IPR News Stories

Joyce Russell/IPR

The only Independent member of the Iowa Senate, David Johnson of Ocheyedan, is urging lawmakers not to approve a gun rights bill that will allow anyone with a permit to be armed at the Iowa Statehouse.   

The provision is part of a wide-ranging NRA-backed bill that has passed the House and awaits debate by the full Senate.  

At a statehouse news conference, Johnson held up his own weapons permit, which he says shows he supports the second amendment.

“This is my concealed carry permit,” Johnson said.  “I do have that.”  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad will be undergoing interviews in Washington this week in preparation for his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.   

The committee will rule on his nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to China at an unspecified time in the future. 

In the meantime staff in D.C. have put together an ambitious schedule of talks.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Governor Branstad has submitted his revised budget to the state legislature, as lawmakers move toward considering a spending plan for the next fiscal year.  IPR Statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell told Clay Masters that the governor had to revise an earlier budget proposal after the Revenue Estimating Conference met in March and said the state would take in less money than expected.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is throwing his full support behind anti-abortion legislation making its way through the Republican-controlled legislature, saying the new GOP majority in the Iowa Senate is making it possible.     

Branstad backs a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy that has passed the Iowa Senate and is now awaiting a vote in the full House.   

House Republicans last week introduced a measure to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, or roughly 5 to 6 weeks into pregnancy, before some women would know they are pregnant.

Iowans will have to wait a bit longer to get their state tax refunds this year, as fraud prevention is creating delays.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a prime target for criminals, so the federal government is taking more time to process tax returns. Victoria Daniels of the Iowa Department of Revenue says this affects state tax refunds as well.

John Pemble / IPR

Since 2007, two legislators are surprised every year with an award from the Herbert Hoover Foundation. On Thursday Senator Rob Hogg and Representative Zach Nunn were honored.  Previous honoree House Speaker Linda Upmeyer says it's one of the most meaningful awards a legislator can receive.

Iowa transgender-rights activists discussed a survey on the state’s transgender and gender-nonconforming community, results being called “unacceptable” and “inexcusable.”

For example, nearly a quarter of the 219 transgender and gender-nonconforming Iowans surveyed say they live in poverty, and 30 percent hadn’t seen a doctor in the past year, out of fear of being mistreated.

Jan and Gregary Franck

An Ankeny couple whose son died in an accident caused by a drunken driver is backing legislation at the statehouse that’s part of Governor Branstad’s agenda to combat distracted driving.  

The bill would create a new 24-7 monitoring program to allow a judge to order twice-a-day sobriety tests for drivers who test way over the legal limit, or cause an injury, or refuse a breath test at the scene of a first offense.    

laura taylor of woofables
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa’s minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour in all counties. Gov. Branstad has signed a bill maintaining that wage level and barring any county or local government from setting a higher minimum.

Five counties have already done that, including Johnson County, which has the highest minimum wage in the state. But the new law does not necessarily mean workers who have recently gotten raises will be taking a pay cut.

Laura Taylor is the owner of Woofables, a gourmet dog treat bakery in Coralville.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad this week submitted his revised budget for next year as required by law, and his fellow Republicans in the legislature are concerned about how little wiggle room there is in the spending plan.

Because tax receipts have faltered, Branstad reduced his 2018 spending plan by more than two percent compared to what he submitted in January, and there’s no ending balance to provide a cushion for emergencies.     

On April 28, 2015, six couples from Kentucky walked into the U.S. Supreme Court with plaintiffs and attorneys from four other states to argue their right to marriage equality. Iowa-based documentary maker Alex Schuman was with those couples, and on that date, he was filming every moment.

“It almost started as an accident,” he says. “I was a TV reporter in Louisville, Kentucky, and I wasn’t aware this case was happening at all.”

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A tight state budget may mean a delay in one of the Branstad administration’s top legislative priorities. The issue of school choice for Iowa parents may have to wait for a brighter budget forecast.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds says the establishment of an education savings fund to help families pay for private education may not happen this session.

WIKICOMMONS / US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

An Iowa State neuroscience lab has discovered a way to study the early stages of protein-misfolding diseases like Parkinson’s or Chronic Wasting Disease, and this may aid the development of new treatments.

These diseases are tricky to detect in incubation period. For example if someone has Alzheimer’s, it won’t be apparent that person is sick until they start exhibiting symptoms. 

Jason Weaver/flickr

A bill has advanced in the Iowa House to toughen penalties when texting while driving results in a fatal car crash.   

The bill clarifies that a driver who’s been texting can be guilty of vehicular homicide just as one who has been drinking.   

The bill follows a fatal crash in Fort Dodge in 2015 that killed 56-year-old David Castenson and 85-year-old Velma Castenson.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A controversial proposal to ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat has been removed from the GOP agenda in the Iowa House, roughly 24 hours after it was introduced.   

Republicans will now return their attention to a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  

“This is the legislation we have consensus on,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Joel Fry (R-Osceola).   “We’ve been working over the last few hours trying to get consensus within our caucus.”

