John Pemble

Arts and Culture Reporter

John Pemble is the Arts and Culture reporter at Iowa Public Radio. In 1989, John began his Iowa Public Radio career in Fort Dodge as a program host for jazz, classical, and contemporary instrumental music programs. He joined Iowa Public Radio’s news department in 2008 to produce arts and culture stories.

John spent ten years as an adjunct professor for Iowa Central Community College’s broadcasting department teaching production and operations classes.

John's favorite public radio program is Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

John Pemble

 

 

Corn dogs, baby ducks, and a butter cow to boot!

 

The Iowa State Fair is a time-honored tradition for many Iowans, and has gained a reputation for being one of the largest fairs in the nation.

 

Do you remember your first fair? 

John Pemble/IPR

Earlier this year Maddie Poppe won this season of American Idol. The national television show features unknown singers from around the country as they perform in front of celebrity pop music judges. Television viewers vote which artists come back and which do not.

Poppe is from Clarksville, an eastern Iowa town with a population of fewer than 2,000 people.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Seven Iowans were honored with the Governor’s Lifesaving Award at the Iowa State Fair Thursday.

Arturo Melendez from Marion saved a woman who was having a heart attack while driving on a highway near Cedar Rapids the day after Christmas.  Melendez saw a stopped car during morning rush hour traffic. When he pulled over to see what was happening, he noticed the driver’s eyes were closed.

 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The legislature went 18 days past the planned 100 when it finally adjourned on May 5th.  The biggest reason for the delay is because House and Senate Republicans took a long time to find agreement on a new tax plan. It will gradually phase in tax reductions over a six year period. The final reductions in taxes will happen in 2023 and 2024 if economic triggers are met.

In 2019, tax collections will be reduced by $100 million, while it is estimated $66 million will come in from new taxes on digital services.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Every seat in the House and half in the Senate are up for reelection later this year.  Twenty-two legislators are choosing not to come back.  In the final days of a general assembly, many give "retirement" speeches on the floor. This week Wally Horn, Bob Dvorsky, Mark Chelgren, and Rick Bertrand are honored with Senate resolutions. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

There are only a few days before per diems stop for legislators. It's the goal for the session to end by the 100th day -- April 17th -- but with two different tax codes in the works and no fiscal year 2019 budget, it's likely the session will continue longer. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

At this point, it's common to hear bills are enrolled. This means both chambers have approved a bill and it awaits the governor to sign it in to law or veto.  Because the chambers are controlled by the same party as the governor, a vetos are highly unlikely.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

On Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds talks about firing the Director of Iowa Finance Authority, Dave Jamison.  She says he was terminated for credible allegations of sexual harassment.  She reiterates her zero tolerance policy, but reveals very little about the allegations due to privacy concerns for the victims.

In November, Reynolds said a Senate Republican report about past sexual harassment should reveal additional information about past claims while protecting personal information.  Reporters ask the governor how not releasing information related to Jamison is different. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Last year Rep. Matt Windschitl authored a bill greatly expanding gun rights in Iowa.  It includes making it legal to carry a concealed pistol in the Capitol with a permit, and a stand your ground provision allowing people to use deadly force if they feel threatened.

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.

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.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Jerry Foxhoven as the director of the Department of Human Resources in June.  All of the governor's appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.  These appointments first must pass a Senate committee, and when Foxhoven's appointment came up for a vote all Democrats voted against.  It passed the committee, but to be confirmed Foxhoven must be voted by two-thirds of the full Senate body.  They'll probably vote sometime in April. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

During Gov. Kim Reynolds' weekly press conference, she talks about the shooting in a Florida high school that killed 17 people. She reintroduces a Department of Homeland Security public campaign "If You Something, Say Something" as a result of the murders in Florida.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

This is the final week for most bills to pass a committee and become eligible for debate in a chamber. It's known as "funnel week." Exceptions are for bills in appropriations, ways and means, government oversight, and administrative rules, which is why most budget bills are approved at the end of a session.

On this show, we focus on two bills. One that passed and one that didn't pass through the senate judiciary committee.  Both are among the most controversial bills that come before lawmakers, dealing with abortion and capital punishment.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The human brain has opioid receptors that process pain and pleasure.  An opioid drug like morphine, oxycodone, or Percocet is often prescribed to alleviate physical pain from a surgery or physical injury.

Opioids are addictive. In 2017, about 200 people died in Iowa from an opioid drug overdose.

