IPR News Stories

Iowa Lt. Gov.'s office

The alliance of business leaders and educators assigned the job of developing strategies to prepare tomorrow’s workforce in Iowa is hearing from its co-chair, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. She says the group is on track to meet its stated goals.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act by House Republicans will have to be rewritten. Yesterday the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a report that found some 24 million people who currently have health insurance would not be covered by 2026 under the GOP proposal. 

Joey Gannon/flickr

After bitter partisan debate, the Iowa House last night approved a bill to change the rules for Iowa workers filing asbestos-related lawsuits.   

Critics say workers exposed to the cancer-causing substance could be harmed by the bill.   

But backers say meritless cases are clogging up the courts.

Lee County Supervisors To Consider Minimum Wage Increase

Mar 13, 2017
keokuk, iowa
WIKICOMMONS / Billwhittaker

The Lee County Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance Tuesday that would raise the county’s minimum wage to $8.20.

Meanwhile, a bill working its way through the Iowa Legislature would prohibit minimum wage increases by local governments. The Iowa House of Representatives passed the bill on to the Senate last week.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says the state’s poultry producers are reviewing their biosecurity measures now that new cases of avian flu have been reported in other states.   

The disease caused millions of dollars in losses in Iowa in 2015, with the destruction of as many as 31 million birds.  

“We have seen this new case in Tennessee, and a couple low-pathogenic cases in Tennessee and Wisconsin,” Northey said.     “I'm sure everybody's checking their biosecurity plans again.”

A group of mostly Democratic state lawmakers met with the head of Iowa’s Division of Adult, Child and Family Services Monday, and asked if a lack of social workers contributed to the starvation death of a West Des Moines teen in October. 

"The social workers are telling us that we should be protecting kids, we’re not because we’re over worked. 'Our staff load is too high. We’ve doubled our overtime in the last year,'" says State Senator Matt McCoy of Polk County. "Are we leaving vulnerable children out to fend for themselves when we don’t have adequate staffing?"

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today condemned anti-immigrant comments that appeared in a weekend tweet from Republican 4th District Representative Steve King.   

King wrote in support of anti-immigration Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders who wants to ban the Quran in the Netherlands and shut down mosques.   

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” King tweeted.   “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.”

University of Northern Iowa's Center for Business Growth and Innovation

Economic development officials in the state are on the hunt for the next great idea. They are a launching a contest to find a new batch of innovative start-up companies.

The Center for Business Growth and Innovation at the University of Northern Iowa is behind the Great Idea Challenge. A senior program manager at the Center, Patrick Luensmann, says winners of the contest will be guided on how to build a strong, sustainable business.

“We really want to try and grow the pipeline for new, innovative companies to start and grow in Iowa,” he says.

John Pemble / IPR

This week, the House passes a bill expanding gun rights.  Among the things it will allow includes a person with a permit can bring a concealed pistol to city council meetings, but not school board meetings.  Similarly, one can be brought inside the state Capitol. 

Representative Matt Windschitl leads the effort to pass this bill. During the debate he says, “If I had my druthers, a law-abiding Iowan would be able to carry a firearm wherever they are lawfully present.”

'Bridges of Madison County' Author Robert James Waller Dies

Mar 10, 2017
robert james waller
Courtesy of Scott Cawelti

Iowa-born author Robert James Waller has died in Texas at the age of 77. He wrote “The Bridges of Madison County,” which topped the New York Times bestseller list in 1993.

The book was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. Waller wrote the novel, which was his first, after photographing covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa.

Scott Cawelti, a longtime friend of Waller, said he died of complications related to cancer. 

Flickr / Ted Murphy

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission can consider the economic impact of a potential new casino on existing gambling operations, before approving the new casino’s application. That's according to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled that commission was acting within its authority.

Courtesy of Asher Brown

 Iowa based singer-songwriter Asher Brown describes himself as a self-made man. His new album "Pitchforks" is an autobiographical album about the realization that he is transgender and his transition to life as a man. During this Talk of Iowa interview, he talks with host Charity Nebbe. 

Brown says one of his biggest concerns about transitioning was about his singing voice. 

Iowa Refugee Arrivals Cut in Half Following Travel Ban

Mar 9, 2017
Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

Refugee resettlement groups in Iowa are trying to determine how the new version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban will affect their clients.

The new travel ban maintains the 50 percent cut in total refugee arrivals to the U.S. this year, and that cut is reflected in refugee resettlement efforts in Iowa.

Michael Leland/IPR

Supporters of Iowa’s bottle deposit law say an overwhelming majority of Iowans think the law is good for the state, and regularly return bottles and cans.  They released results of a poll conducted by Selzer & Company, suggesting 88-percent of people in the state think the law is good.  It also found about three-quarters of respondents saying they regularly return cans and bottles to get their deposits back, or give the empties to someone else to redeem.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Educators in Iowa are saying an early warning system for struggling young readers is showing progress. Nearly 61 percent of the school districts using it are recording improvements in reading among students from kindergarten-through-third grade.

