IPR News Stories

Joyce Rrussell/IPR

A bill to bring the minimum wage down in counties that have raised it won final legislative approval in the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate last night.  

It will now be up to Governor Branstad to sign the bill rescinding the higher wages in effect in Polk, Linn, Johnson, and Wapello Counties, where the wage is now higher than the statewide minimum of $7.25 an hour.      

Republicans complained the current trend creates a hodge-podge of varying wages.   

“This bill creates certainty, predictability, and consistency,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull).   

Iowa State University news service

Iowa’s Board of Regents has made it official. Former UNI President Benjamin Allen will serve as interim president of Iowa State after Steven Leath leaves Ames for Auburn University in May.  

Allen is a familiar figure at Iowa State. He’s been a professor, department chair, dean, vice president of academic affairs and provost at the school. He’ll become interim president May 9th, the day after Leath leaves office. Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter says Allen will begin work three weeks before then.

John Pemble / IPR

Lawmakers begin another week at the Iowa statehouse this week.

mother mosque circle
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A few hundred people gathered at North America’s longest-standing mosque in Cedar Rapids Sunday to show support for the Muslim community. 

Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Native American and atheist leaders spoke to a crowd at the Mother Mosque of America about equality, acceptance and love.

The interfaith rally was held to counteract recent hate crimes and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Mother Mosque Imam Taha Tawil thanked the participants for supporting tolerance and religious freedom.

John Pemble / IPR

Six weeks ago, legislation about changing Iowa's collective bargaining law featured a long and contentious debate in both chambers, and hundreds of demonstrators at the Capitol.  During this process lobbyist Drew Klein, state director for Americans for Prosperity, advocated for this bill.  Turns out he was not registered during this time as a lobbyist.  The House Ethics Committee took up a complaint about Klein this week and we'll hear part of the committee's process during their first action of this General Assembly.

Iowa State University

Iowa’s Board of Regents is selecting a former Iowa State University administrator to return as interim president.  The Regents are meeting Monday to name Ben Allen interim president.

Allen served four years as ISU’s provost before the Regents appointed him president of University of Northern Iowa in 2006.  He led that campus until retiring in 2013.

Joyce Russell/IPR

On a partisan vote of 26 to 21, the GOP-controlled Senate last night approved its version of an elections bill that will require voters to present identification at the polls. 

The bill also requires pollworkers to verify signatures of voters, adds some complexity to absentee voting, as well as limiting the window for early voting.

That has led Democrats to argue that the bill will make it harder for Iowans to be handed a ballot, and more complicated  to complete the voting process. 

usembassy_montevideo/Flickr

 

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, testified in a confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture committee today, but remains far from the head job at USDA.

 

The committee did not indicate when it would vote on whether to advance Perdue’s nomination.

 

Chris Becker/flickr

Students from Iowa State University were at the Capitol Thursday lobbying for a bill they believe will save the lives of underage drinkers on college campuses.  

The bill is designed to get young people to seek help when someone is incapacitated from too much alcohol.       

ISU Student Body President Cole Staudt recalls returning home with a drunken friend who was borderline unresponsive.

“I thought to myself, probably he should see someone, but I'm 19 years old,” Staudt recalls.  “If I get in  trouble with the law my world is over.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

Three nominees for the Iowa Board of Regents faced questioning from the Iowa Senate Education Committee, as Senators mull whether to confirm Governor Branstad’s choices for six-year terms on the board.

The nominees are former Republican State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan and former Democratic State Representative Nancy Dunkel of Dyersville.

Branstad reappointed Regent Sherry Bates, who has served only a partial term on the board.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Ethics Committee in the Iowa House Wednesday voted unanimously to reprimand Drew Klein with the Koch Brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity for failing to register as a lobbyist on controversial legislation earlier this session.   

The bill dramatically scaled back collective bargaining rights for Iowa public employees.  

Iowa Federation of Labor president Ken Sagar filed the complaint alleging Klein lobbied aggressively for the collective bargaining bill without registering his support for the bill as required by House ethics rules.  

Report Shows Increase in Liver Cancer Among Iowans

Mar 22, 2017
University of Iowa College of Public Health

A new report from the State Health Registry of Iowa shows the rate of new liver cancer cases has tripled in the state since the 1970s.

According to the "Cancer in Iowa" report released Wednesday, new cases of liver cancer were detected in six of 100,000 Iowans in the period from 2010 to 2014. 

John Pemble/IPR

Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House have begun a second attempt to ban abortion in the state after the 20th week of pregnancy.     

The GOP caucus in the House is strongly anti-abortion, but there are divisions about how far an abortion restriction should go.   

Earlier the House Human Resources committee failed to pass the 20-week ban.   

Many members had wanted to go further and outlaw abortion altogether.   

Now a 20-week ban has come over from the Senate, with an exception for fetal anomalies.  

Congressman Steve King Facebook page

Republican U-S Congressman Steve King will cast the Iowa delegation’s only “yes” vote when the Republican health care bill comes to the House floor  Thursday.  King says he’ll vote in favor of the bill because he has a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to remove a requirement that all insurance policies provide certain benefits.

Flickr / Regina Hart

Though there have not been any U.S. cases of the strain of avian flu that has killed more than 140 people in China this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s head veterinarian says the agency is making preparations to combat the deadly virus in case it reaches North America. 

The USDA’s Dr. Jack Shere says it's impossible to predict how far a particular bird flu strain may travel or mutate. In the meantime, however, scientists are on alert. 

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

Mar 21, 2017
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:

Most record labels find artists who already have an audience and then use their talent and following to make money. What if the business model worked a little different, and the label had the time to invest in helping an artist to develop their art and grow as a professional businessperson at the same time? That’s the same question Tobi Parks with Station 1 Records, which operates as a non-profit in Des Moines, had. During this hour, she talks with host Charity Nebbe about the label.

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.

LenDog64 / Flickr

According to Iowa comedian, Colin Ryan, who moved to the Midwest from Ireland in 2010, the current-day traditions of St. Patrick's Day (parades, wearing green, drinking beer, etc.) were inspired by people living in the U.S., not those in Ireland.

He says that up until the 1970s, “It was actually a day of quiet religious reflection in a lot of ways. What happened was that the Irish immigrants in Boston used to have big parties, so the Irish people traveling over to America saw the parades and all the fun stuff that was happening and said, 'Hey let’s do that back in Ireland.'"

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.

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