public safety

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

A former Iowa DCI agent, who was fired after reporting speeding by then-Governor Branstad’s security detail, would not be getting his day in court soon under a motion filed this week in Polk County District Court.  

The motion filed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says former agent Larry Hedlund’s case should be put on hold until Branstad completes his assignment as U.S. Ambassador to China.  

A suburban Des Moines school district says it will resume tomorrow after it canceled classes today due to threatening text messages that were anonymously sent to a number of students and parents.

The texts were received last night from a number with a 818 area code, which is used in Los Angeles County, CA.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds today lamented the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history that occurred in Las Vegas on Sunday, leaving at least 59 people dead and more than 500 injured.   

“Nobody wants to wake up at five in the morning and read the news we all got up to this morning,”  Reynolds said, beginning her weekly news conference.  “I was sickened by the horrific act.”

Reynolds was asked if she would be proposing new gun control initiatives in light of the shooting.

Wikimedia

One part of Iowa’s new comprehensive gun rights law that went into effect in July may end up in court. Under the new statute, a gunowner can sue any local government that tries to keep firearms out of public buildings.  

Dozens of counties with courthouse weapons bans are potential targets. 

Jackson County Chief Deputy Steve Schroeder says they lived through a nightmare a few years back at their courthouse in Maquoketa. 

John Pemble/IPR

Iowans with permits to carry handguns can now bring their weapons into the Iowa statehouse under a new state law that’s been in effect since July 1st.   

Statehouse security officers say so far enforcement has gone well.   

Only a few people have displayed their permits and been allowed to enter with a concealed pistol or revolver.   

Since shortly after the September 11 terror attacks, anyone entering the Iowa statehouse has been required to leave their guns or knives behind.  

Now with a permit to carry you can bring in a pistol or revolver.  

Huw Loaring/flickr

Officials in Cedar Rapids are evaluating Iowa’s new fireworks law that debuted in the just-completed 4th of July season, after many residents weighed in against it.  

“Out of Cedar Rapids we've had more complaints on fireworks than we had on potholes or even on the speed cameras combined,” said Mayor Ron Corbett.  “That's how many people complained about the fireworks.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa motorists are being warned of possible penalties under a new state law designed to protect utility crews working along Iowa roadways.  

The electric utilities of Iowa have launched a Move Over Slow Down campaign to promote the law, which requires drivers to either change lanes or reduce their speed when passing utility vehicles.

The original law was enacted in 2002 covering emergency vehicles with flashing lights. It was revised this year to include utility crews.

Officials say drivers are speeding by much too close to the workers. 

danIIIr/flickr

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has issued fireworks licenses to 664 retail dealers in Iowa in the first year of a new law authorizing the sale and use of commercial-grade fireworks.

But officials say only about two-thirds of the required inspections were completed, due to a shortfall in time and resources.  

Department of Public Safety attorney Barbara Edmondson briefed state lawmakers on the Administrative Rules Review Committee on the new licensing program.  

Wikimedia

Boards of Supervisors in two Iowa counties have voted to get rid of bans on weapons in their courthouses, ahead of a new firearms law going into effect July 1.   

The votes are in conflict with an order by Chief Justice Mark Cady banning weapons in courthouses in all 99 counties.  

Woodbury County has banned weapons in the courthouse since 2014.  

But the new state firearms law says local governments can be sued over weapons restrictions, so supervisors voted Tuesday 3 to 1 to lift the ban.    

Photo by Tim Schoon / University of Iowa

The first injuries and house fires caused by fireworks, recently made legal in Iowa, are on the books.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with researchers, injury prevention specialists, and medical professionals about avoiding injury and death when dealing with fireworks and other summer time hazards.

The show starts with a conversation with University of Iowa hand surgeon, Dr. Andrei Odobescu, about the many cases of hands and fingers severed by fireworks mishaps that he’s treated.

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.

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