IPR News Stories

Burlington Hawkeye

An administrative law judge in Des Moines today heard arguments in an ongoing public records conflict pitting the Iowa Public Information Board against the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation and the Burlington Police Department.  

The Board is pursuing a contested case against the law enforcement agencies, seeking police video and other evidence in the fatal police shooting of Autumn Steele at her home in Burlington in January of 2015.    

The mother of two was shot and killed by Officer Jesse Hill who answered a domestic dispute call at the home.

monica vernon
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Monica Vernon and Brad Hart will face each other in a runoff election for Cedar Rapids mayor next month.

None of the eight candidates got more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday, which is required to win.

Vernon, a businesswoman and former city council member, led the field with 30 percent of the vote. She says giving out her phone number and having conversations with Cedar Rapids residents has been central to her campaign.

Michael Leland/IPR / Iowa Public Radio

Environmental lawyer Josh Mandelbaum has won a seat on the Des Moines City Council.  He won a three-way race with 56-percent of the vote over former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Michael Kiernan and Abshir Omar, the president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  Mandelbaum says his stand on water quality issues helped put him over the top.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Advocates for Iowa’s most severely disabled patients spoke out Tuesday about recent changes in the state’s privately-managed Medicaid program now in its second year. 

One of the for-profit companies managing the program has pulled out, and critics say the neediest patients may be harmed by having to change case managers and providers over a period of one month.    

Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) is a leading critic of Medicaid privatization.  He grilled Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven at a meeting of the Medical Assistance Advisory Council.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Kim and Connie Schmett will retain their positions in the Reynolds administration for now, while a state ethics board looks into their work as foreign agents for Saudi Arabia.  

But Gov. Kim Reynolds says the legislature should act to ensure that state officials don’t work as foreign agents in the future.  

The Schmetts, who are long-time GOP activists from Clive, own a consulting firm called Schmett & Associates. The Saudis paid the couple over $100,000 for their work on legislation to allow lawsuits against Saudi Arabia after the 9/11 attacks.   

Wikimedia Commons

Iowans going to the polls for municipal elections tomorrow will be asked to show an ID…..but not to worry.

It’s just a run-through county auditors are staging ahead of  Iowa’s new voter ID law going into effect.  

Starting in 2018 voters without an ID will have to swear to their identity, and then in 2019 they’ll be allowed to cast a provisional ballot only.   

IPTV

Iowa Republicans are looking ahead to President Trump running for re-election and competing in the Iowa Caucuses in 2020, and a leading Iowa GOP operative predicts the party will rewrite their rules so members of the state GOP governing board can endorse him.

In 2016, central committee members remained neutral, and some Republicans believe that should be the case again in 2020.  

Steve Scheffler who represents Iowa on the Republican National Committee disagrees. 

He says anyone can come to Iowa and run.

jorge sanders-galvez
John Lovretta / The Hawk Eye

Jorge Sanders-Galvez has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2016 killing of a gender-fluid teen.

Prosecutors say he aided and abetted Jaron Purham in the murder of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson in Burlington.

The jury submitted a verdict after less than two hours of deliberation in Keokuk.

Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers says she was somewhat surprised with the speed of the jury’s decision, but she thinks it was the right decision.

Clay Masters / IPR

There’s a city council election in Des Moines soon, and voters have questions about the rivers where the city draws its water supply.

 

“Is (the water) safe to drink? Is it safe to consume?” candidate Michael Kiernan says he’s been asked.

 

gavel
SalFalko / Flickr

At a hearing Thursday in Johnson County court, attorneys debated whether the state’s new "stand your ground" law allows for immunity from prosecution in self-defense cases.

The issue came up after an August shooting in Iowa City’s downtown pedestrian mall. Lamar Wilson is charged with murder, attempted murder and gang participation in the case.

Mercy Corps

Recovery from a very active hurricane season continues in Texas and Puerto Rico. Iowan Jill Morehead has seen the devastation as part of her work with the global humanitarian aid organization Mercy Corps.

Morehead says although restoring power to Puerto Ricans is getting significant attention, she says clean, affordable water is a more immediate need.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Nearly a quarter of a million patients covered by Medicaid, Iowa’s health care program for the poor, disabled, and elderly, are advised to watch the mail for a new insurance card.  

One of the three for-profit companies who have been managing the program since last year is pulling out.  

The Department of Human Services has been negotiating for months with the companies trying to agree on rates and terms for this year.      

They include Amerigroup Iowa, UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, and AmeriHealth Caritas.   

courtesy Iowans for Sam Clovis

Updated Nov. 2--U.S. Department of Agriculture nominee Sam Clovis of Iowa withdrew from consideration to be the agency's top scientist amid questions about his connection to the Russia probe. 

Clovis sent a letter to President Trump asking for his name to be withdrawn. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A new initiative to combat childhood obesity in Iowa will get underway next month as nearly one-third of Iowa 10 to 17- year- olds remain overweight or obese.      

Communities in Mills, Dubuque, Henry, and Fayette Counties will receive $18,000 grants to promote the program known as “5210-Healthy Choices Count.”

“This is the first statewide effort to provide consistent messaging and programming regarding the subject of childhood obesity,” said Iowa Department of Public Health Director Gerd Clabaugh.

An event Monday planned to mark two Midwestern political appointees joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture was partly spoiled by a political dispute over biofuels.  

John Pemble / IPR

A lawsuit against the Board of Regents in the recruiting and hiring of the University of Iowa president has been dismissed.

