public safety

Joyce Russell/IPR

As a crowd of legislators and other supporters looked on, Gov. Terry Branstad today signed a bill legalizing the sale and use of commercial-grade fireworks in the state for the first time since the 1930’s.  

The bill goes into effect at once.

The governor expects the Fire Marshal’s Office to have rules in place to enable the sale and use of fireworks for this 4th of July.    

Applause broke out as the governor signed the bill.

“Let the fireworks begin,” Branstad declared.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds says it’s too early to recommend any change in state policy, after last week’s fatal shooting of Pottawattamie County deputy Mark Burbridge, whose funeral was held in Council Bluffs today.

Deputy Burbridge was killed in the line of duty when an inmate he was escorting back to jail with another deputy took one their firearms and shot them both.    

Reynolds says the Branstad administration will stay in touch with the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Department officials as they review the incident.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today signed what’s being called one of the strongest anti-texting laws in the country.  

It’s part of a broader effort to combat distracted driving, which is contributing to an increase in traffic fatalities in Iowa.

The bill will make texting while driving a primary offense so law enforcement can pull over a driver for looking at a hand-held screen for texts or social media or e-mail.   

David Wade Couch/flickr

A bill to enhance bicycle safety has failed to advance at the Iowa statehouse this year, in spite of the growing number of bicycle fatalities on Iowa roadways. 

The bill’s sponsor says he’ll continue to work after the session to reach consensus on the bill.   

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition reports 11 fatalities last year, the deadliest year for cyclists in more than a decade.   

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) says increasing the visibility of cyclists is critical.

Jimmy Emerson/flickr

Officials with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management say more Iowa schools are taking steps to ensure the safety of children in the event of severe weather.

With the help of federal grants, school districts are creating so-called safe rooms in elementary and secondary school buildings where students and staff can take shelter from tornadoes.  

Twenty school districts are waiting in line for roughly 30 million dollars in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Jan and Gregary Franck

An Ankeny couple whose son died in an accident caused by a drunken driver is backing legislation at the statehouse that’s part of Governor Branstad’s agenda to combat distracted driving.  

The bill would create a new 24-7 monitoring program to allow a judge to order twice-a-day sobriety tests for drivers who test way over the legal limit, or cause an injury, or refuse a breath test at the scene of a first offense.    

Jason Weaver/flickr

A bill has advanced in the Iowa House to toughen penalties when texting while driving results in a fatal car crash.   

The bill clarifies that a driver who’s been texting can be guilty of vehicular homicide just as one who has been drinking.   

The bill follows a fatal crash in Fort Dodge in 2015 that killed 56-year-old David Castenson and 85-year-old Velma Castenson.

Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa

After lengthy and sometimes emotional debate, the Iowa House last night approved a wide-ranging gun rights bill and sent it over to the Senate for their consideration. 

Republicans argued it restores Iowans’ Second Amendment rights that have long been denied.   Democrats called it dangerous and predicted more gun violence if it becomes law.  

It was an exciting day for Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley).

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Mayor of Pleasant Hill was at the statehouse Monday arguing against a wide-ranging gun rights bill backed by the National Rifle Association and making its way through the Iowa House.  

After an outcry from the public, the bill’s sponsor has removed some controversial provisions, but there’s still plenty in the legislation to concern gun safety advocates.

Pleasant Hill Mayor Sara Kurovski is a registered Republican who holds a permit to carry a weapon.  

Lord Jim/flickr

A bill to ban cellphone use while driving unless it's hands-free got its first public airing at the statehouse today, garnering broad support and winning the unanimous approval of a three-member bipartisan panel in  the Iowa Senate.      

Public safety officials, the governor, and a wide range of citizens groups say cellphones are contributing to a rise in traffic fatalities on Iowa roadways. 

Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Major John Godar, head of the Iowa State Sheriff’s Association, says the current law banning texting while driving isn’t working.    

ILEA

The director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy this week briefed Governor Branstad on morale at the school after the recent shootings of Des Moines area police officers Justin Martin and Anthony Beminio. 

The comments came as director Judy Bradshaw presented her agency’s budget request to the governor and his advisors.

Bradshaw says she gathered students together for a briefing shortly after the assault on the officers. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Three Iowa school districts will test out a new program to provide first responders with better information in the event of a school shooting or other emergency.   

The program is dubbed WISE, for Wi-Fi Internet for School Emergencies.

Under the pilot project, a dedicated wi-fi network will link law enforcement officials with school surveillance cameras in Marshalltown, Norwalk, and Martensdale-Saint Mary's Community Schools.  

Iowa’s public safety commissioner is urging Iowans to contact law enforcement if they see something suspicious in light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando.

