IPR News Stories

Joyce Russell/IPR

A school safety bill requiring all districts to be prepared for active shooters and other emergencies is making its way through the Iowa legislature, as lawmakers grapple with the tragedy of school shootings across the country.  

An eastern Iowa lawmaker was overcome with emotion during debate in the Iowa House. 

Winnebago Industries

Towable RVs now account for well more than half of the revenue at Forest City-based Winnebago Industries. Second quarter profits and revenue are up substantially for the recreational vehicle manufacturer from a year ago.

The quarter ended Feb. 24 is the first full quarter since Winnebago bought Indiana-based towable RV maker Grand Design. The results show revenue up more than 26 percent from the second quarter 2017 and an increase in profits of more than 37 percent. Winnebago CEO Michael Happe says the company is grabbing a bigger slice of the towable market.

university of iowa
Vladimir Kulikov / Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa House today approved cuts to the Regents universities that go beyond what the chamber had proposed earlier this year to address a state revenue shortfall in the fiscal year that ends June 30th.   To reach agreement with the Iowa Senate, the House voted to cut Regents funding by nearly $11 million, split between the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.   The universities will have to absorb that in the three months left in the fiscal year.  Democrats resisted but were unable to stop the cuts from being approved.  Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, questioned Pat Grassley, R-Cedar Fa

Paul Allen / https://www.paulallen.com/uss-juneau-wreck-located-famous-for-sullivan-brothers/

Explorers have found the remains of the World War II battleship that carried Iowa’s five Sullivan Brothers. The wreckage of the USS Juneau now lies on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Soloman Islands. 

Wikimedia Commons

A bill to repeal Iowa’s bottle deposit law and replace it with a statewide recycling program failed to clear a Republican-dominated three member panel in the Iowa House today.  

A separate House bill to expand the law by adding more containers is also dead for the year. But the Senate is still considering a total repeal.    

Rep. Guy Vander Linden (R-Oskaloosa) called today’s hearing even though he knew the bill to repeal the bottle deposit law did not have the support to advance.      

Jeff Bryant via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeff-m-bryant/

Wildlife scientists want southern Iowans to help monitor deer for chronic wasting disease. CWD is now in three counties in the state but conservationists are hopeful early intervention can slow its spread.

ivanka
O. Kay Henderson / Radio Iowa

Ivanka Trump—an advisor to President Trump—visited a high-tech job training center in Waukee Monday.

Trump and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds toured the Waukee Innovation and Learning Center to hear from high school students about work they’re doing with local businesses.

The visit was part of a White House effort to promote its infrastructure plan, which includes workforce development initiatives.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Senate elected a new majority leader last week. Sen. Jack Whitver (R – Ankeny) took Bill Dix’s place after he abruptly resigned last week, following video of him appearing to kiss a female lobbyist in a bar surfaced online. While all this drama was going on, there was plenty of legislation moving forward as lawmakers worked to meet a self-imposed deadline for many priority bills. Here’s what IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell says to watch.

The Trump administration wants to show rural communities, which voted for him by wide margins in the 2016 election, they are still on the president’s mind. It suggested a list of broad ideas in January to spark growth and carved out rural interests in an infrastructure plan.

University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine / https://medicine.uiowa.edu/content/match-day-2017-medical-students-anticipate-residency-locations

For medical students in Iowa and throughout the country, Friday was Match Day. That's an anxiety-filled reveal ceremony where the soon-to-be graduates open sealed envelopes to find our where they'll do their residency training. The post-graduate programs are vital to earning a license to practice, and help determine if young doctors will stay in the state.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Typically, Monday mornings at the Capitol aren't the most active day, but nothing was typical about last Monday morning.  Around 10 a.m. a post from a Democratic-leaning blog, Iowa Starting Line, contained pictures and a video of Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix in a Des Moines bar.  He is sitting close to a woman lobbyist and at one point it looks like they briefly kiss.  Hours later, Sen. Dix resigned from the senate.  Jack Whitver was elected as the new minority leader and Charles Schneider as the Senate president.

sandy salmon
John Pemble / IPR

An Iowa House committee Thursday advanced what could become the strictest abortion law in the nation ahead of a legislative deadline.

It would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That provision is attached to a bill that puts limits on the donation and use of fetal tissue.

Democratic lawmakers accused Republicans of being willing to risk women’s lives to make an ideological point.

Roey Ahram via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/roeyahram/

Southeast Iowa’s Des Moines County is seeing a significant increase in sexually transmitted diseases. The uptick comes after Planned Parenthood closed three of its clinics in the area last summer. But it’s not clear if that’s contributing to the increase.

Antonio Montoto/Pexels

Iowa’s nearly 30-year old energy efficiency program would continue, but would be scaled back significantly, under a compromise energy bill that advanced at the statehouse today.  

Since 1990, Iowans have paid into the program through a percentage of their monthly electricity or natural gas bills.   In turn, they have been eligible for millions of dollars in rebates, retrofits and other energy efficiency initiatives.

subcommittee
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa House Republicans are reviving a proposed ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, by adding it as an amendment to another bill that would put limits on the donation and use of fetal tissue in Iowa.

