IPR News Stories

Jennifer Morrow / flickr

The health insurance company Medica has decided to sell individual plans on Iowa’s Affordable Care Act exchange in 2018. The announcement came Monday in a news release.

It’s likely Medica will be the only company selling individual ACA-compliant health insurance statewide in Iowa. It’s proposing to increase rates by an average of 43.5 percent.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa’s insurance commissioner is urging people to read and comment on a proposal he hopes will keep insurance carriers selling individual policies in the state in 2018.  Two carriers have already said they won’t sell such policies in Iowa next year, and a third is expected to decide soon.  Commissioner Doug Ommen says he hopes to get the federal government’s permission by the end of this month to implement his plan but stresses the government needs to agree on a longer-term heal

International Jugglers' Association

The 70th International Juggler’s Association Festival is set to take place at Cedar Rapids’ Paramount Theater on July 10-16th. The festival will include technical training workshops, a juggling history museum, a youth showcase performance, and a free ‘learning zone’ for aspiring jugglers.

The festival will open with a Welcome Show on Tuesday and close out with a show by the Cascade of Stars on Saturday, which is comprised of professional juggling and circus acts from around the world.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Two giants of American agriculture and industry are closer to becoming one.

 

Dow and DuPont, both leaders in agricultural chemicals and seeds, among other products, received approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to move ahead with a merger, provided they divest several products.

 

Office of Sen. Joni Ernst

Iowa’s junior U.S. Senator is describing the mood at the Capitol as somber following the shootings at a Republican Congressional baseball practice. But Joni Ernst is hesitant to call for security to accompany each member of Congress.

Capitol police were at the ball field in Alexandria, Virginia, because of the presence of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot. They have been praised for their quick action to prevent more casualties. Republican Senator Ernst says members of Congress need to be vigilant, but she’s uncertain if they need armed protection.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says she plans to run for a full term in 2018.  Reynolds became governor when Terry Branstad resigned last month to become the U-S ambassador to China.  Branstad’s term runs through January, 2019.  Reynolds says current acting Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg will be her running mate.  They’ve established a new campaign committee and plan to make a final decision and a formal announcement within the next few months.

After coming to an agreement with U.S. trade officials to bring American beef to China after a 14-year hiatus, the most populous country in the world is set to once again import U.S.-raised beef. To take advantage of the massive new market, however, the U.S. cattle industry is going to have to make some changes.

Drake Law School

Longtime child protection and family law expert Jerry Foxhoven will become the new head of Iowa’s Department of Human Services.

In the past year, two high profile deaths of adopted Iowa teenaged girls have raised questions about DHS’s leadership and policies. Both girls, who were not related and adopted by different families, were extremely malnourished when they died. 

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Drake University is officially opening a renovated building to house its occupational therapy doctorate program. It will be a place where students learn and patients are helped to recover.

A former bookstore has been converted into the home of Drake’s year-old doctorate program in occupational therapy. In addition to classrooms, it features a four-room apartment and a streetscape, complete with an automobile. A member of the first class of students in the program, Maddy Nave, says the caregivers of people with ALS recently came to the building for training.

marijuana
Tomas de Aquino/flickr

Iowa passed emergency rules Tuesday to expand the list of medical conditions that allow a patient to use medical marijuana. It's the first phase of implementing the new medical marijuana law signed last month.  

Iowans diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS and other severe or terminal illnesses can start applying for a registration card June 19.

When cards are issued in August, those patients still won't be able to legally obtain medical marijuana in the state.

Chad Pregracke, president of Living Lands and Waters, a river clean up and educational organization, has a different kind of project that's going on display at the Figge Art Museum this month.

For nearly 20 years, he’s been traveling along the Mississippi and other rivers around the United States to clean up waste. During that time span, he’s collected a lot of things, like bowling pins, bowling balls, claw foot tubs, and a hand full of messages in a bottle.

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Like many members of the U.S. Senate, Chuck Grassley hasn’t seen a draft of the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. 

A group of Republican senators has been working on the legislation in closed meetings, and details of the bill are secret. This clandestineness has been criticized as it does not allow stakeholders or even other Senators, like Grassley, to comment on and possibly shape the legislation. 

Reid Chandlet, Trilix Group

Ten months after the announcement of its creation, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator has a permanent executive director. The incubator for start-up companies involved in agriculture also is bringing in its first class of five.

Flickr / jess2284

Iowa ranks fifth nationally in overall child wellbeing in this year’s Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book. But there's still room for improvement.

As a senior associate and fiscal director for the Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center, Mike Crawford works with the Casey Foundation on its annual report. He says that while Iowa compares very well to other states, when Iowa is compared to itself the picture is less optimistic.

NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

The space probe Cassini has been exploring Saturn since 2004.  One of the instruments on the two story tall spacecraft is from the University of Iowa called the Radio Plasma and Wave Science (RPWS) instrument.  It picks up Saturn’s radio waves.

