IPR News Stories

John Pemble / IPR

At the capitol, state lawmakers gaveled in for their 2018 legislative session.

Majority Republicans are promising a pro-growth, low tax agenda and a balanced budget before they head home to face the voters.     

Minority Democrats are warning that Iowans are paying attention, after last year’s conservative program was signed into law.

Republicans started off the day with their traditional fundraising breakfast in downtown Des Moines, since they can’t raise money for their campaigns once the legislature convenes.       

Joyce Russell/IPR

State lawmakers return to the capitol Monday for their 2018 legislative session.  Majority Republicans achieved many conservative priorities last year, including scaling back collective bargaining restricting abortions, and expanding gun rights. More Republican initiatives are on the agenda this year.     

At the December meeting of the Revenue Estimating Conference, once again, analysts revised downward their estimates of tax receipts flowing into state coffers.  

Gov. Reynolds’ top budget aide said once again it will be status quo spending at best next year.

syringe
WerbeFabrik / Pixabay

State and federal public health officials agree Iowa needs a syringe exchange program to slow the spread of hepatitis C and prevent a possible HIV outbreak among Iowans who inject opioids and meth.

Caleb Housh, mayor of Seymour

High school students in the Seymour Community School District are beginning 2018 taking classes in a former nursing home on the east side of town. They remain displaced after a tornado seriously damaged their school building last year.

legislative leaders
Clay Masters / IPR

Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, says the state’s privatized Medicaid system needs to be "in a better position" before the end of the upcoming legislative session.

Iowa’s handover of its Medicaid system to private companies in 2016 has led to patients losing services and providers losing payment.

Wikimedia Commons

An out-of-state Democratic group is targeting an Iowa statehouse race, hoping to turn a Republican house seat from red to blue.   

The volunteer organization Postcards to Voters is sending hand-written, hand-designed postcards urging Democrats in House District 6 in Sioux City to go to the polls to elect Democrat Rita De Jong in a special election on January 16. 

Postcards to Voters founder Tony McMullin says they target special elections around the country when 

turnout is usually low and where there’s a chance to flip a seat from the GOP to the Democrats.    

Mercy College of Health Sciences

The push to prepare more nurses to fill a growing shortage within the profession is resulting in another educational collaboration. This joint venture involves two private colleges in Des Moines.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

China is the largest importer of U.S. soybeans and, as of this week, the country wants more information on incoming containers.

Soybeans are tested for quality and the ones headed for China under most contracts can have up to two percent so-called foreign material—dirt, stems, grass and weed seeds, according to Iowa State University agricultural engineering professor Charles Hurburgh.

“The Chinese have observed certain weeds, the concentration—the levels—of certain weed seeds to be going up,” Hurburgh says.

Peacock Information Center

The bird population at the nation’s largest producer of peacock hatching eggs is taking a hit from this long stretch of cold weather. It will take years for the numbers to come back.

Dennis Fett operates the Peacock Information Center in the Pottawattamie County town of Minden. He was beginning to recover from a tornado that hit two years ago and killed around 100 birds when the cold snap hit, sending temperatures below zero over the past two weeks.

Pat Blank/IPR

The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts its Census of Agriculture every five years, and farmers have just a few weeks remaining to return their 2017 forms.

Iowa’s deputy secretary of agriculture, Mike Naig, says business, universities, and local and national farm groups use Census of Agriculture data to inform funding and program decisions because the survey gets robust and unbiased results. But only when everyone eligible takes it seriously.

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy has filed a bill that would help fill gaps in the state’s system for tracking prescription opioid suppliers in an effort to identify patients who might be abusing prescription painkillers.

Pharmacies currently have to submit information to the Iowa prescription monitoring program (PMP) when they dispense opioids. The pharmacy board’s bill would require prescribers who supply opioids to also add that information to the PMP.

Cassini / NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Last summer the space probe Cassini finished 14 years of exploring the planet Saturn and its moons.  The craft included the Radio Plasma Waves and Science instrument made by the University of Iowa to measure Saturn’s radio, plasma, and magnetic properties.

This mission may be over, but scientist Bill Kurth is still busy studying the RPWS data from the readings taken by Cassini during its final 22 orbits called “The Grand Finale.” 

Tim Whelan/flickr

Truck drivers, bus drivers, and other operators of commercial vehicles could be more likely to lose their licenses for texting while driving, under legislation the Iowa Department of Transportation will ask state lawmakers to approve this year.  

Operators of commercial vehicles in Iowa are already pulled over and fined for texting or operating a handheld mobile phone, but it’s a general citation for violating federal rules.   

Iowa law does not spell out a specific cellphone citation for operators of commercial vehicles.   

Christopher Gannon / courtesy of ISU

An Iowa State University professor’s lecture on what people ate during the Great Depression will be getting an audience well beyond her classroom.

History professor Pamela Riney-Kehrberg teaches a class called America Eats, which she describes as a food history of the United States. It caught the attention of C-SPAN, which filmed her this fall giving a lecture on the Great Depression.

Riney-Kehrberg says both food and the Great Depression seem to be topics that interest a broad array of people, which is why it felt like a good fit for C-SPAN’s national audience.

Iowa Caregivers

A new report is praising Iowa as one of three states developing solutions to the problem of a shortage of direct care workers. Advocates for caregivers in the state say they need legislative support to enact them.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

More than 56,000 Iowans are enrolled in an individual health insurance plan for 2018 through the Affordable Care Act, according to Medica, the only insurance company left on Iowa's ACA exchange. 