"When people are committing serious offense, they don't usually do it on the spur of the moment," says Commissioner Roxann Ryan. "They usually are making preparatory plans, they are conducting surveillance, they are collecting weaponry, they are practicing, doing trial runs, they are identifying victims or vulnerabilities."  

Iowa Department of Public Safety

Iowa State University’s Institute for Transportation is working with the State Patrol to help identify areas where deer and other wildlife are likely to cross the roadway.

Patrol Sergeant Nate Ludwig says in 2014, more than a quarter of the damage done to their service vehicles came from animals.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa public safety officials say they make a handful of arrests each year for attempted child abductions, and they’re advising Iowans to be aware of suspicious activity now that children will be outside in spring weather.  

The Department of Public Safety last year formed a Child Abduction Response Team after abductions and murders of children in Evansdale and Dayton.  

Department Director Roxann Ryan says Iowans are already phoning in when they see something that looks like an abduction in progress.

Iowa Gunowners

There’s division in the ranks of gun rights groups in Iowa over pro-gun bills which have gained final passage in the Iowa legislature.

A group that calls itself Iowa’s Only No Compromise Gun Lobby is criticizing the compromise bills, and blaming the NRA and the Iowa Firearms Coalition for their role in the negotiations.  

Geoffrey Fairchild/flickr

A gun rights bill that passed the Iowa House is running into opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.   

Democrats want gunowners to demonstrate proficiency before acquiring or renewing a permit to carry a concealed weapon.   

By a wide margin, the House last month approved a bill that makes it easier for some gunowners to renew their permits, and protects the confidentiality of permit holders.  

State Center Democrat Steve Sodders says for Democrats to sign on to that, they’ll insist on some basic training with a gun.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill advanced in the Iowa House today to determine how many untested rape kits may be languishing in storage in Iowa police departments. 

Nationwide, authorities are discovering thousands of untested kits, which include bodily fluids and other evidence collected after a victim reports an assault. 

With the help of a federal grant, the attorney general’s crime victim division will survey all law enforcement agencies, and then make strategic choices on how many kits should be tested now.

John Pemble/IPR

With little debate, a committee in the Republican-controlled Iowa house today nearly unanimously approved a new tax credit for gun owners, with backers saying it will increase gun safety in the state.  

Under the bill, the tax break would be granted for the purchase of a gun safe for personal use from a qualified retailer.   

Des Moines Democrat Rick Olson says the tax credit is not justified.

Smart Sign/flickr

A Norwalk man who lost a family friend from carbon monoxide poisoning was at the capitol today, lobbying for legislation to mandate carbon monoxide alarms in Iowa dwellings. 

A bipartisan panel agreed to require residential buildings to install the alarms if they are already required to have smoke detectors.   

Dwayne Sand of Norwalk says other states are responding to the death of a 22-year-old woman who was killed by the colorless, odorless gas in Colorado six years ago.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A Republican-dominated panel at the statehouse this week approved another gun rights bill, part of a package of legislation backed by the Iowa Firearms Coalition.  

A bill to make weapons permits confidential will now be considered by the full House Judiciary Committee.  

Missouri Valley Republican Matt Windschitl, a leading gun rights advocate in the legislature, says it’s a matter of privacy for gunowners.

Stephen Chin/flickr

Another gun rights bill got its first airing at the statehouse today, with majority Republicans on a three-member panel signing on, and the lone Democrat objecting.  

The bill would allow loaded firearms on snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles on both public and private property.     Currently, a gun must be unloaded and in a case.  

Richard Rogers with the Iowa Firearms Coalition says there are two problems with the current law.

Iowa Department of Transportation

Every year across the country children die of heatstroke after being left in locked vehicles. The Iowa Department of Transportation wants to make sure that doesn’t happen here.  

This week, the electronic billboard on Iowa interstates includes the slogan, “Where’s Baby?  Look Before you Lock.”      

The campaign comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Ready Campus

Mar 26, 2015
IPR's Pat Blank

The University of Northern Iowa today hosted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Campus Fair. This event reached out to students, staff, and faculty and community members to encourage them to prepare for emergencies.

First in the state, FEMA’s disaster relief event featured other organizations such as the Iowa National Guard, Star One Search and Rescue, UNI student organizations, and more disaster-relief groups.

TraumaHawk

Mar 13, 2015
IPR's Pat Blank

A pilot project designed to give emergency room personnel more time to prepare for accident victims is set to move into its next phrase. The mobile application known as TraumaHawk is providing more lead time for ER doctors.

Iowa Public Radio

Iowa’s top prison official was in the hot seat at the Capitol.   

Hydrant Help

Jan 12, 2015

Firefighters across the state are asking residents to help clear snow away from water hydrants so they can be ready to be used if needed. Cedar Falls Battalion Chief John Bostwick says being able to access the hydrant could cut down on the damage to the structure and may even save lives.