly ended, killing the bill.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa is receiving mostly failing grades from the American Lung Association for its efforts to curb smoking. The advocacy group is calling for some legislative fixes.

The only area in which the state receives an A from the Lung Association is in providing smoke-free air in many public places. But much of the rest of its report card is filled with Fs. Iowa drew one of the Fs for the level of state tobacco taxes. The senior regional director for the association, Pat McKone, says she’d like to see the tax on a pack of cigarettes go up by at least $1.50.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Majority Republicans in the Iowa Senate Thursday unveiled proposed budget cuts for the fiscal year that ends in June, trimming higher education and the courts more than Gov. Reynolds recommended.   

The proposal has led a Regents university spokesman and a state court administrator to warn of significant consequences if the cuts become law.

John Pemble/IPR

Advocates for and against gun rights spoke out at the Capitol today on a proposed amendment to the Iowa constitution.   

The amendment states that Iowans’ rights to acquire, keep, possess, transport, carry, transfer, and use arms for all legitimate purposes shall not be infringed, and that courts should strictly scrutinize any attempt to regulate them.    

Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) said the amendment backs up second amendment rights already secured by the U.S. Constitution

Iowa Department of Education

The governor and the acting lieutenant governor appeared before the state Board of Education Thursday. One point they made applied to rural schools.

During her Condition of the State address, Kim Reynolds announced she was appointing Adam Gregg to lead an initiative aimed at growing rural Iowa. Gregg was by her side as they spoke with state education board members. He says connecting schools in rural areas to the Internet will be part of his efforts. Gregg says Iowa isn’t doing too badly, with 99 percent of schools providing the recommended band width.

supplies in parking lot
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

On a below-freezing night in Cedar Rapids, three med school students meet in a parking lot and start unloading boxes from a crammed car trunk.

They sort through condoms, housing paperwork, fentanyl test strips, and vials filled with a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. There are booklets about safe injection practices, test kits for HIV and hepatitis C, and needles, syringes and cookers.

The first person to stop by is Dennis Brown, a former drug user who tries to help people who are still struggling with addiction.

John Pemble/IPR

The state’s largest agriculture organization, the Iowa Farm Bureau, came in for bitter criticism in the Iowa Senate, one day after a Farm Bureau-backed water quality bill gained final passage in the Iowa House.   

Iowa is under pressure to reduce nitrates and phosphorus in waterways by 45 percent.

The bill, which awaits the governor’s signature, spends $282 million over the next 12 years, or about $27 million a year, to meet Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

But some experts put the cost of cleaning nutrients out of the water at $4 billion.

Joyce Russell/IPR

For the third year in a row, the Iowa House Tuesday morning took up water quality legislation, and by noon a bill finally passed on a mostly partisan vote.   

The legislation, which is now on its way to the governor, spends millions of dollars on water quality improvement projects over the next decade.       

But the final version pitted farm groups against environmentalists and there was bitter debate.  

Madeleine McCormick/IPR

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released their 2018 Roadmap Report of Traffic Safety Laws on Monday, ranking all 50 states by 16 laws the group advocates for.

The group ranks Iowa in the bottom 13 states for traffic safety laws, saying it only has six of the 16 laws recommended.

Advocates defined their “16 lifesaving laws” by analyzing crash data from state to state. Occupant protection, child passenger safety, teen driving, impaired driving, and distracted driving are covered in this report.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Now that the three-day partial federal government shutdown has ended, Iowa’s senior senator says it’s time to complete some unfinished business.

Republican Chuck Grassley says some 30 tax provisions that expired at the end of 2016 are top on his list, including one for biodiesel.

“Its lapse has created uncertainty for everyone from soybean farmers to biodiesel producers to truck stops,” Grassley says. “I’ve been strongly advocating for acting as soon as possible on extenders legislation that includes an extension of the biodiesel credit.”

John Pemble/IPR

As a state lawmaker steps down from a key legislative post after a drunk driving arrest, he’s getting sympathy from the top elected official in the state, Gov. Kim Reynolds.   

Rep. Chip Baltimore (R-Boone) was arrested on Friday.  He says he plans to plead guilty to drunk driving and possessing a weapon while intoxicated.

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer Monday removed Baltimore from his post as chair of the Judiciary Committee. 

While lawmakers in Washington DC are negotiating to reopen. Lawmakers in Iowa are still open for business. Here are a few issues to expect in the week ahead from IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell.

polk county court
Stephen Matthew Milligan / Wikimedia Commons

The man accused of shooting three people in downtown Iowa City in August is going to trial Monday. Lamar Wilson is charged with the murder of one man and the attempted murder of two others in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall, which was crowded with bar patrons at the time of the shooting.

The high-profile case will also be the state’s first trial involving a self-defense claim under Iowa’s new "stand your ground" law.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The beginning of the session is a good opportunity for groups to present their recommendations to lawmakers.  On Wednesday morning, veterans’ organizations came to the Capitol for that purpose. Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs chair, Dan Gannon, talks with us about three of them: a bill to mandate the POW / MIA flag be flown at state buildings on designated holidays, instill Americanism and Patriotism in grades K - 12, and encourage the judicial branch to expand Veteran’s Treatment Courts.

flash.pro/Flickr

Watching the local evening news on television was once routine in nearly every household. Increasingly, that is no longer the case according to a study by the Pew Research Center. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with KCRG-TV's News Director Adam Carros about how his newsroom is handling a decline in viewership. 

He says many networks are working to cut deals with streaming services like Apple TV, Roku, Hulu and Netflix. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

In the coming months, Congress will map out how it’ll spend upwards of $500 billion on food and farm programs over the next five years.

The massive piece of legislation known as the farm bill affects all taxpayers — whether they know it or not — and runs the gamut from farm safety net and conservation programs to food stamps and loan guarantees for rural hospitals. Since the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, now is the time when interest groups, farmers and others with a stake clamor to ensure their desires will be heard.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The head of the Iowa Department of Human Services took tough questions yesterday at the statehouse about a report commissioned following the deaths of two young Iowans who were adopted out of foster care.   An outside agency looked at Iowa’s foster care system and at the caseloads for DHS social workers.   Director Jerry Foxhoven said the problems won’t be solved overnight.  

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