At a subcommittee meeting convened Wednesday to consider the fetal tissue bill, conversation turned mostly to the amendment. It would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks gestation.

Kate Payne

Joining students across the country, hundreds of Iowa students walked out of classes Wednesday to honor the 17 people killed at a school in Parkland, Florida one month ago. While some students were on spring break, others staged demonstrations in Dubuque, Davenport, Fairfield, Council Bluffs, Grinnell and West Liberty.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill favored by power companies and sharply opposed by consumer advocates and environmentalists advanced today in the Republican-controlled Iowa House.  

Critics warn of higher utility bills while backers say the bill is needed to modernize Iowa energy policy.

The bill scales back energy efficiency programs and changes the rules utilities follow before they build new plants and raise rates.     

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa Senate Wednesday chose Sen. Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) as their new Majority Leader, the most powerful position in the Senate.  

Whitver succeeds Sen. Bill Dix, who resigned abruptly this week after compromising photos of him with a statehouse lobbyist appeared on the internet.   

The 28-member GOP caucus chose Whitver, an eight-year veteran of the Iowa Senate, by secret ballot in a closed door meeting two days after Dix resigned.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Republican Chair of the Ethics Committee in the Iowa Senate says he is willing to look at new ethics rules after the departure of the top Senate Republican.  

But Sen. Jerry Behn (R-Boone) questioned whether lawmakers can dictate what kind of relationships legislators can have with lobbyists.

Majority Leader Bill Dix, who is married and the father of three children, resigned his leadership post and his Senate seat after photos surfaced of him appearing to kiss a lobbyist at a Des Moines bar.  

Brandy Berthelson via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/zoologist/

People in need of reproductive healthcare will soon have a new option in Burlington. A family planning clinic is opening almost a year after Planned Parenthood closed three of its Southeast Iowa facilities. 

John Pemble/IPR file photo

UPDATE: 4:00 p.m.

The top Republican in the Iowa Senate, Bill Dix, has resigned his positions as Majority Leader and state Senator, hours after compromising photos of him appeared on the political website Iowa Starting Line.  

The photos showed Dix having drinks with and apparently kissing a female lobbyist at a Des Moines bar one evening earlier this month.  

Some were calling for Dix’s resignation last year after a court approved a $1.75 million sexual harassment settlement against Senate Republicans.  

John Pemble / IPR

State lawmakers are preparing for state agency budget cuts. On Friday, Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Revenue Estimating Conference has revised its estimate of tax receipts this year.

Latest revenue projects have a little bit of good news. The Revenue Estimating Conference meets periodically to estimate how much money in taxes will be collected. This time, members revised their estimate up compared to their estimate in December. “They have a little more money to spend this year,” Russell reports.

Clay Masters/IPR file photo

In 2006, voters elected Bill Northey to be Secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Now, after 11 years, Northey has resigned from that job to accept an Under Secretary position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The legacy Northey leaves behind includes adoption of a statewide, voluntary effort to reduce nutrient runoff from farm fields into streams and rivers. He also oversaw two significant livestock disease outbreaks and leaves behind improved emergency preparedness plans.

courtesy of FilmScene

As Hollywood continues to react to allegations of sexual harassment embodied in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, an Iowa theater is celebrating movies made by women. “Women’s March” at FilmScene in Iowa City is a series of movies and special events limited only by one criteria: the directors are women.

Classics, documentaries, new releases and shorts made by University of Iowa students and alumnae all are on the schedule this month.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

As President Trump imposes larger tariffs for metal, he reaffirms his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Many agricultural products from Iowa go to Canada and Mexico.  As Trump repeatedly says he's willing to start a "trade war", Gov. Reynolds is worried about a backlash.

The governor says the president's actions will have unintended consequences for Iowa farmers and manufacturers.  However, she does support making some changes to NAFTA.

Vaping360 via flickr creative commons / http://vaping360.com/cbd-oil-cannabidiol-hemp-oil/

Iowa has received 21 applications for five licenses to distribute medical marijuana. Potential sites for the dispensaries span the state from Sioux City to Davenport. 

Western Illinois might be close to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, but it’s the driest part of the state this year.

“We really haven’t really had any measurable rain since the middle of October,” says Ken Schafer, who farms winter wheat, corn and soybeans in Jerseyville, north of St. Louis. “I dug some post-holes this winter, and it's just dust.”

Seabamirum via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/seabamirum/

Iowa schools with disproportionately high transportation costs are getting a funding boost from the state. But the one-time increase won’t get them very far.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowans who are getting health insurance through the individual marketplace under the Affordable Care Act would have a new option under a bill that passed  by a large margin  in  the Iowa Senate last night.   

Under the bill, the Iowa Farm Bureau would offer what are being called barebones health plans not subject to the rules of the ACA,  including covering pre-existing conditions and other  mandates.

That would be allowed because the plans are not insurance policies. 

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