IPR News Stories

Joyce Russell/IPR

A last minute Republican-sponsored budget bill introduced this week at the statehouse should ensure that Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds has the resources she needs to take over as governor.  

Reynolds will assume the office when Governor  Branstad leaves to become U.S. Ambassador to China.    

At the request of the Branstad/Reynolds administration, the bill appropriates $150,000 for transition expenses.    

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) says with so many budgets getting cut this year, the request was carefully considered:

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The Transportation Security Administration and Des Moines Area Community College are expanding a training program that’s been in place since 2011. DMACC will now offer homeland security courses to TSA officers across much of the nation.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

A program to encourage the installation of art in Iowa’s public buildings is on the chopping block at the statehouse.  

A Republican-sponsored budget bill eliminates the Art in State Buildings program enacted under the leadership of Republican Governor Robert Ray back in 1979.   

Works of art can be  viewed  at more  than 160 public buildings in Iowa, many of them by Iowa artists, as a result of the program that captures  one-half of one percent of the cost of public buildings to commission paintings or sculptures.  

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Many members of Congress are at home right now and are getting an earful from constituents about President Trump. One member with a difficult balancing act is Iowa Republican Rod Blum

He’s a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus but he represents a swing district.

johnson county building
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Johnson County officials say they will not sue the state over its preemption of local minimum wage increases.

County Board of Supervisors Chair Janelle Rettig says that decision came after the county attorney looked into options for legal action.

“At this point on minimum wage, we do not see where we have standing to sue. But the other parts of the bill—there may or may not be problems with those that we would want to pursue,” says Rettig. 

vaping 360/flickr

Electronic cigarettes and other so-called vaping products sold to Iowans on the internet would be regulated for the first time under a last-minute spending bill as the GOP majority strives toward adjournment of this year’s legislative session.      

Under the bill, sellers would be required to obtain a permit to sell the alternative nicotine products online.

Sellers would be required to certify the buyer is at least 18 years old.  And the products would be subject to the state sales tax.      

Sarah Boden/IPR

The Madison County Sheriffs' Office has arrested a person in the burning of one of the area’s iconic covered bridges. Seventeen-year-old Alexander Hoff of West Des Moines is accused of purposely setting the Cedar Bridge on fire early Saturday. He’s been charged with arson in the first degree—a class B felony.

The Cedar Bridge is one of several covered bridges near Winterset seen in the 1995 movie, "The Bridges of Madison County."

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is holding meetings around the state during the April recess. In a session with farmers, he heard complaints about health insurance premiums and deductibles continuing to climb. Grassley says the recent news that two companies will stop selling individual policies in the state, and the failure to get a new healthcare law signed, also concern him.

Joyce Russell/IPR

After two hours of sometimes contentious debate, the Iowa House today voted 56 to 41  to legalize the sale and use of fireworks in Iowa, going along with the Senate, and clearing the way  to send the bill down  to the Governor for his signature.   

Opponents warned of fires, injuries, and other traumas if the governor signs the bill.  

Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) managed the bill, arguing for the personal freedom of Iowans.  

wellington heights intersection
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Carletta Knox-Seymour says gun violence came to the forefront in Cedar Rapids in 2015 after a 14-year-old boy shot and killed a 15-year-old. 

"Many facets of the city came together recognizing, at that point, how devastating things must have become in order for this to happen," she says. 

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.   

John Pemble/IPR

The chief administrator for the judicial branch of state government is warning court employees across the state of possible layoffs or reduced courthouse hours, if a proposed GOP judicial branch budget is approved at the statehouse.   

In a memo to staff, David Boyd briefed employees on the proposed budget for next year which reduces judicial branch spending by $3 million compared to this year. 

Boyd said tough decisions will need to be made.

A new tractor often costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but not included in that price: the right to repair it. That has put farmers on the front lines of a battle pitting consumers against the makers of all kinds of consumer goods, from tractors to refrigerators to smart phones.  

JOHN PEMBLE/IPR FILE

The Iowa Supreme Court says the state of Iowa is not liable for a sexual assault allegedly committed by a man who for years had lived at the state’s Civil Commitment Unit for Sex Offenders, because the assault occurred after William Cubbage was discharged from state custody. 

John Pemble / IPR

As the end of the session nears, leaders are often asked a simple "yes or no" about the likelihood of a bill becoming law.  The Senate president says a bill that would change how independent water utilities are managed isn't moving forward.  This bill's passage would affect the Des Moines Water Works, for example. 

Sarah Boden/IPR

A Republican-dominated panel at the statehouse last night approved a human services budget that changes how family planning programs are paid for across the state.  

