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John Pemble/IPR

 

The lobbying groups who treat state lawmakers to thousands of dollars worth of free food every year could face some new requirements under last-minute legislation at the capitol.   

It’s part of an 11th hour budget bill under consideration as the legislature marches toward adjournment.  

Interest groups routinely serve breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks to elected representatives as they work to influence legislation.

There’s no limit on what they can spend during the session as long as all lawmakers are invited.  

Gage Skidmore

Ron Paul testified today in the federal trial of three former staffers from his 2012 presidential campaign. The trio is accused of using a third party to disguise payments made to former Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson in exchange for his endorsement of Paul.   

Though at times he had trouble hearing, the former Texas congressman appeared at ease on the stand, making several quips which got smiles and occasional laughs from the jury. A joke about former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was  particularly well received.

John Pemble, IPR news

The annual Workers Memorial Day is remembering Iowa lives lost while on the job in 2015. 

Thirty-nine Iowans were killed at work last year.

The list includes Andrea Farrington, who was murdered at Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville last summer.

There were also people who died in explosions, falls, trench collapses, and vehicle accidents.

Iowa’s Commissioner of Labor Michael Mauro says on average, 12 people are killed on the job every day in the U.S.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The population of Northern Colorado is booming. People are flocking to the area and population numbers are on the rise.

The same thing is happening with dairy cows.

Weld and Larimer counties already sport high numbers of beef and dairy cattle, buttressed by the region's feeding operations. But an expansion of a cheese factory owned by dairy giant Leprino Foods will require even more cows to churn out the milk needed to produce bricks of mozzarella cheese and whey protein powder.

John Pemble/IPR

A state senator who oversees spending on public buildings, including the capitol complex, has harsh words for Governor Branstad as state lawmakers move toward adjournment.  

The governor has rejected borrowing for infrastructure repairs, including more than $600 million in deferred maintenance.

As a result, repairs will be left undone at the Wallace State Office Building, the State Historical Building, and the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

Des Moines Democrat Matt McCoy charges that Branstad will not leave public buildings in better shape than he found them.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

The conspiracy trial of three senior staffers from Ron Paul's 2012 Presidential Campaign had its first full day of testimony on Wednesday.  Campaign Chair Jesse Benton, Campaign Manager John Tate, and Deputy Campaign Manager Demitiri Kesari are accused of using a third party to disguise payments made to former Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson in exchange for his endorsement of Ron Paul.

Board of Regents photo

A member of the Iowa Board of Regents is resigning after just one year on the board.  Mary Andringa says she underestimated the time required to fully serve in the role given her other commitments and responsibilities.  Andringa is the Chair of the Board for the Vermeer Corporation in Pella, and a former CEO of that company.  She also serves on a number of other boards.

Andringa has been on the Board of Regents since last May.  Her resignation is effective Saturday. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Activists held a news conference at the statehouse today, visibly shaken by Monday night’s defeat in the House of a medical marijuana bill.  

Backers of medical marijuana say they are still hoping lawmakers will approve a bill legalizing its production and distribution in Iowa so patients don’t have to travel to other states. 

Parents of epileptic children including, Sally Gaer of West Des Moines, say the legislative session is not over yet.

”There is a way to fix this and I implore the house to continue to fight,” Gaer said. 

Des Moines Water Works Blog

The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three northwest Iowa counties over nitrates in the water sparked debate in the Iowa House today.   

A rural lawmaker wants to expand representation on the Water Works Board of Trustees.

He says that’s in part because of the lawsuit alleging drainage districts in Sac, Calhoun, and Buena Vista counties are responsible for high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River.

Rep. Jared Klein (R-Keota) wants urban and rural areas surrounding Des Moines to have a seat at the table if the Water Works raises its rates. 

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

As farmers put their 2016 crops in the ground, they face another year of corn and soybean prices that will make turning a profit on the land challenging. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says already he's seeing early signs of strain in the farm economy.

