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The Iowa economy is still growing, but not as robustly as predicted, and tax receipts for this budget year are off to a slow start.    

That’s the conclusion of members of the Iowa Revenue Estimating Conference,  who say unless things pick up, this year’s state budget of $7.3 billion will have to be trimmed by roughly $130 million.

Department of Management Director Dave Roederer says there are several drags on the economy.

Grand Design Recreational Vehicles

Forest City-based Winnebago Industries is reporting strong revenue growth for fiscal 2017. The results are driven mostly by profits from its towable recreational vehicle division.

Revenue and income at Winnebago are up substantially from a year ago. The manufacturer of RVs brought in more than $1.5 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending August 26. That’s a nearly 59 percent increase from 2016. Operating income for the year improved by 90 percent to $125 million. Company president and CEO Michael Happe credits robust sales of its Grand Design towable division.

Image courtesy of Witching Hour Festival

Iowa City native Dan Perkins, aka Tom Tomorrow, is the creator of This Modern World, a weekly political and satirical cartoon which has been a mainstay of the alternative press for more than two and a half decades. He says that the country's tense political environment lately has been challenging in many ways, and the speed at which news is made is particularly difficult. 

pills and money
Images Money / flickr

It’s less than two weeks until people have to start signing up for next year’s health insurance plans, and Iowans who buy their own insurance through the Affordable Care Act don’t know what to expect. They don’t know what system they will use to buy insurance, what plans will be available to them, or how much they will have to pay.

Iowa is waiting for a last-minute decision from federal agencies on whether Iowans will buy insurance through the ACA marketplace, or through the state’s proposed "stopgap" system.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture won’t go forward with rules meant to make it easier for small livestock producers to report possible unfair treatment.

The agency’s decision on the proposal, which came at the tail end of the Obama administration, was announced Tuesday and met with mixed response.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds had phone conversations today with both President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt about a controversial proposal to scale back the Renewable Fuel Standard, reducing the mandate for Iowa-grown biofuels.    

Iowa politicians are putting a full-court press on the Trump administration, after the EPA proposed  reducing the volume of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol blended into gasoline.   

Reynolds called her conversation with the president “constructive and productive.”  

Image by Rob Holysz

Hari Kondabolu, a New Yorker and first-generation American of Indian descent, is an awarded comedian who has a problem with the negative stereotypes of southeast Asians and Indian people in the media. He explores that frustration in his new documentary “The Problem with Apu,” which highlights the effect of the character on his life growing up. 

Sarah Boden/IPR

A group of state attorneys general, including Iowa's Tom Miller, are suing U.S. Education Sec. Betsy DeVos and her department for what they say is a failure to enforce a rule that protects student borrowers from predatory for-profit schools.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

The West Des Moines shopping district known as Valley Junction is officially joining the National Register of Historic Places. The designation makes buildings in the neighborhood eligible for various preservation tax credits.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Houses on the near east side of Des Moines, within sight of the Capitol dome, are among the city’s oldest. They are also among the most in disrepair. Some changes are afoot to freshen the look of three low-income neighborhoods.

Stacie Phillips works amidst a whir of construction activity in the shell of a house built in 1907 from a kit popular at the time.

“It’s a wonderful old house with the original trim, the conference ceilings," she says. "It has the original, beautiful swing-out casement windows we have rehabbed. Just a beautiful plan.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

A legislative committee studying Iowa’s opioid epidemic heard testimony today on a serious side effect of increased heroin use in the state.   

Addicts share needles to shoot heroin, and public health experts say that has contributed to a large increase in hepatitis C cases in Iowa. 

Sarah Ziegenhorn with the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition told lawmakers Iowa should join other states 

and approve needle exchange programs.   

Author Sarah Miller remembers first reading the Little House on the Prairie books when she was in 4th grade. She says when she went back to reread them as an adult, she saw there was more going on than she picked up on as a young adult. 

"I thought about Ma. I read a scene where Laura wakes up and Ma is sitting by the window and has a pistol in her lap," she says. "If you're the lady in the rocking chair, it's your job to make everything safe and cozy. And you don't know if it's all going to work out that way."

Flickr / National Renewable Energy Lab

Sen. Chuck Grassley had lunch Monday with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, on the same day he and a group of bipartisan senators sent Pruitt a letter urging him to not reduce the amount of biodiesel in the nation’s fuel supply for 2018.

A new report suggests the Environmental Protection Agency should consider lowering the legal limit in drinking water for nitrates, a chemical often connected to fertilizer use.

People who drink water with elevated, but not illegal, levels of nitrates could be at an increased risk of kidney, ovarian and bladder cancer, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group asserts. But a University of Iowa researcher who studies nitrate contamination says the connection to cancer is inconsistent and other chemicals may be involved.

Joyce Russell/IPR

More than 200 people died from opioid use last year, and in some parts of the state, by the end of this year the total number of overdoses will double. 

A statehouse committee heard two days of testimony on the growing number of deaths from prescription painkillers and heroin in Iowa.  Health care providers urged legislators to expand treatment to those addicted to opioids.

