IPR News Stories

Amy Mayer / IPR

Iowa has a new secretary of agriculture and will be sending one of its own to Washington, D.C.

Former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig took the oath of office as secretary in a ceremony at the Iowa Supreme Court Monday afternoon. Naig will finish the rest of Bill Northey’s third term.

Northey resigned from the job earlier Monday, after the U.S. Senate confirmed him last week to be an Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

John Pemble / IPR file

IPR's Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checks in with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell to talk about what's happened in the legislature and what to expect in the week ahead. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Jerry Foxhoven as the director of the Department of Human Resources in June.  All of the governor's appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.  These appointments first must pass a Senate committee, and when Foxhoven's appointment came up for a vote all Democrats voted against.  It passed the committee, but to be confirmed Foxhoven must be voted by two-thirds of the full Senate body.  They'll probably vote sometime in April. 

New U.S. dietary recommendations are in the works. And for the first time in 30 years, the federal government is seeking public comment about what belongs on the plate.

“This is fabulous because we have so many experts in the field of nutrition and diet and health and I think they can all weigh in to suggest questions what needs to be addressed,” says Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University.

Amy Mayer / IPR

When a man places 40 dozen eggs on the conveyor in the check-out line at the grocery store, it begs the question: What’s he going to do with all of them?

This happened to Kim Becker in Ames, Iowa. The man’s answer left her so gobsmacked, she posted it on Facebook:

Swine Genetics International (SGI) is about 20 minutes from that store.

“That could have been me or it could have been a number of people here,” SGI Chief of Operations Michael Doran says about the supermarket run.

Joyce Russell/lPR

Round Two for Republican-sponsored tax cuts got underway at the statehouse today.   

Gov. Reynolds’ proposal to cut taxes by $1.7 billion over the next six years got its first airing in the Iowa House, one day after the Senate approved a bigger, faster plan.   

Senate Republicans call their bill “bold” to cut taxes by a billion dollars a year.  

The GOP is characterizing the governor’s plan as sustainable, practical, and pragmatic.    

The bill cuts personal income taxes by up to 23 percent. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa Senate Wednesday night approved the largest tax cut package in Iowa history, approving a bill to reduce corporate and individual income taxes by as much as 30 percent. 

"Today is a monumental day for Iowa families and Iowa workers," said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull). “Today, we are taking a bold step in making Iowa’s economy more competitive."

Iowa’s top corporate tax rate of 12 percent, currently the highest in the country, would be reduced to 7 percent under the bill.

todd nuccio
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The head of Iowa’s court system warned lawmakers Wednesday of more court delays and possible courthouse closures if they cut more funding from the judicial branch.

Iowa courts got a $3 million budget cut last year. This year, lawmakers are considering cutting another $1.6 million for the fiscal year that ends in June.

“At current funding levels now, we’re not meeting the need,” said State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio.

Joyce Russell/IPR

State lawmakers heard preliminary plans for a new statewide system for childhood mental health care Wednesday.  Advocates say currently there is no organized way to deliver care to kids to match the statewide program for adult mental health.   

A Department of Human Services working group studied the issue over the summer.  They’re recommending a new state board to set standards for children’s mental health care statewide.   

Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The Iowa Senate Tuesday passed a bill to ban traffic cameras in the state, with mostly Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

Democrats offered several amendments that would allow traffic cameras when justified by data, and allow speed cameras near schools and road construction zones.

Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), the bill’s author, urged his Republican colleagues to vote down the amendments because he says they would change the intent of the bill. Zaun says traffic cameras violate the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill to address Iowa’s low ranking among states for services for the mentally ill was unanimously approved today by the Iowa House.    

The bill expands treatment options across the state to address crisis situations which fall short of the need for hospitalization.  

A bipartisan coalition of providers, patients, advocates, and law enforcement came up with the recommendations.   

Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Dubuque)  said mental health and substance abuse disorders have touched every Iowa family.

Amy Mayer/IPR file

Four Republican senators met with President Donald Trump today to discuss the renewable fuel standard.

Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley visited the White House along with Ted Cruz of Texas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Ernst says the meeting yielded neither changes Cruz was looking for nor guarantees for ethanol that would have pleased the Iowans.

Cruz has spent months requesting such a meeting, arguing changes to the renewable fuels law are needed to protect oil refiners. But Ernst says he hasn’t provided a concrete problem.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has said a major overhaul of the Iowa tax code is important to her this legislative session. The Senate has released its plan. IPR Morning Edition Host Clay Masters talks with Joyce Russell about what to expect this week at the capitol.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

During Gov. Kim Reynolds' weekly press conference, she talks about the shooting in a Florida high school that killed 17 people. She reintroduces a Department of Homeland Security public campaign "If You Something, Say Something" as a result of the murders in Florida.

Clay Masters

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was back in Iowa Friday, making a couple of stops he says are about the midterm election. He was in Des Moines around midday, speaking at an event for a Democratic congressional candidate Pete D’Alessandro, who hopes to challenge Republican David Young in Iowa’s 3rd District.  D’Alessandro was Sanders’ top aide in the state during his campaign for the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

Partisan politics may meet its match in the 2018 farm bill.