An Iowa Insurance Division spokesman says that number is, "roughly in line with the 18,000 to 22,000 [consumers] we expected to leave the market." 

Emily Woodbury / Iowa Public Radio

A Johnson County-based nonprofit is joining with the Iowa Department of Corrections to produce an on-line resource guide for people who are being released from prison. The organization is trying to compile a complete list of support services available in the state.

The group Inside Out Reentry Community formed in 2015 to assist recently incarcerated men and women find jobs, housing, counseling services and even clothing after their release. Its director Mike Cervantes says there is plenty of support for these people, but it’s not always easy to find.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts consumers will be paying less for beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey in early 2018 than at the start of 2017. Not so for eggs.

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

The number of opioid-related deaths is expected to increase in Iowa this year compared to 2016. There were 180 opioid-related deaths in Iowa last year, and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is projecting that number will hit 201 by the end of 2017.

Eighty-six Iowans died of opioid overdoses in 2016, and IDPH expects about 96 opioid overdose deaths in 2017. 

Michael Leland / Iowa Public Radio

It’s been 725 days since Des Moines has received more than three inches of measurable snow. The last time this happened was in the 1920s.  Kelsey Angle from the National Weather Service says a lack of snow could hurt next year’s farm crops.

“If we continue to see a deficits in regards to precipitation and particularly snowfall as we head throughout the winter months, that could have some serious consequences as we go into the spring and the summer," he says.

Overall, central Iowa is below the average of 40 inches of annual precipitation by six inches. 

University of Iowa Health Care

Programs offered by the University of Iowa to draw more young people into the so-called STEM fields appear to be working. The number of students attending STEM-related workshops sponsored by the U of I during the past year increased substantially.

Amy Mayer / IPR

Advanced biofuels have been touted as the next step beyond the corn-based ethanol that’s the bulk of the country’s renewable fuel for cars and trucks. These next-generation options were supposed to bring jobs to rural communities and provide farmers with fresh revenue sources, in addition to reducing the carbon footprint of vehicles.

UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health is about to make available in Cedar Falls a medical clinic with dedicated service hours for LGBTQ patients. It will be a first-of-its-kind within the hospital chain.

Beginning right after the first of the year, the UnityPoint clinic on Prairie Parkway in Cedar Falls will offer evening hours for LGBTQ patients two Wednesdays a month. Dr. Eric Neverman, a specialist in pediatrics and internal medicine,  will help staff the clinic. He and the rest of the providers there have completed what’s called Safe Zone training.

johnson county building
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Johnson County is continuing to advocate for a higher minimum wage despite the Iowa Legislature’s reversal of local wage increases earlier this year.

Two economists involved with the county's Minimum Wage Advisory Committee told the board of supervisors Thursday the county has not seen adverse impacts from raising its minimum wage to $10.10.

John Pemble / IPR

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds says the state is making “steps in the right direction” in curbing a culture of sexual harassment at the Iowa capitol.

Reynolds will serve in the state’s top job during her first legislative session when lawmakers come back to the capitol in January. Hanging over the session is the aftermath of a $1.75 million sexual harassment court settlement to a former Iowa Senate Republican caucus staffer.

“I don’t think it was handled appropriately but first of all let’s just say this is not a partisan issue,” Reynolds tells Iowa Public Radio.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Ambassador Terry Branstad is back home in Iowa for the first time since assuming his post in China, arriving for his brother’s funeral in Winnebago County on Monday, and planning to spend the holidays here. 

Branstad traveled back to the state with his wife Chris, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters.   They will attend Christmas Mass at Christ the King Church in Des Moines and return to China on January 3rd.

Branstad was working at a desk in the governor’s offices Wednesday, catching up on ambassador business.   

Grand Design Recreational Vehicles

What a difference a year makes for recreational vehicle maker Winnebago Industries. The Forest City-based manufacturer begins fiscal 2018 well ahead of its earnings for last year at this time.

USMC/Wikimedia Commons

Kim Reynolds’ administration is backing off proposed rules for guns in Iowa day cares, something the Department of Human Services up to now has not addressed.    

DHS was scheduled to present the proposed rules before state lawmakers last week, but the item was  pulled from the Administrative Rules Review Committee agenda.  

At her weekly news conference, Reynolds said they want to hear from all stakeholders first.

“We hadn’t done that,” Reynolds said.   “We want to make sure we're looking at that from all perspectives.” 

Tony Dehner / Iowa Public Radio

Lots of new music was released in 2017; here at Iowa Public Radio, we received more than 2,000 albums. If wading through all of that sounds overwhelming, never fear. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Tony Dehner and Mark Simmet of Iowa Public Radio's Studio One about their favorite albums of the year. 

We've also had our most musically-minded staff curate their top five favorite albums of this year, including Morning Edition host Clay Masters. Check out our Spotify playlist and read album reviews below. 

chuck grassley
John Pemple/IPR file photo

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley says he is not questioning the White House’s vetting of potential federal judges after three judicial nominees were recently rejected. 

Grassley says it’s not that the rejected nominees lack legal capabilities, rather, they "probably lack good judgment." 

"And you want judges that are going to have good judgment—more important, a better word would be judicial temperament, meaning they’re going to leave their own views out of cases," Grassley says. 

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