IPR News Stories

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.

John Pemble / IPR

This is the first funnel week of the session, where bills that have not come before a committee are eliminated. It also provides party leaders a chance to reflect on what they've accomplished and what they can realistically expect to see coming to the House or Senate floor for debate.  Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), minority leader, says the Republicans' remaining agenda is "nonsense." House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) says Hogg's use of "hyperbole" is an example of the Democrats having a tough time refuting the success of a Republican-dominated session. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill advanced at the statehouse Thursday to outlaw the so-called sanctuary policies Iowa communities may adopt that could protect undocumented immigrants.   

Advocates for immigrants crowded into a committee room to oppose the bill.

The bill makes it illegal to adopt a policy that discourages enforcement of federal immigration laws.  

Under a Des Moines Public School resolution, immigration officials would not have access to students except through the superintendent.  

Alex Proimos/flickr

Governor Branstad’s goal to open up more competition in the health care industry ran into some serious trouble at the statehouse Wednesday.   

A bill to clear the way for more for-profit health care facilities failed to clear a Republican-dominated panel.   

The governor wanted to do away with the state’s Certificate of Need program that requires new health care facilities to prove there’s a need for their services.  

Creighton University

A monthly index of the mid-America economy is at its highest point in nearly three years. The survey of supply managers in nine states indicates solid hiring in the manufacturing sector.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index compiled by Creighton University economist Ernie Goss stands at a strong 60.5 for February. This is well above the growth neutral mark of 50. Goss says the reading for Iowa is even healthier at 62.6.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media file photo

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Tuesday directing the Environmental Protection Agency to revise a controversial environmental rule opposed by many Midwest farm groups.

Trump ordered new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to formally revise the Obama Administration’s 2015 Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which was meant to explain which rivers, streams and creeks are subject to regulation by the EPA.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

A bill to stiffen penalties for protesters who block Iowa roadways advanced in the Iowa Senate Tuesday, a reaction to an incident along Interstate 80 in Iowa City last November.     

Roughly 100 protesters shut down the eastbound lanes for about half an hour, objecting to the election of Donald Trump.  

The bill would increase penalties for blocking a roadway where the speed limit is 55 miles per hour or higher.  

Free speech advocates objected to the bill.

Momento Mori/flickr

A bill to lower the penalties for first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana cleared a Republican-dominated panel in the Iowa Senate Tuesday.   

The same bill passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support when Democrats were in control two years ago, but it was not considered in the Republican-controlled House.     

The bill’s sponsor says he is serious about getting it passed again under the new Republican majority.   

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

President Donald Trump will offer his first address to a joint session of Congress tonight.

Iowa's senior senator, Republican Chuck Grassley, says he'll be there listening closely for the president's plans to help rural America, because he's a little nervous about the Trump's commitment to renegotiating free trade deals.

"Any president that can improve America's position in free trade agreements, nobody's going to bad mouth that," Grassley says. "I just advise him to be careful what he does, because usually agriculture is the first thing being retaliated."

Tonight, around 8 pm, President Trump will address a joint session of Congress for the first time. The address comes one day after Trump gave an outline of his budget plan to Congress. That plan includes increases in defense spending and cuts to domestic programs.

Shortly after the president concludes, former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will deliver the Democratic response. Additionally, immigrant activist Astrid Silva will provide a Spanish language response.

Clay Masters / IPR

A bill in the Iowa legislature would break up the Des Moines Water Works board and replace it with a regional water authority. Those who support the bill say it will update a 100-year-old system for delivering water to the growing metro and its suburbs. Critics say the bill is really about stopping a controversial lawsuit from the Des Moines Water Works targeting large scale agriculture.

Grand View University

Grand View University in Des Moines will be launching a new academic discipline in the fall. Students at the school will be able to major in game design.

Grand View administrators say students who pursue a bachelor’s degree in game design will be trained in such things as animation, video production and 3-D illustration. English professor Joshua Call describes himself as a lifetime gamer. He says he finds the intersection of story-telling with decision-making in gaming an important academic pursuit.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Mayor of Pleasant Hill was at the statehouse Monday arguing against a wide-ranging gun rights bill backed by the National Rifle Association and making its way through the Iowa House.  

After an outcry from the public, the bill’s sponsor has removed some controversial provisions, but there’s still plenty in the legislation to concern gun safety advocates.

Pleasant Hill Mayor Sara Kurovski is a registered Republican who holds a permit to carry a weapon.  

John Pemble / IPR

The self-imposed deadline for lawmakers to get bills out of committee known as “funnel week” is now upon the Iowa legislature.  Here’s what to know going into this important step at the capitol this week, according to IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Liz Graznak runs an organic farm in Jamestown, Missouri, which she calls Happy Hollow Farm. She sells her vegetables to local restaurants, in CSA boxes and at the farmer’s market.  But eight years ago, after falling in love with the idea of growing her own local produce, the farm she runs today looked like a near-impossible dream.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

A newly launched web site is aimed at breaking the myth that start-up companies in Iowa can’t raise capital. More than 40 entrepreneurs have already shared their success stories.

ep_jhu/flickr

Iowa’s laws on drug-endangered children would be updated to address the state’s opioid epidemic under legislation the House and Senate are considering.  