The massive legislation, versions of which will be introduced this spring in the U.S. House and Senate, is shaping up to be less about political affiliations and more about finding common ground.

John Pemble/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa Senate Thursday put a tax cut bill on the fast track which would cost the state treasury a billion dollars a year.   Business groups are generally excited about making Iowa’s tax climate more competitive.   Democrats question how the state can afford the tax cuts without catastrophic effects on public services including education. 

Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) has been dreaming about this tax cut bill for a long time.

Dean Borg/IPR file photo

Cedar Rapids’ largest employer is moving its executive headquarters to Florida. Rockwell-Collins is being acquired by United Technology Corporation, and renamed Collins Aerospace Systems.

That announcement was made last year, and since then there’s been speculation - and fears - that the company’s headquarters would be moved away from Cedar Rapids.

Confirming those fears, U-T-C says Rockwell-Collins’ executive headquarters are moving to Palm Beach County, Florida. The company’s avionics and mission systems are remaining in Cedar Rapids.

Iowa Business Council

The Iowa Business Council is out with its 6th annual Competitive Dashboard, which looks at how the state stacks up against other states on economic development. It raises concerns about the preparedness of Iowa’s workforce.

The IBC is calling the need for a trained workforce a major concern and challenge for Iowa employers. The Council’s executive director, Georgia Van Gundy, says the state is rightfully praised for its high school graduation rate.

Iowa General Assembly

By a vote of 33 to 16, the Iowa Senate Wednesday night approved a bill to crack down on protesters who cause disruption to critical infrastructure in the state.

The bill is backed by Energy Transfer, developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was damaged along its Iowa route by protesters opposing the project.

The pipeline was built to carry crude oil from North Dakota diagonally across 18 Iowa counties.

The bill creates a new offense of sabotage against critical infrastructure. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

One by one, the presidents of Iowa’s public universities gave severe warnings to lawmakers today about declining state support for higher education, and what it will mean for the institutions in the future.  

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld told the House Appropriations Committee that over the past 20 years, the state budget, the student body, and consumer price index have all grown, while state support for the U of I today is a few million dollars less than it was back then.  

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Senate Republicans are proposing a tax overhaul plan that it says would provide $1 billion a year in individual and corporate tax relief. 

It proposes lowering the top individual tax rate from 8.98 percent to 6.3 percent beginning in 2019.

“Working families in Iowa deserve big, bold tax relief,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull).

The proposal, called the Iowa Working Families Tax Relief Act, also lowers the state’s corporate tax rate, which is currently 12 percent.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Northwest Iowa is one of the safest places for Republicans in the country.

It's represented in the U.S. Congress by hardliner Steve King, who has a long history of controversial positions and comments.

But David Johnson also represents part of northwest Iowa. And while King might look to the White House and see a kindred spirit, Johnson calls Donald Trump's rhetoric "misogynistic," "race-baiting," and "bigoted."

Iowa General Assembly

On a vote of 30 to 20, the Iowa Senate passed a bill to allow longer bus rides for schoolchildren in large rural districts struggling with transportation costs.  

Under the bill, both elementary and secondary students could ride up to 75 minutes one way. 

Longer bus rides would be allowed if public hearings are held and parents are notified 30 days before a route is changed.

Currently, younger children’s rides are limited to 60 minutes.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

Congress is close to righting an inadvertent wrong, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). At issue is a provision in the tax reform bill passed late last year that favors cooperatively-owned businesses, including many grain elevators.

Christopher Gannon

A new fashion exhibit at Iowa State University explores an area of fashion often stereotyped or misunderstood.

In this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks to the woman behind “Queer Fashion and Style: Stories from the Heartland," Kelly Reddy-Best, assistant professor in Apparel, Merchandising & Design at Iowa State University.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Advocates for schools, social services, and the courts turned out at the capitol today for a public hearing on mid-year budget cuts.   

Tax receipts have not met projections so lawmakers are negotiating how much to cut the Regents universities, human services, and most other areas of state government.  

A Senate bill would cut university funds for this academic year by $14 million.    That’s after this year’s budget was already reduced by $30 million.    

Iowa State University student Kody Olson is worried the cuts will result in higher tuition.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Taxes are getting a lot of attention at the statehouse and there were a few controversial bills that fell by the wayside last week and some that are moving forward. IPR's Joyce Russell reports on the week at the capitol. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

This is the final week for most bills to pass a committee and become eligible for debate in a chamber. It's known as "funnel week." Exceptions are for bills in appropriations, ways and means, government oversight, and administrative rules, which is why most budget bills are approved at the end of a session.

On this show, we focus on two bills. One that passed and one that didn't pass through the senate judiciary committee.  Both are among the most controversial bills that come before lawmakers, dealing with abortion and capital punishment.

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

As agriculture intensified in the 20th century, summers in the Midwest became wetter and cooler.