"We're hearing a little bit from bankers," he said. "We're hearing isolated instances of farmers [hurting]. We're hearing that the 800 number where farmers that are in trouble can call in and ask for help or get advice that they're getting a few more calls now."

John Pemble/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa House last night offered legislation to expand the number of medical conditions covered by Iowa’s medical cannabis law.  

But the legislation would still require Iowans to travel to another state, and it was defeated by a wide margin.  

The measure was debated as a bill to legalize the production and distribution of medical marijuana in Iowa remains stalled in the House.   

Under last night’s bill, Iowans would still have to travel to a limited number of states to purchase cannabis, but that could be expanded to nearby Minnesota.  

Photo by John Pemble

Some Iowa Democrats are changing their party registration in order to vote against 4th District Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King in the upcoming primary, and Governor Branstad says there’s plenty of precedent for the practice.  

Democrats who oppose Congressman King hope to vote for his Republican challenger Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) in the June primary.

Branstad recalls that in 1994, Democrats changed parties to try to defeat him.

IOWA PUBLIC RADIO / SARAH BODEN

Three senior staffers from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign will stand trial at the federal district court in Des Moines Tuesday. The charges stem from $73,000 in alleged under-the-table payments to former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson for his endorsement of Paul.

This is the second trial for the trio.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa public safety officials say they make a handful of arrests each year for attempted child abductions, and they’re advising Iowans to be aware of suspicious activity now that children will be outside in spring weather.  

The Department of Public Safety last year formed a Child Abduction Response Team after abductions and murders of children in Evansdale and Dayton.  

Department Director Roxann Ryan says Iowans are already phoning in when they see something that looks like an abduction in progress.

John Pemble / IPR

Lawmakers return to the capitol in Des Moines for what is expected to be the final week of the 2016 legislative session. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters talked with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the big issues they’re going to tackle (or not) before they can go home.

1)      The State Budget. This is always an issue Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House have to agree over.  A GOP Human Services Budget bill that defunds Planned Parenthood must be reconciled with the Democratic Senate.  

Flickr / David Morris55Laney69

Eight percent of Iowa children have had at least one parent incarcerated, according to a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That statistic works out to roughly 58,000 kids. 

Mike Crawford analyzes child welfare data for Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center. He says research shows the impact of parental incarceration can be just as significant as abuse or domestic violence.

To mitigate negative effects, Crawford says communities should support family stability. 

Photo by Amy Mayer

Near Alexander, Iowa, on a cloudy spring Tuesday, Josh Nelson watches a bright red Case IH Magnum 340 tractor pull a 24-row planter and crest a small hill, dropping corn seed at careful intervals. Nelson says his family farm dodged a weather bullet this week, but it's just one of many hurdles this season promises.

 

Flickr / Michael Coghlan

In February, only 61 percent of those who took the Iowa State Bar Examination passed.  That's the lowest pass rate in more than a decade.

Taking the bar is required of all who wish to practice law in Iowa. February's 69 test takers came from more than two dozen law schools. 

Drake Law School Dean Ben Ullem says to better prepare its students for the bar exam, the school has altered the structure of courses.

Peter Tea / Flickr, Licensed Under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode

Rock icon Prince died April 21, 2016 at his home and studio in Minneapolis. He was 57.

Since the news of his death, fans from all over the country gathered to play his music, including Des Moines native Corey Taylor, frontman for the bands Slipknot and Stone Sour who played "Purple Rain" and "Little Red Corvette" at Minneapolis' First Avenue Club.

Flickr / David Morris

New data from the Iowa DNR shows that drier than normal conditions so far this year have actually been ideal for the state.

Heavy rainfall during the autumn raised concerns that Iowa would experience flooding after the snow melted this spring. But the dryness has normalized hydrological conditions so now stream flow, soil moisture, and water supply are all in normal range. 

John Pemble

Families striving to raise autistic children would get help under a human services budget approved in  the Republican-controlled Iowa House this week.   