Authorities say more kids are being affected by their caregivers’ abuse of painkillers.  

Currently, Iowa’s child protection policies focus heavily on methamphetamine, its manufacture, distribution, and use.    

John Pemble / IPR

There is lingering bitterness from last week's long debate about changing Iowa's collective bargaining laws.  On Monday afternoon, Democratic senators use their points of personal privilege to voice their disappointment and to ask more questions about the authorship of the bill.

Bryan Thompson for Harvest Public Media

At a stressful time for U.S. farmers, the government’s efforts at calming the agricultural waters took center stage Thursday, when the heads of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture Committee left Washington for the Midwest to solicit opinions on priorities for the next Farm Bill.

U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts, R-KS, and Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, heard from Midwest farmers at their first field hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

John Pemble/IPR

News that scholarships will be rescinded for students at the University of Iowa because of state budget cuts sparked controversy  at the statehouse Thursday. 

Democrats are blaming Republicans for a bill that cut $8 million from the UI budget for this year.  

News came to UI families in a letter from President Bruce Herrald.

“This devastating cut has forced us to consider every expenditure,” Herrald said.    

Some 2500 students will  see their financial aid packages reduced  by an  average of more than $1700 for the school year that starts in the fall.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

African-Americans turned out for a hearing at the statehouse today on a wide-ranging gun rights bill they say will threaten their safety if it becomes law.   

The bill includes so-called stand-your-ground language, along with broad new rights for carrying weapons.  

Under stand-your-ground, a gunowner can fire if he believes himself to be in danger.  

Laurel Clinton from Des Moines says her three sons may look dangerous to some because they’re black.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

An overflow crowd crammed the Visitors' Center at Living History Farms in Urbandale for a lively town hall meeting with 3rd District Congressman David Young. The exchanges between the Republican and audience occasionally turned heated.

Amy Mayer/IPR

 

Farmers in the U.S. like to point out that their products feed people all over the world. And while this is a diverse country, the people working on farms and elsewhere in agriculture often don’t reflect the nation’s demographics. Changing that is becoming a priority, in hopes new people will bring fresh ideas to meet some of our food system’s greatest challenges.

 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Patients and their advocates made a return trip to the Iowa Capitol Wednesday, arguing once again for the legalization of medical marijuana in Iowa. 

A new bill is under consideration in the House to regulate the growing, manufacturing, and distribution  of cannabis oil.  

Earlier legislation is about to expire.   It allows epilepsy patients to travel out of state to acquire the drug, which has created numerous obstacles.  

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media file photo

The Trump Administration is voicing its support for the ethanol industry, but without specifics it is hard to say what that means exactly for Midwest farmers.

In a letter to industry leaders gathered at the National Ethanol Conference, President Donald Trump said renewable fuels “are essential to America’s energy strategy.”

The president wrote that he aims to reduce the regulatory burden on the renewable fuels industry, but did not detail specific plans.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A new technology sweeping the real estate market is hitting Des Moines. Virtual reality tours show finished living quarters while they’re still under construction.

Minnesota-based Roers Investments now offers potential downtown apartment dwellers a chance to see what they would be renting before the construction dust clears. Virtual reality devices can now lead prospective tenants of the company’s upscale Confluence on Third project on a tour of the completed building. Jeff Koch with Roers says the new marketing tool is revolutionizing the real estate industry.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A spokesman for the Koch Brothers-funded organization Americans for Prosperity says school choice is their next top issue to push through the Iowa legislature.    

The group last week saw completion of their number one priority, rewriting Iowa’s collective bargaining law. 

The bill reduces the bargaining rights for public workers in Iowa and affects their ability to raise money and stay organized.

Speaking at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Americans for Prosperity’s Drew Klein received kudos for his work on the collective bargaining bill.  

Russell/IPR

Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Mark Cady made a rare appearance before a statehouse committee Tuesday, pleading for more money for Iowa’s court system.    

The Chief Justice presents the judicial branch needs each year in the annual Condition of the Judiciary address.     

Justice Cady told house and senate budget writers he’s never brought his case to lawmakers directly.

“I do so now to share with you my belief that the judicial branch is at a crossroads,” Cady said.

Lord Jim/flickr

A bill to ban cellphone use while driving unless it's hands-free got its first public airing at the statehouse today, garnering broad support and winning the unanimous approval of a three-member bipartisan panel in  the Iowa Senate.      

Public safety officials, the governor, and a wide range of citizens groups say cellphones are contributing to a rise in traffic fatalities on Iowa roadways. 

Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Major John Godar, head of the Iowa State Sheriff’s Association, says the current law banning texting while driving isn’t working.    

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