The lawsuit accused five current and former regents of breaking the state’s open meetings law by scheduling private meetings to recruit UI President Bruce Harreld. The regents asked the court dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that a majority of the board was never present at the same time during the back-to-back meetings on one day in 2015.

The court has sided with the regents.

Bill Badzo/flickr

There was another court ruling today against public employees over a new state law limiting their bargaining rights in the workplace.

Polk County District Judge Arthur Gamble today threw out a lawsuit filed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

The new law treats public safety employees differently than other public workers.

AFSCME claimed that was a violation of the constitution’s equal protection clause.

In the 1500s, the largest settlement in the United States was in Northwest Iowa. It was a settlement of more than 6,000 residents from various Native American tribes. A new documentary Good Earth: Awakening the Silent City tells the story of the once great city in Lyon County. 

"It's part of a national historic landmark," explains the film's director Kelly Rundle. "If you think about the year that we are depicting in the film, which is around 1650, Boston had maybe 2000 residents, and Good Earth had between 6-10,000 residents 

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa is participating in what researchers are calling the largest-ever genetic study of autism. They’re looking for 50,000 participants nationwide.

The study is being conducted by the New York-based Simons Foundation, which funds scientific research. The UI Carver College of Medicine is one of 25 sites across the country recruiting families to participate. An assistant professor of psychiatry, Jacob Michaelson, is the lead investigator in Iowa and says the project aims to gather genetic samples to help determine the causes of autism.

gavel
SalFalko / Flickr

A district court judge has yet to decide if a hearing is needed to determine whether a man accused in an Iowa City shooting can use a "stand your ground" defense.

The man accused of shooting three people in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall in August is asking the state to dismiss charges against him based on Iowa’s new "stand your ground" law.

Burkey Farms in southeast Nebraska looked into the future a couple of years ago and didn’t like what it saw — a continuation of depressed prices for conventional corn and soybeans. So, the families who run the farm together started discussing how the operation would make money if they couldn’t earn more from their crops.  

Their conversation took a turn toward organics, a $40 billion industry and growing, especially in Iowa and Colorado.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady Thursday issued an order for Iowa courts to follow, banning the routine use of restraints on juveniles during court proceedings.       

Advocates for juvenile offenders, including Drake University’s Middleton Center for Children’s Rights and the ACLU, recommended the change.

They note that in some Iowa counties, juveniles routinely appear before judges in handcuffs and shackles.  

lee county courthouse
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A federal hate crimes attorney says two men "kidnapped, suffocated and executed" a gender-fluid teen in Burlington.

Prosecutor Christopher Perras laid out the state’s case accusing Jorge Sanders-Galvez of first-degree murder in the killing of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson. The opening statement came Thursday after two full days of jury selection in Kekouk’s South Lee County Courthouse.

"The defendant and Jaron Purham shot and killed Kedarie, then took steps to cover it up," Perras says. He adds they had already "left a trail of evidence" after the killing on March 2, 2016.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Republican and Democratic senators from top corn- and ethanol-producing states say their pressure helped prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from changing rules governing renewable fuel production.

But at least one senator, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, says President Trump was their ace in the hole against an EPA chief who has deep ties to the oil and gas industry.

New Ag Guestworker Program Legislation Headed To US House

Oct 26, 2017

A bill to overhaul the federal agricultural guestworker program cleared its first hurdle Wednesday and is headed to the full U.S. House.

The Republican-majority House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 17-16 after two days of debate and over the objections of many Democrats. It’s likely to clear the House, though its future in the Senate is unclear.

John Pemble/IPR

By a wide margin, public workers across Iowa have endorsed their union representation in recertification voting that ended this week, mandated by Iowa’s new collective bargaining law.   

But some public employees will not retain their unions, and their contracts will be dissolved. 

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

A new federal grant will fund a statewide media campaign to educate teenagers and young adults about the dangers of misusing prescription opioids.

Janet Nelson at the Iowa Department of Public Health says the campaign will work to fill gaps in knowledge about prescription drugs.

"Youth, a lot of times, feel that if a drug is prescribed by a doctor, it can't be harmful," Nelson says. 

The grant will also help three counties—Polk, Jasper and Scott—develop additional strategies to reduce problems with prescription opioid abuse.

Dean Borg/IPR

Iowa’s corn and soybean crops are now racing the fall weather. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly update says all of the state’s corn acreage is mature, but most of it is still in the field.

Only 23 percent of the corn crop is harvested. That’s two weeks behind average, and the smallest percentage at this stage of the season since 2009.

It’s the same for soybeans, the latest in the last eight years, with more than a one third of the Iowa’s soybean crop still in the field.

The USDA’s report says yields are running better than expected.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A plan that officials had hoped would keep health insurance affordable for thousands of Iowans has been withdrawn, clearing the way for premiums to more than double.    

Governor Reynolds' administration had been urging the federal government to approve its so-called stopgap plan.  

The plan would have restructured benefits for Iowans getting individual insurance under the Affordable Care Act in order to draw in more young healthy people to keep premiums down.  

ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Iowa State University’s new president is Wendy Wintersteen.

She’s been in various roles at Iowa State for nearly 40-years. She is currently Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences on the Ames campus.

Wintersteen, 61, becomes the first woman to hold Iowa State’s  presidency.

Iowa’s Board of Regents interviewed the three finalists  in closed sessions Monday, then in open session it voted unanimously to make Wintersteen Iowa State’s sixteenth president.

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