IPR News Stories

Amy Mayer/IPR

In the coming months, Congress will map out how it’ll spend upwards of $500 billion on food and farm programs over the next five years.

The massive piece of legislation known as the farm bill affects all taxpayers — whether they know it or not — and runs the gamut from farm safety net and conservation programs to food stamps and loan guarantees for rural hospitals. Since the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, now is the time when interest groups, farmers and others with a stake clamor to ensure their desires will be heard.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The head of the Iowa Department of Human Services took tough questions yesterday at the statehouse about a report commissioned following the deaths of two young Iowans who were adopted out of foster care.   An outside agency looked at Iowa’s foster care system and at the caseloads for DHS social workers.   Director Jerry Foxhoven said the problems won’t be solved overnight.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill to ease the penalties for first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana cleared a Republican-dominated panel at the statehouse Thursday.  GOP lawmakers stressed that marijuana would still be illegal, but possessing five grams or less would be a simple misdemeanor instead of a serious misdemeanor.  Urbandale Republican Brad Zaun says youthful indiscretion is penalized too harshly under the current law:

Creative Commons

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is reminding people who lost money to scams involving Western Union to apply for a refund before the February 12th deadline.   

Western Union admitted it had processed thousands of transactions involving international consumer fraud between 2004 and 2012. The company failed to act against company agents who facilitated scams under fake lottery and prize awards, family emergencies, advanced loans, and online dating.

Facebook

Des Moines is among the first five U.S. cities to be included in an initiative launched by Facebook called Community Boost. It’s designed to help small businesses and job seekers sharpen their social media skills.

John Pemble/IPR

The head of the Iowa Department of Human Services Wednesday admitted problems with Iowa’s new family planning program that takes the place of Planned Parenthood clinics around the state.      

After lawmakers said no state money should go to clinics that perform abortions, the state is redirecting funds to other clinics for subsidized birth control.      

Director Jerry Foxhoven took questions about the program in an appearance before the Senate Human Resources Committee.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A coalition of more than two dozen state, local, and national organizations rallied at the statehouse today against the proliferation of large hog confinement operations known as CAFOs, which they say have diminished the quality of life in the Iowa countryside.   

The Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture is calling for a moratorium on new large hog operations until fewer than 100 Iowa waterways remain impaired.   

It’s one of a package of 15 bills offered by Senator David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan) to strengthen regulation of hog farms.

university of iowa
Vladimir Kulikov / Wikimedia Commons

Five faith-based student organizations have filed a brief in support of a Christian group that is suing the University of Iowa for religious discrimination.

Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) filed a lawsuit in federal court last month claiming UI penalized the group because of its religious beliefs concerning human sexuality. The university ended BLinC’s status as a registered student organization after it allegedly denied a leadership position to a gay student.

John Pemble / IPR file photo

Congress faces a deadline Friday to pass a budget or a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Iowa’s senior senator says multiple issues are caught up in the current impasse.

One of those is the status of young adults living under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Republican Chuck Grassley says he supports “legalizing” immigrants brought to the United States illegally by their parents, if that’s paired with other restrictions on immigration. 

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Lawmakers return to the capitol Tuesday after the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The 2018 session started last week. Here are takeaways from IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell says going into week two.

Joyce Russell/IPR

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Grassley  (R-New Hartford) is warning about competition from a proposed new Indian-run casino in Carter Lake in southwest Iowa.  

At a statehouse budget briefing, Grassley said if the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska proceeds with its plans, the new casino would draw gamblers away from the three state-regulated casinos in Council Bluffs.  

Those include Ameristar, Harrah’s and Horseshoe.   

Madeleine McCormick / IPR

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg were among those celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.

Gov. Reynolds named two women the recipients of the 2018 MLK Achievement Award.

CEO of Betty Andrews Media and President of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP Betty Andrews, and Des Moines Register Columnist Rekha Basu, received the award at a ceremony in Des Moines.

Andrews stood with her grandson to accept the award. She acknowledged that King’s legacy allowed social justice work to continue, and it will continue long after her time.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Voters will be left to decide the fate of elected officials involved in sexual harassment complaints at the Iowa capitol. That’s according to former Senate President Mary Kramer who released recommendations to ensure a safe workplace at the statehouse on Friday.

“The elected official is really accountable only to the people who vote for them,” Kramer says. “The obligation of the organization will be to let the people who elected him know what went on so they can make their own judgment."

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

This is the beginning of the 2018 session where legislative leaders lay out their intentions.

During the opening week, party leaders speak about their goals.  Republican praise their work from last year and intend to support the governor’s new tax code for Iowa.  Only a few details are revealed about a tax code changes, and the governor says the process may take several years.

capitol
John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Senate Republicans on Friday released recommendations made to them to ensure a safe workplace at the Iowa Capitol. The report was commissioned after taxpayers covered a $1.75 million sexual harassment settlement against Senate Republicans in October 2017.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A nine-year study of cereal rye as a cover crop shows it can lead to higher soybean and corn yields, and that’s in addition to the environmental benefits it offers.