On this show, two bills to help curb opioid drug abuse are moved out of subcommittees.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Dozens of subcommittees occupy a lot of space and time at the Capitol at this point during the session.  These three panel members are a more informal discussion about a bill to determine what needs to be modified, removed or added.  Often members of the public offer their input during these meetings.

In this program we visit the senate lounge, where two subcommittee meetings are happening a few feet from each other. We focus on the State Government subcommittee’s discussion about a bill that would allow Iowans to bring alcohol back from another state.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

A water quality bill with a long history in both chambers passes and will be the first law Governor Reynolds signs.  It started in 2016 during the last general assembly. It passed in the house, but did not get debated in the senate.  The general assembly ended, killing the bill.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The beginning of the session is a good opportunity for groups to present their recommendations to lawmakers.  On Wednesday morning, veterans’ organizations came to the Capitol for that purpose. Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs chair, Dan Gannon, talks with us about three of them: a bill to mandate the POW / MIA flag be flown at state buildings on designated holidays, instill Americanism and Patriotism in grades K - 12, and encourage the judicial branch to expand Veteran’s Treatment Courts.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

This is the beginning of the 2018 session where legislative leaders lay out their intentions.

During the opening week, party leaders speak about their goals.  Republican praise their work from last year and intend to support the governor’s new tax code for Iowa.  Only a few details are revealed about a tax code changes, and the governor says the process may take several years.

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.” 

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. 

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

The Madison County Historic Preservation Association says it’s halfway to its goal of raising more than half-a-million dollars to replace a historic bridge destroyed by arson last April.  Brenda Hollingsworth is the association’s program manager.  She says the fundraising goal for replacing the Cedar Bridge near Winterset is $550,000.

“We are at, $246,000 dollars," says Hollingsworth.  "We have made an application for A Great Places grant that would pay for the remainder of that and we will know by December 15th whether or not we’ve received that grant.”

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Actors huddle around microphones as foley artists create sound effects with musicians. They are performing a scene about a teenager running away from gunfire in Burundi. This is Pang!, a three-act play presented as radio theater on a stage at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids.

Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs

Last month at the Iowa State Fair, a two-foot-tall bell was forged to honor past, present, and future members of the military. Some of the metal used to create the Spirit of Iowa Tribute Bell came from commemorative coins, service dog tags, and other artifacts from members of the military and their families.  

Next month, the bell begins traveling to cities throughout the state.  Executive director for the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Jodi Tymeson says the bell will be lent to anyone who wants to display it to honor Iowa veterans.  

John Pemble / IPR

Next year a newly-designed license plate will be available for Iowans.  Earlier this year, the governor's office asked for a new look for the plates. On the first day of the Iowa State Fair at the Department of Transportation’s booth, state officials unveiled three designs.  Gov. Kim Reynolds was on hand for the unveiling, and said she likes what she sees.

“They’ve done a good job,” says Reynolds. “I really am grateful to the staff for really their expertise in being able to design this.”

John Pemble / IPR

Today is the first day of Iowa State Fair. One new change this year is the fair is no longer using one contractor for all the amusement rides. This means the fair itself is now responsible for managing all of the rides.

"We're blending about 20 different companies together to make this midway," says State Fair CEO Gary Slater. "Other fairs that have done that, other events that have done that need, we needed an outside safety consultant, Wagoner and Associates, so that everybody is making sure of the same checklist every day and that we have our own Iowa State procedures."

Meghan Gerke / Iowa Cubs

Thousands of people are being sworn in as U.S. citizens across the country during this holiday weekend.  One of the ceremonies happens Monday in Des Moines during the Iowa Cubs baseball game.  It’s coordinated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Spokesperson Tim Counts says combining immigration and Independence Day is a perfect union to honor new Americans.

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.

John Pemble / IPR

The first half of the 87th General Assembly ends Saturday morning, April 22nd, at 7:15. The chambers are mostly silent as amendments and budget bills are finalized in committees. In the middle of the night, House leaders give their sine die speeches a few hours before adjournment. By daybreak, debate begins for the last bills of the session. One expands medical marijuana and the other is the standing appropriations budget bill.

John Pemble / IPR

  

It's the last full week of the 2017 legislative session with many long and complicated discussions about next year's budget.  This week's show stays clear of most of the budget discussion and we can present a final show next focusing on the budget with a wrap up of the past 15 weeks.

For this second to last show in the series, we focus on some of the final non-budget bills passing both chambers.

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