Mike Polich heads the UCS Healthcare drug treatment center in Des Moines.  

He showed lawmakers a photo of patients standing in line to get methadone, a drug that helps addicts get off heroin.

There will be new restrictions on the weed killer dicamba for the 2018 growing season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

The broadly defined restrictions, similar to what the state of Missouri imposed over the summer, were announced Friday in a news release. The EPA says it reached an agreement with agriculture giants Monsanto, BASF and DuPont on ways to tamp down on dicamba drift, which has been blamed for destroying or damaging millions of acres of crops in the United States.

WIKICOMMONS / Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Farmers use fertilizer because it helps crops grow. But according to a new study from Iowa State University, for some native plant species in Iowa a chemical found in fertilizer does the opposite, harming the biodiversity in Iowa’s tallgrass prairies.

Nitrogen is found in fertilizer and is hard to contain as it flows from farm fields to water and gets into the air, reaching other plants.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

A former Iowa DCI agent, who was fired after reporting speeding by then-Governor Branstad’s security detail, would not be getting his day in court soon under a motion filed this week in Polk County District Court.  

The motion filed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says former agent Larry Hedlund’s case should be put on hold until Branstad completes his assignment as U.S. Ambassador to China.  

MadMaxMarchHere / Wikimedia Commons

Four finalists to be the next president of Iowa State University were on the Ames campus this week for interviews and meetings with faculty, staff and community members. Now, the search committee will review the feedback from the public forums and meet with the Board of Regents. A final decision is expected on October 23rd. The next president will replace Steven Leath who is now president of at Auburn University in Alabama. 

iowa city
Kris / flickr

The Trump administration announced Thursday it is leaving UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, but Iowa City still expects to keep its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon says he is "profoundly disappointed" by the decision, but he does not believe this will change Iowa City’s designation.

"Our relationship is directly with UNESCO as a city," Kenyon says. "The designation was conferred upon Iowa City by UNESCO directly, so I don’t see a way that this would have an impact on that."

Nodaway Valley Historical Museum

This weekend citizens from a southwest Iowa community’s past will come back to life for the Nodaway Valley Historical Museum seventh annual cemetery walk.

Reenactors will revive 11 people buried in the Clarinda Cemetery. This isn’t a spooky event, but rather one that allows people from in and around Page County to learn about local history. 

Nodaway Valley Historical Museum curator Trish Okamoto says researching each of the departed takes about a year.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds' appointee to head the Iowa Department of Human Services today painted a bleak picture of morale among Iowa's child protection workers, citing high caseloads and recent high-profile child abuse deaths.   

Director Jerry Foxhoven told the Iowa Council on Human Services that he's been visiting with social workers individually and in groups to assess the needs on the front lines.   

He says some workers have not met personally with the top DHS official since the days of the Tom Vilsack administration.

As soybean and cotton farmers across the Midwest and South continue to see their crops ravaged from the weed killer dicamba, new complaints have pointed to the herbicide as a factor in widespread damage to oak trees.

Monsanto and BASF, two of agriculture’s largest seed and pesticide providers, released versions of the dicamba this growing season. The new versions came several months after Monsanto released its latest cotton and soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist dicamba in 2016. Since then, farmers across the Midwest and South have blamed drift from dicamba for ruining millions of acres of soybeans and cotton produced by older versions of seeds.

Now, complaints have emerged that the misuse of dicamba may be responsible for damage to oak trees in Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Officials with NAACP of Iowa are planning to try again next year to win protections for African-Americans who face barriers to employment after serving time in prison.    

The initiative known as Ban the Box would eliminate a common question on job applications about an applicant’s criminal history, while preserving the employer’s right to get that information later in the hiring process.  

Backers say ex-convicts who have paid their debt to society are too often turned away in the first round of screening regardless of their fitness for the job.  

Sarah Boden/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she hasn’t received any indication from the White House that it opposes Iowa’s attempt to lower premium rates for health insurance policies on the Obamacare exchange.

One Iowa

The state’s largest advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning residents is staging a first-time event in Des Moines. The full-day summit is aimed at workplace culture.

One Iowa says the first annual gathering to be held at Principal Financial Group is designed to show employers how to improve their policies toward LGBTQ workers. The executive director of the organization, Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, says it makes sense to focus on the office because that’s where people spend much of their time.

Courtesy of Tracy Peterson

Johnson County has declared that from now on, Columbus Day will be recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Iowa City has also made the proclamation - joining dozens of cities across the U.S. in doing so.

In this News Buzz edition of River to River, Ben Stanton talks with Tracy Peterson, an Iowa City resident who has been pushing for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day since the 1990s.

Jean Poland Photography / Mason City Chamber of Commerce

A forum is scheduled for Saturday morning at Mason City High School to discuss two measures on its November ballot that total up to $32 million in bonds that would support several development projects.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa is one of 38 states that radically changed the way it runs Medicaid over the past few years. The state moved about 600,000 people on the government-run health program into care that is managed by for-profit insurance companies.

The idea is that the private companies would save the state money, but it has been a rocky transition in Iowa, especially for people like Neal Siegel.

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