IPR News Stories

Farmers and ranchers, with their livelihoods intimately tied to weather and the environment, may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump Administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

John Pemble / IPR

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie signed on with more than 200 mayors last week to uphold the Paris Agreement. That’s the global accord from which President Donald Trump withdrew the United States. Cownie says it’s a challenge for the city to move forward with clean energy goals without more buy-in from state leaders who regularly fall in line with the president.

“To ignore that factual piece and the science around it and all the data that’s out there is really unfortunate for the citizens of the state of Iowa and looking at our future and how we preserve our resources,” Cownie says.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program is closing offices in Burlington and Keokuk this summer to prepare for cuts to victim services funding. 

The closures come as Iowa programs that help victims of domestic and sexual violence are trying to figure out how to deal with a combined $5.7 million cut in state and federal funding.

DVIP Executive Director Kristie Fortmann-Doser  says a lack of private places for victims to drop in and talk to advocates could impact their immediate safety.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

For the last year, city planners have been studying traffic patterns in downtown Des Moines with the goal of making the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. They have now unveiled their early findings.

A preliminary plan includes the conversion of one-way streets downtown into two-ways, the addition of much more street parking and buffered lanes for bicyclists to make travel for them safer. The author of the book “Walkable City,” Jeff Speck, is helping redesign Des Moines’ downtown.

file: Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

President Trump is touting the need to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, and water transportation systems this week and farmers are among those hoping to benefit from new federal attention to infrastructure.

 

Dean Borg/IPR

Robert Donley, Executive Director for Iowa’s Board of Regents during the past nine years, says he’s leaving the state university system facing major financing challenges.

Donley lists "predictable and appropriate funding" as the major challenge.

iowa hospital association
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

As the U.S. Senate crafts a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Iowa Hospital Association is emphasizing its opposition to the bill that came out of the U.S. House.

Iowa hospital leaders expressed concerns about proposed cuts to Medicaid funding Wednesday at a news conference in Cedar Rapids. They say cuts would cause problems for patients, hospitals, care providers and the state budget.

City of Cedar Rapids

The latest report on existing industries in the Cedar Rapids area shows employers remain concerned about the number of available workers. The outlook, however, is more positive than a year ago.

Each year, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance surveys around 85 business executives and plant managers from a wide spectrum of industries to get their views on the area’s economic climate. The Alliance’s local business projects specialist, Mike Lukan, says workforce availability continues to be a challenge in Cedar Rapids. But things are looking up.

Casey's General Stores

Ankeny-based convenience store chain Casey’s General Stores is reporting it fell short of some of its goals for fiscal 2017. While in-store traffic was up almost three percent at the nearly 2,000-store chain, executives had hoped for 6.2 percent growth. Casey’s President and CEO Terry Handley says the company faced the same pressures in 2017 everyone in the grocery industry confronted.

factory
Christopher Dilts [Barack Obama / flickr]

An Iowa research group says manufacturing jobs continue to decline in the state, even after a new sales tax break was given to manufacturers. 

According to the Iowa Policy Project, a tax break that makes more manufacturing supplies exempt from state sales taxes has not led to more jobs in the manufacturing sector.

The statement comes after the Legislative Services Agency announced that tax break could cost the state about $100 million. It was originally expected to cost about $21 million. 

Flickr / Superb Colours

This is the first year fireworks can be sold in Iowa. So far there are 12 licensed retailers, though that number may grow to nearly 1,000. 

Retailers hypothetically were able to start selling bottle rockets, ground spinners and roman candles on June 1st. But since the bill was signed into law only last month, State Fire Marshal Jeff Quigle says it’s taken his office a bit of time to figure out the licensing process, which usually could take more than six months to create.

UnityPoint Health

Heart surgeons at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids are beginning to use a revolutionary device in one of the most common heart procedures. The new technology is known as the “world’s smallest pacemaker.” Previously, pacemakers were inserted in the shoulder and required a long incision and wires leading to the heart. This device is put into the leg and carried to the heart by a vein. The director of the Arrhythmic Center at St. Luke’s, Dr. Mohit Chawla, says it makes a huge difference in how fast patients recover.

Amy Mayer, IPR

Iowa’s state park system is turning 100 years old this year. The anniversary comes as state budget cuts threaten their upkeep.

It was 1917 when the act to establish Iowa’s state parks passed the Legislature. An associate professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State, Heidi Hohmann, is studying the history of the parks. She says there was growing interest at the time in preserving the scenic beauty of the land. As a result, she says, state parks became popular recreation areas.

anamika chandel
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

An Iowa City mom is starting a company this summer that she describes as "Uber for kids." 

Bees Knees Drive will be Iowa's first child ride service app. When it launches in the Iowa City area, parents will be able to order transportation for their kids to school or activities.

Founder Anamika Chandel says she got the idea when she spent a few months working as an Uber driver.

"I met a lot of people, a lot of mothers, families, who said they'd like someone like me to drive their kids around," Chandel says. 

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Vice President Mike Pence arrived by motorcycle to the third annual Roast and Ride in Iowa. Sen. Joni Ernst’s yearly fundraiser is a 49-mile motorcycle ride, followed by a barbecue meal and political speeches. 