 

University of Iowa scientist Bill Kurth takes telemetry from the RPWS and converts it to audio files in the human hearing range.  It’s a mix of ascending tones.  Some have a squealing quality.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa’s insurance commissioner is asking the federal government to approve a plan that could keep the state’s individual health insurance market from collapsing. It’s possible the state could have no insurers selling individual plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange in 2018.

Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen says tweaking the ACA could stabilize the state’s individual market and make it more attractive to insurers.

Flickr / John Mitchell

Over the long summer break, students can lose weeks of learning from the previous school year. But there are ways to keep kids engaged with reading and writing. 

Iowa State University's Emily Hayden, an assistant professor of literacy education, says the key is to make these activities not feel like school. Instead, parents should think outside the box and capitalize on a child’s interests. 

For example, if your kid likes being outside, get them a "science" notebook.

Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association

A rural telephone cooperative in western Iowa is receiving a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help upgrade its broadband capabilities. The money will enable it to replace copper wires with fiber.

The Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association in the Guthrie County town of Menlo is getting a $6.5 million loan from the USDA. It will use the money to lay more than 200 miles of fiber. Association general manager Jim Nelson says access to high-speed internet is increasingly important for the cooperative’s 700 members.

Flickr / David Wilson

A Muscatine mother of four who was born in Mexico will not be deported for breaking a state law. Prosecuting Martha Martinez for identity theft would have jeopardized her legal residency through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Martinez came to Iowa from Mexico when she was 11 years old.  As a young adult she used a false identity to gain employment.

Farmers and ranchers, with their livelihoods intimately tied to weather and the environment, may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump Administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

John Pemble / IPR

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie signed on with more than 200 mayors last week to uphold the Paris Agreement. That’s the global accord from which President Donald Trump withdrew the United States. Cownie says it’s a challenge for the city to move forward with clean energy goals without more buy-in from state leaders who regularly fall in line with the president.

“To ignore that factual piece and the science around it and all the data that’s out there is really unfortunate for the citizens of the state of Iowa and looking at our future and how we preserve our resources,” Cownie says.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program is closing offices in Burlington and Keokuk this summer to prepare for cuts to victim services funding. 

The closures come as Iowa programs that help victims of domestic and sexual violence are trying to figure out how to deal with a combined $5.7 million cut in state and federal funding.

DVIP Executive Director Kristie Fortmann-Doser  says a lack of private places for victims to drop in and talk to advocates could impact their immediate safety.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

For the last year, city planners have been studying traffic patterns in downtown Des Moines with the goal of making the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. They have now unveiled their early findings.

A preliminary plan includes the conversion of one-way streets downtown into two-ways, the addition of much more street parking and buffered lanes for bicyclists to make travel for them safer. The author of the book “Walkable City,” Jeff Speck, is helping redesign Des Moines’ downtown.

file: Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

President Trump is touting the need to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, and water transportation systems this week and farmers are among those hoping to benefit from new federal attention to infrastructure.

 

Dean Borg/IPR

Robert Donley, Executive Director for Iowa’s Board of Regents during the past nine years, says he’s leaving the state university system facing major financing challenges.

Donley lists "predictable and appropriate funding" as the major challenge.

iowa hospital association
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

As the U.S. Senate crafts a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Iowa Hospital Association is emphasizing its opposition to the bill that came out of the U.S. House.

Iowa hospital leaders expressed concerns about proposed cuts to Medicaid funding Wednesday at a news conference in Cedar Rapids. They say cuts would cause problems for patients, hospitals, care providers and the state budget.

City of Cedar Rapids

The latest report on existing industries in the Cedar Rapids area shows employers remain concerned about the number of available workers. The outlook, however, is more positive than a year ago.

Each year, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance surveys around 85 business executives and plant managers from a wide spectrum of industries to get their views on the area’s economic climate. The Alliance’s local business projects specialist, Mike Lukan, says workforce availability continues to be a challenge in Cedar Rapids. But things are looking up.

Casey's General Stores

Ankeny-based convenience store chain Casey’s General Stores is reporting it fell short of some of its goals for fiscal 2017. While in-store traffic was up almost three percent at the nearly 2,000-store chain, executives had hoped for 6.2 percent growth. Casey’s President and CEO Terry Handley says the company faced the same pressures in 2017 everyone in the grocery industry confronted.

factory
Christopher Dilts [Barack Obama / flickr]

An Iowa research group says manufacturing jobs continue to decline in the state, even after a new sales tax break was given to manufacturers. 

According to the Iowa Policy Project, a tax break that makes more manufacturing supplies exempt from state sales taxes has not led to more jobs in the manufacturing sector.

The statement comes after the Legislative Services Agency announced that tax break could cost the state about $100 million. It was originally expected to cost about $21 million. 

Flickr / Superb Colours

This is the first year fireworks can be sold in Iowa. So far there are 12 licensed retailers, though that number may grow to nearly 1,000. 

Retailers hypothetically were able to start selling bottle rockets, ground spinners and roman candles on June 1st. But since the bill was signed into law only last month, State Fire Marshal Jeff Quigle says it’s taken his office a bit of time to figure out the licensing process, which usually could take more than six months to create.

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