The bill will eliminate state funding that used to go to clinics that also perform abortions, including Planned Parenthood.  

Up to now, the state spent just under half a million dollars, or $482,000,  for family planning services including birth control and pregnancy tests.  

The rest came from the federal government.

Jens Olaf-Walter/flickr

A controversial program to  require struggling 3rd graders to get summer reading instruction in order to be promoted to 4th grade is falling victim to  budget cuts at the statehouse.  

As part of a massive education funding bill, a GOP-led committee has eliminated the program, after failing again to find the money to help local schools pay for the summer classes.  

Critics say without a state appropriation, the program amounts to an unfunded mandate for local schools.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Breast cancer survivors and their supporters were at the capitol Thursday for a bill-signing of legislation known as Patty’s Law, named for a West Des Moines cancer patient.  

The new law directs mammogram providers to let a woman know if she has dense breast tissue, so she can get an ultrasound in addition to a mammogram.  

Advocates say dense tissue can prevent tumors from showing up.      

Fifty-nine year old Patty Bernard is suffering from stage four breast cancer.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Calling it an honor, Governor Branstad today signed into law what’s being called the most expansive gun  rights bill in Iowa history, to the applause of a roomful of supporters.  

The bill expands self-defense rights for gun owners, so-called Stand Your Ground. It also allows gun owners with permits to carry weapons into the statehouse. And it protects the confidentiality of permit holders.  

Branstad said he has always supported the second amendment.

Lit City Episode Ten: Forgotten by History

Apr 13, 2017
IMDb

Like the title character of her 1933 novel Miss Bishop, Iowa-born author Bess Streeter Aldrich is finally getting the recognition she deserves. Although she wrote 14 novels and countless popular short stories, Aldrich was long forgotten... until recently, that is, when her hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa decided to name an elementary school after her.

ISTOCKPHOTO

Media violence researchers at Iowa State University published a study this month that finds media violence affects aggressive behaviors across a variety of cultures. 

More than 2,100 participants from Australia, China, Croatia, Germany, Japan, Romania and the U.S. named three of their most frequently-watched or played TV shows, movies or video games, and then rated how often they used each title. Then researchers evaluated the violence level of the media, and contrasted that data with survey answers that looked at behaviors like physical aggression or arguing. 

Alan Light/flickr

A hydroscience professor at the University of Iowa is praising the work of the Iowa Flood Center, as state lawmakers consider eliminating all state funding for it.  

The center was established to conduct research following the historic floods of 2008.   

Professor Larry Weber heads the UI’s Hydroscience and Engineering department, which oversees the work of the center.

He says the center provided critical information for communities affected by last year’s flooding in eastern Iowa.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A Republican-dominated committee in the Iowa Senate today, on a nearly unanimous voice vote, approved a bill to legalize the production and sale of medical marijuana in Iowa to provide treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.   

The bill is similar to legislation approved in the past when Democrats controlled the Senate. 

It appears to have no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled House.    

Sen. Tom Greene (R-Burlington), called the bill a natural progression.

D Sharon Pruitt / Flickr

According to professor of psychology, Marianne Lafrance, our hair plays a bigger role in our lives than we might think. She says there is a psychological impact of having a bad hair day. 

In her research, Lafrance found that a majority of people are inclined to have lower self-esteem on bad hair days.

Flickr / Scott McLeod

Iowa’s high school graduation rate has increased for the fifth year in the row, reaching a new high of 91.3 percent. However dropout rates also rose in the past year, up to 2.8 percent. 

The two measurements track different cohorts of students.  The graduation rate looks a single class over the course of four years, and the dropout rate counts the number of kids who quit high school in a single year.

Staci Hupp of the Iowa Department of Education says the latter metric on drop outs is a reminder that Iowa still has work to do. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

More than 200 activists converged on the state capitol today, urging more funding for water quality, conservation, and outdoor recreation across the state.  

A Republican-sponsored bill in the House would raise the state sales tax for the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund which was approved by the voters as a constitutional amendment in 2010.  

The bill also creates a water quality revolving fund by diverting dollars currently spent elsewhere in the state budget.

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Sen. Joni Ernst told constituents in Elkader Monday that health care has been the biggest topic at town hall meetings, and Congress needs to work hard on new health care legislation.

She says she is worried the one remaining statewide health insurance carrier on Iowa's individual market will be free to raise its prices or will also pull out of the state.

Ernst says there is a new plan in the works to replace the Affordable Care Act, and she hopes it is ready before open enrollment starts for 2018.

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.

Three staffers from Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign were at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis last week. They're appealing criminal convictions related to a conspiracy to hide payments to former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson, who resigned endorsed Paul days before the Iowa Caucuses.

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