While speaking to a friendly crowd, Pence didn't address any of the recent controversies surrounding the investigation into Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election. Instead, he boasted of the administration’s accomplishments. 

grassley
Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Sen. Chuck Grassley held his second town hall this week at the Adair County Courthouse in Greenfield. Many attendees were unhappy when Iowa's senior senator wouldn't take a definitive position on issues surrounding Republican lawmakers' goal of repealing Obamacare.

Attendees asked Grassley if he would vote against a bill that would adversely affect people with pre-existing conditions, end essential health benefits, or increase the number of uninsured Americans. Grassley was also asked if he believed access to healthcare was a right.

wind turbine
Jim Hammer / flickr

An Iowa energy company says President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement won’t affect its effort to use cleaner energy.

Alliant Energy has used cleaner energy sources and some renewables to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about one-third since 2005. That’s a bigger cut than what would have been required for the U.S. as a whole under the Paris agreement.

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

In the basement of the State Historical Museum of Iowa there’s a box of hairless, 18-inch porcelain dolls. They each bear a passing likeness to Mrs. Billie Ray, the wife of Robert Ray, Iowa’s 38th governor.

“It looks like we have Billie Rays at least to last for another, just counting, so we got six, seven Billie Ray figures still that can be dressed as first ladies,” explains Leo Landis, Iowa’s state historian. 

firework
pixabay

Thursday is the first day of legal fireworks sales in Iowa, but no retailers are licensed yet.

State Fire Marshal Jeffrey Quigle says his office is conducting inspections Thursday and expects to issue licenses for consumer fireworks sales in the next few days. 

He says there are 500 to 600 registrants in the online portal for prospective fireworks retailers.

Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

Iowa State University, responding to a growing shortage of registered nurses, has hired Dr. Virginia Wangerin to direct a new nursing education program.  The program will enroll nurses holding associate degrees and graduate them with Bachelor of Nursing degrees.

It will be administered by ISU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, headed by Dr. Ruth MacDonald.

“We were approached by DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College),” said MacDonald.  “There’s increasing demand for the BSN credential.”

The Des Moines chapter of a national organization aimed at recruiting and training young leaders is intensifying efforts to diversify the group. It will begin with stronger outreach efforts into underrepresented parts of the community.

chuck palmer
Office of the Governor

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Charles (Chuck) Palmer announced Wednesday he will retire June 16.

His retirement comes as the House and Senate Government Oversight Committees prepare to investigate the department. DHS and its handling of child abuse complaints has been drawing increased scrutiny after two teen girls died. They were adopted out of the state foster care system and were severely malnourished.

Wikimedia Commons

A recently formed nonprofit headed by Democrats is trying to get a handle on why Barack Obama supporters in rural Iowa went for Donald Trump in 2016. The group Focus on Rural America is led by former Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Patty Judge. A political scientist at UNI, Chris Larimer, says rural voters should lean Democratic.

Flickr Creative Commons

One morning on her way to school in Des Moines last month, 15-year-old Estela got a call from her mother. Her father had been arrested while going to work at a construction company.

“My dad was walking towards the office when the cars came in and told him to stop and pointed his guns at him.”

Estela’s father has a criminal conviction for re-entering the United States. Estela was born here. Her parents came to the U.S. fleeing violence in Mexico. We’re not using Estela's full name because her mother is also undocumented and fears she could also be arrested.

syringe
WerbeFabrik / Pixabay

Two eastern Iowa nonprofits will offer free naloxone —a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose—starting June 1. It's the first time the overdose reversal drug will be available for free in Iowa.

The Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition and Quad Cities Harm Reduction will distribute naloxone each week in Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Iowa City.

The drug has been available at pharmacies, but the cost can prevent people from obtaining it. One dose costs about $150 with insurance.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

The first ever all-Iowa agriculture trade mission to China will take place this summer, with Governor Kim Reynolds leading representatives from all of Iowa’s main agriculture commodity groups.   

Pork, beef, turkey, corn, soybean, egg and dairy producers will visit with government officials in Beijing, Shanghai and Xian to encourage more purchase of Iowa commodities. 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Sales of organic food reportedly climbed to record highs in 2016, an indication organics are edging toward the mainstream.

 

In a new industry report, the Organic Trade Association says American consumers spent $43 billion on organic products in 2016, which accounts for more than 5 percent of total U.S. food sales, a high water mark for the organic industry.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Consolidation of agriculture companies continues, as several deals move toward completion this summer.

The state-owned ChemChina purchase of Syngenta is likely to be the first to close, perhaps as soon as next month. Iowa’s homegrown agribusiness Pioneer, already a subsidiary of DuPont, will be swallowed up by chemical giant Dow. And Bayer, the German maker of aspirin and ag chemicals, is poised to buy Monsanto.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) pushed for careful oversight of these deals. He says it’s clear now they’re all likely to move forward.

Joyce Russell/IPR

An Iowa author’s book about Governor Branstad’s long tenure in office is being translated into Chinese by a Beijing publisher.  

Newton author and former newspaperman Mike Chapman wrote Iowa’s Record Setting Governor: The Terry Branstad Story in 2015.  

Two Chinese publishers expressed an interest in translating the book.

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