But Democrats say private insurers should cover the treatment to take the burden off taxpayers.

Under the bill, more families will have access to a revolving fund to pay for intensive treatment.

“To be able to have early intervention will offer an opportunity to reach a state of normalcy,”  said Rep. David Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant).  

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Turn on the TV and you can barely escape it: presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle deriding free trade agreements, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a bum deal that will hurt the U.S. economy and especially low-wage workers, according to pols from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.

But here in the Midwest, ask a farmer about the TPP, and you're likely to get a different answer.

Iowa Department of Human Services officials say Iowa’s Medicaid system has transitioned into private management with no major systematic problems. But members of the Senate Human Resources Committee say they’re hearing about serious issues from their constituents.

Senate Democrat Bill Dotzler of Waterloo says these problems stem from a lack of consistency among the companies now managing Medicaid. 

"You're not hearing what we're hearing, it's not all roses," says Dotzler. "It is systemic and it's across our districts from senator to senator." 

An Iowa historian is running as an independent to unseat six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley.

Michael Luick-Thrams of Mason City says both major political parties are too married to ideology and can’t do what’s best for the country. 

"We have to have real people with real problems within the halls of government. Be that farmers, or teachers, or labor unionists, or actors, or whoever it needs to be. But someone who’s not there to have a career in politics," says Luick-Thrams.

Photo by John Pemble

A GOP state senator wants clerks of court around the state to keep their offices open during all normal business hours, in spite of a limited judicial branch budget for next year.  

Court officials warn they may have to reduce office hours or furlough workers under a judicial branch status quo spending plan.

In 2009, court employees took unpaid leave and offices were closed for several days to accommodate a nearly four million dollar cut in the judicial branch budget. Hours were reduced in some counties again in 2013.

Photo by John Pemble

The golden dome of the historic Iowa State Capitol is succumbing to damage from the inside out, and scaffolding will soon envelop the structure as part of a $10 million restoration.  

The dome was regilded in 2005, but McCoy says the current problems weren't apparent during a prior restoration project. 

Des Moines Democrat Matt McCoy says moisture has seeped in and eroded the mortar.

“They are going to have to go up into the dome, with scaffolding all around the dome,” McCoy says, “and fix and repair the cupola on down.”

WIKICOMMONS / Ser Amantio di Nicolao

An Iowa woman who lost her daughter in a car crash allegedly caused by an undocumented Honduran immigrant testified before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Michelle Root says her daughter Sarah was killed on the day she graduated college by Edwin Mejia, who was drag racing while intoxicated.

Root says due to the Obama administration’s immigration policies, Mejia was able to post bail and then possibly fled the country after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency declined to detain him.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A state senator best known for leading a long and controversial fight to legalize the hunting of mourning doves said farewell to the Iowa Senate today. 

Des Moines Democrat and avid hunting enthusiast Dick Dearden is retiring after 20 years in the legislature. 

In remarks to his fellow Senators, Dearden recalls leading passage of the dove hunting bill three times before it finally became law in 2011. 

He remembers what he calls one of his favorite e-mails from an animal rights enthusiast:

Photo by John Pemble

A controversial measure to defund Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions is again under consideration at the statehouse, with the blessing of Governor Branstad. 

Republicans have added the measure to a human services budget bill, setting up a showdown with Democratic critics.   

The governor won’t comment on the specific legislation, but at his weekly news conference he made his views clear.

Victor Daly / Ft. Des Moines Museum

Nearly 100 years after the Army's first black officers' training program debuted in Iowa, dozens of old photographs have been discovered showing what life was like when Fort Des Moines was gearing up for World War I. 

The country's oldest African American fraternity returned to its early roots this month when the Fort Des Moines Museum welcomed members of Alpha Phi Alpha in remembering their brothers from generations ago. In 1917, the national fraternity helped recruit black college students to become officers, and a racial barrier was broken. 

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