WIKICOMMONS / Farragutful

Five counties in eastern Iowa are trying out a less formal approach to family court in hopes of resolving cases faster and preserving court resources.  

Judge Nancy Tabor of Scott County says currently her docket is full of people representing themselves. Most people aren’t familiar with the court system, which means these cases take a lot of time.

So Tabor is trying out a more straightforward approach.

johnson county building
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A Johnson County supervisor said he is disappointed in the Legislature’s decision to pass a bill prohibiting local governments from setting their own minimum wages.  

Johnson County has the highest minimum wage in the state at $10.10. It would be set back to $7.25 if Gov. Terry Branstad signs the preemption bill into law.

Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said he thinks it is a mistake for the state to “usurp local control.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

Legislation to address Iowa’s deadly opioid epidemic passed the Iowa House today by a wide margin, but lawmakers turned down a Democratic amendment to make it harder to fraudulently acquire prescription painkillers.   

The bill will require all doctors to register with the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.  

John Pemble /IPR file photo

President Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture is awaiting a vote in the Senate agriculture committee, which could come this week. Committee member Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, is confident Perdue will ultimately be confirmed by the full Senate.

“Agriculture will have a big advocate in the Trump administration once Gov. Perdue is in place,” Grassley says.

John Pemble/IPR

A controversial bill to limit benefits for injured Iowa workers won final legislative approval last night, passing the Iowa Senate on a partisan vote of 29 to 21.   

Backers say the current system has become biased against employers.  

Critics say the bill will reduce employers’ liability to provide benefits to workers injured on the job.  

Officials estimate that 20,000 Iowa workers are injured each year.

Joyce Rrussell/IPR

A bill to bring the minimum wage down in counties that have raised it won final legislative approval in the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate last night.  

It will now be up to Governor Branstad to sign the bill rescinding the higher wages in effect in Polk, Linn, Johnson, and Wapello Counties, where the wage is now higher than the statewide minimum of $7.25 an hour.      

Republicans complained the current trend creates a hodge-podge of varying wages.   

“This bill creates certainty, predictability, and consistency,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull).   

Iowa State University news service

Iowa’s Board of Regents has made it official. Former UNI President Benjamin Allen will serve as interim president of Iowa State after Steven Leath leaves Ames for Auburn University in May.  

Allen is a familiar figure at Iowa State. He’s been a professor, department chair, dean, vice president of academic affairs and provost at the school. He’ll become interim president May 9th, the day after Leath leaves office. Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter says Allen will begin work three weeks before then.

John Pemble / IPR

Lawmakers begin another week at the Iowa statehouse this week.

mother mosque circle
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A few hundred people gathered at North America’s longest-standing mosque in Cedar Rapids Sunday to show support for the Muslim community. 

Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Native American and atheist leaders spoke to a crowd at the Mother Mosque of America about equality, acceptance and love.

The interfaith rally was held to counteract recent hate crimes and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Mother Mosque Imam Taha Tawil thanked the participants for supporting tolerance and religious freedom.

John Pemble / IPR

Six weeks ago, legislation about changing Iowa's collective bargaining law featured a long and contentious debate in both chambers, and hundreds of demonstrators at the Capitol.  During this process lobbyist Drew Klein, state director for Americans for Prosperity, advocated for this bill.  Turns out he was not registered during this time as a lobbyist.  The House Ethics Committee took up a complaint about Klein this week and we'll hear part of the committee's process during their first action of this General Assembly.

Iowa State University

Iowa’s Board of Regents is selecting a former Iowa State University administrator to return as interim president.  The Regents are meeting Monday to name Ben Allen interim president.

Allen served four years as ISU’s provost before the Regents appointed him president of University of Northern Iowa in 2006.  He led that campus until retiring in 2013.

Joyce Russell/IPR

On a partisan vote of 26 to 21, the GOP-controlled Senate last night approved its version of an elections bill that will require voters to present identification at the polls. 

The bill also requires pollworkers to verify signatures of voters, adds some complexity to absentee voting, as well as limiting the window for early voting.

That has led Democrats to argue that the bill will make it harder for Iowans to be handed a ballot, and more complicated  to complete the voting process. 

usembassy_montevideo/Flickr

 

President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, testified in a confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture committee today, but remains far from the head job at USDA.

 

The committee did not indicate when it would vote on whether to advance Perdue’s nomination.

 

Chris Becker/flickr

Students from Iowa State University were at the Capitol Thursday lobbying for a bill they believe will save the lives of underage drinkers on college campuses.  

The bill is designed to get young people to seek help when someone is incapacitated from too much alcohol.       

ISU Student Body President Cole Staudt recalls returning home with a drunken friend who was borderline unresponsive.

“I thought to myself, probably he should see someone, but I'm 19 years old,” Staudt recalls.  “If I get in  trouble with the law my world is over.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

Three nominees for the Iowa Board of Regents faced questioning from the Iowa Senate Education Committee, as Senators mull whether to confirm Governor Branstad’s choices for six-year terms on the board.

The nominees are former Republican State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan and former Democratic State Representative Nancy Dunkel of Dyersville.

Branstad reappointed Regent Sherry Bates, who has served only a partial term on the board.

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