Two non-profits, Iowa Learning Farms and Practical Farmers of Iowa, compared strips of fields planted with cereal rye in the fall and those without it. The rye helps keep nutrients and soil in place, and also keeps down some weeds. Plus, in areas with multiple years of the cover crop, some farmers reported harvesting slightly more soybeans and corn.

African American Museum of Iowa

The African American Museum of Iowa will offer free admission from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST on Monday, January 15 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with LaNisha Cassell, the museum's executive director, and Felicite Wolfe, the museum's curator. 

Principal Financial Group

Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group is expanding its presence in Southeast Asia.

The asset management company is gaining a larger stake in a joint venture with Malaysian financial services provider CIMB Group Holdings.

Principal is increasing its ownership to 60 percent in a partnership that began in 2004.

Principal will pay CIMB Group $117 million in the transaction, which is expected to close during the second quarter of 2018.

In a news release, Principal says Southeast Asia “is a growing and important region” for the company.

Rockwell Collins

Shareholders at Cedar Rapids-based Rockwell Collins are saying yes to selling the aviation company to United Technologies.

More than 96 percent of all votes cast by shareholders approved the $30 billion acquisition deal.

Pending regulatory approval, Rockwell Collins will combine with UTC Aerospace Systems to form a new United Technologies business called Collins Aerospace Systems.

The deal is expected to close during the third quarter of 2018.

Rockwell Collins CEO Kelly Ortberg will become chief executive of the new enterprise.

Madeleine McCormick / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office is beginning what it calls a “soft rollout” of recent changes to the election law. The changes include the implementation of voter ID.

Secretary of State Paul Pate is launching an outreach program he calls “Voter Ready.” A requirement that voters present an ID at the polls went into effect the first of January. Pate’s office has budgeted $700,000 for the rollout of changes, which he says is plenty given the number of Iowans who are already registered to vote.

John Pemble/IPR

The Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Mark Cady Wednesday painted a worsening picture of the condition of the Iowa justice system, after years of declining or status quo budgets for the judicial branch.  

In his Condition of the Judiciary Address, Justice Cady said that insufficient resources are beginning to “tear at the fabric of the mission of the courts” to provide justice for all Iowans.  

The judicial branch workforce was cut this year by 10 percent and there are over 115 unfilled positions, including 11 district court judgeships.

gavel
Wikimedia Commons

The State of Iowa asked a Polk County judge Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a former Iowa State University student alleging ISU did not properly investigate her sexual assault complaint.

Iowa Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson says the lawsuit should be dismissed because the events described fall outside the two-year statute of limitations. The alleged sexual misconduct occurred in 2013.

As President Donald Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue made the rounds this week to reiterate their commitment to rural communities and farmers and ranchers, the federal agency that President Abraham Lincoln established still lacks top appointments.

John Pemble/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered a 43-minute Condition of the State Address to a joint convention of the Iowa House and Senate Tuesday, the first ever by a woman in the state’s history.   She laid out her agenda for the upcoming legislative session, and took the bully pulpit on the issue of sexual harassment.   

Reynolds received an unusually long standing ovation….just for showing up.

“It's an honor to be here today as your 43rd governor and to deliver my first Condition of the State address,” Reynolds began.   

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds called for tax reform Tuesday in her first Condition of the State address before the Iowa Legislature.

Reynolds says her proposal will include personal income tax cuts for this year. She says she also wants to reduce corporate taxes, but "this is not the year" because of a tight state budget.

After a federal tax overhaul passed late last year, Reynolds is proposing eliminating Iowans’ ability to deduct their federal taxes from their state income taxes.

John Pemble / IPR

At the capitol, state lawmakers gaveled in for their 2018 legislative session.

Majority Republicans are promising a pro-growth, low tax agenda and a balanced budget before they head home to face the voters.     

Minority Democrats are warning that Iowans are paying attention, after last year’s conservative program was signed into law.

Republicans started off the day with their traditional fundraising breakfast in downtown Des Moines, since they can’t raise money for their campaigns once the legislature convenes.       

Joyce Russell/IPR

State lawmakers return to the capitol Monday for their 2018 legislative session.  Majority Republicans achieved many conservative priorities last year, including scaling back collective bargaining restricting abortions, and expanding gun rights. More Republican initiatives are on the agenda this year.     

At the December meeting of the Revenue Estimating Conference, once again, analysts revised downward their estimates of tax receipts flowing into state coffers.  

Gov. Reynolds’ top budget aide said once again it will be status quo spending at best next year.

syringe
WerbeFabrik / Pixabay

State and federal public health officials agree Iowa needs a syringe exchange program to slow the spread of hepatitis C and prevent a possible HIV outbreak among Iowans who inject opioids and meth.

Caleb Housh, mayor of Seymour

High school students in the Seymour Community School District are beginning 2018 taking classes in a former nursing home on the east side of town. They remain displaced after a tornado seriously damaged their school building last year.

legislative leaders
Clay Masters / IPR

Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, says the state’s privatized Medicaid system needs to be "in a better position" before the end of the upcoming legislative session.

Iowa’s handover of its Medicaid system to private companies in 2016 has led to patients losing services and providers losing payment.

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