Johnson County Residents Protest Minimum Wage Bill

Mar 8, 2017
Handi Lutfi speaks at minimum wage rally
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A crowd gathered in downtown Iowa City Wednesday to protest a bill that would reverse minimum wage increases in four Iowa counties.

Protesters chanted, “Can’t survive on $7.25,” because the minimum wage would be set back to the federal and state level of $7.25. Johnson County’s minimum wage is currently $10.10 an hour.

Handi Lutfi said when Johnson County raised its minimum wage, her family’s income was brought above the poverty line.

LULAC Warns Undocumented Immigrants About Iowa Arrests

Mar 8, 2017

A Latino advocacy group is warning undocumented immigrants in Iowa to watch out for federal agents, following a string of immigration arrests in the state.

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa (LULAC) reported several recent arrests this week in a news release.

LULAC National Vice President for the Midwest Joe Enriquez Henry said he is concerned about possible racial profiling by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Amy Mayer/IPR

President Donald Trump has nominated former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as Agriculture Secretary, bucking a recent trend of Midwest leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and making many in the farm country of the Midwest and Great Plans a little leery.

Coupled with the appointments of leaders from Oklahoma and Texas to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy, respectively, there looks to be a shift in the power center of the parts of the federal government that most directly impact agriculture.

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).

Leslie Odom Jr. will speak in Iowa City on March 27 at 7:30pm at the Hancher Auditorium. On this Talk of Iowa segment, host Charity Nebbe talks with Odom about his role in Hamilton and the power of theater.

"We can do things that we can't do in television and film, because we don't have to be literal. We walk into those buildings and we're willing to suspend our disbelief and take these journeys," he says. "That childlike belief and using your imagination, that's the power of theater. That's maybe when theater is most powerful."

City of Cedar Rapids

A year-long survey of Iowa law-enforcement agencies indicates they have more than 4,200 untested sexual assault evidence kits in storage. Most of the shelved kits are the result of changes in the circumstances surrounding rape cases.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Opponents of a bill banning a higher minimum wage which is working its way through the Iowa House far outnumbered supporters at a public hearing at the statehouse last night.    

The bill would rescind minimum wages approved in Polk, Linn, Johnson, and Wapello Counties that are higher than the statewide wage of $7.25 an hour. 

Low-income Iowans and their advocates, religious groups, child advocacy groups, and students all spoke out against the bill and in favor of a higher minimum wage.

Michael Leland/IPR

People testifying at a hearing on a proposed voter ID bill were divided on whether the bill would protect election integrity or keep significant numbers of people away from the polls.  Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate was the first to testify before the House State Government Committee Monday night.  He says the bill is about protecting elections, and nothing else.

“No eligible voter will be denied their right to vote by this legislation,” Pate said.  “I am adamant about that fact, and I will fight to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised.”

johnson county building
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Johnson County will not assist in federal immigration raids or honor voluntary detainer requests. That is according to a statement made Monday by the county’s Board of Supervisors and Sheriff’s Office.

The statement replaces a similar resolution that was coming up for a vote Tuesday. It maintains that county resources will not be used for enforcing federal immigration laws.

Harvest Public Media file photo

The agriculture sector needs to ramp up its response to climate change, especially in the Midwest, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Researchers at the University of Maryland used climate projections and historical trends in agricultural productivity to predict how changes in temperature and rainfall will impact food production.

 

Joyce Russell/IPR

The state of Iowa will receive a multi-million dollar windfall as part of a $15 billion  settlement with German carmaker Volkswagen over its emissions cheating scandal.   

Iowa’s $21 million share must be spent on projects to reduce toxic emissions into the Iowa environment.  

A federal judge approved the settlement between Volkswagen and state and federal governments last year.  

The carmaker sold nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles with model years 2009 to 2016 equipped with so-called defeat devices to get around emissions standards.  

Clay Masters / IPR

Water utilities clashed with their cities at a public hearing at the capitol Monday over a bill that would dismantle the Des Moines Water Works board and create a regional utility. Critics of the bill say it is about stopping a controversial lawsuit that targets large-scale agriculture.

John Pemble / IPR

Bills in the Iowa legislature that did not meet a self-imposed deadline last week are now dead. That means action likely won’t be taken on bills dealing with the death penalty and a medical marijuana program. “There’s no surprise that some of the top GOP priorities are very much alive and moving forward,” says IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell. Here’s some of the highlights moving forward.

johnson county building
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on a resolution that would prevent county resources from being used to enforce immigration laws.

Under the draft resolution, the sheriff’s office would not actively try to detect undocumented immigrants. Johnson County would also refuse to detain people based on requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This does not prevent federal agents from enforcing immigration laws in the county.

John Pemble/IPR

Racial profiling by Iowa law enforcement officers was the subject of a hearing at the statehouse this week though time ran out for a bill to address the issue. 

Instead, senators will request an interim committee to study how to outlaw taking someone’s race into account when a traffic stop is made.  

Banning racial profiling is a top priority of the NAACP.

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