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Iowa Public Radio

Some Iowa Republicans Monday issued statements critical of President Donald Trump for his remarks in Finland following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

In a joint news conference, the president appeared to accept Putin’s denial of involvement in the 2016 U.S. election, even though the U.S. Justice Department has indicted Russians in a cybersecurity scheme.

"I have great confidence in my intelligence people," Trump said. "But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. 

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Iowa’s secretary of agriculture says he’s continuing to monitor the impacts of heavy rains that battered Northern Iowa last month. Heavier than normal summer rains flooded fields, especially in the north central and northwestern part of the state. But Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig said it’s not clear if the federal government will offer disaster aid.

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The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board issued an opinion Friday saying candidates for public office cannot use campaign funds for child care.

“I think that it’s disappointing,” said Reyma McCoy McDeid, a candidate in this year’s Democratic primary for Iowa House District 38. “I really hoped to remove this small but significant barrier to parents running for office.”

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More than a year after receiving orders from an administrative judge, the Iowa Department of Education agreed to make some changes to special education requirements that could open up special education programs to more students.

Amy Mayer / IPR

When communities watch young people grow up, go off and never return, remaining residents and politicians often bemoan there’s been a “brain drain” — especially when such population loss means schools and businesses close.

But plenty of residents are full of love and pride for those communities, and some are working to identify their towns’ best attributes so they can attract new residents and achieve “brain gain.” This effort is happening across New England and in the Mountain West, and is also evident in two Iowa towns.

Bellevue

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Dignitaries and ordinary Iowans came to the statehouse Thursday to honor Gov. Robert Ray, who died this week at the age of 89.    

He lay in state in the statehouse rotunda until 8:30 p.m., the first official to do so for the past 64 years.     

In a solemn ceremony, Ray’s granddaughters, members of Iowa’s Asian community and Gov. Kim Reynolds each placed a wreath near the flag-draped coffin before the crowd was allowed to file past.

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John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Several days after the new fiscal year started July 1, Iowa has yet to finalize contracts with the companies that run its privatized Medicaid program.

This also happened last year. Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven told lawmakers in January negotiations would be completed in time for their budget process.

But lawmakers approved budgets more than two months ago without knowing how much the Medicaid program would cost.

Kate Payne / IPR

Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday defended the Trump administration's trade policies as good for Iowa's economy. In a visit to Cedar Rapids, Pence said the Trump White House will "always stand with American farmers".

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As Iowans observe the death this week of former Gov. Robert Ray, some friends and associates are recalling the struggles behind his work bringing southeast Asian refugees to Iowa back in the 1970’s.  

Thousands of refugees were brought to the state starting in 1975, and again later in the decade.   Many were fleeing political repression.

“It was not without controversy for sure,” said former Chief of Staff David Oman.  “There were many people who couldn’t figure out why we would have to do this, why should we do this.”

Vladimir Kulikov / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Iowa announced Tuesday it will cut a total of 33 positions, close down seven centers on campus and roll back funding for five more centers. UI officials said the decisions were forced by years of budget cuts from the Iowa Legislature, a process they described as a "generational disinvestment in public higher education."

Daniel Moon

Representatives of Iowa’s Asian community will play a special role on Thursday in observances honoring former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, who passed away this week at the age of 89.       

A motorcade will transport Ray’s body through Des Moines and to the Capitol where he will lie in state in the rotunda.  

Members of the Asian community will lay one of the wreaths on the coffin and lead the procession of Iowans paying their respects.

Ray oversaw the resettlement of thousands of southeast Asian refugees in Iowa in the 70’s.

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Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says it’s time for the Senate Judiciary Committee to get to work after President Trump announced a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court Monday night.

Grassley chairs the committee. He says it will likely take at least 65 to 70 days before Judge Brett Kavanaugh gets a confirmation hearing.

Iowa Public Radio

A former justice is warning a lack of diversity on Iowa’s Supreme Court could undermine its legitimacy. With an upcoming vacancy on the bench, state officials could have a chance to consider the issue. The judicial nominating commission began interviewing applicants Monday.

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Iowans concerned about their job security can buy some peace of mind with a new type of insurance. Iowa is the second state to offer layoff insurance to workers, after Wisconsin.

The plans, which pay out a lump-sum if a person is laid off or becomes unable to work, are expanding now to additional states.

Mark Greene, director of SafetyNet, the company that created this type of insurance, says too many people don’t have enough savings to deal with a sudden disruption in their income.

John Pemble/IPR file

The Iowa governor who opened the state’s arms and heart to boatloads of Southeast Asian refugees in the years following the Vietnam War has died at the age of 89.

Bob Ray was a 40-year-old attorney and chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa when he was first elected governor in 1968.

During a time of social and political turmoil, he brought a measured approach to the job.

He held the office for 14 years.

The compassionate stance he took during the last half of the 1970s left a lasting mark on his home state.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Petitioners challenging Iowa’s voter ID law were in Polk County District court Friday, urging a district judge to temporarily halt enforcement of parts of the law. 

Ames resident Taylor Blair and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa are suing Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate over the law.

The requirements in the law to show identification at the polls don’t go into effect until next year.  But on Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued for a temporary injunction to stop the parts of the law that are already in effect dealing with absentee ballots.   

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Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to make court proceedings more open to the public, this time in the form of audio from oral arguments.

Grassley has long advocated for cameras to be allowed in federal courts, as they are in many state courts across the country.      

Now, along with ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy,  Grassley has written a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts,  arguing that audio from oral arguments should be immediately available, instead of released at the end of the week.

There’s a long-forbidden crop on the verge of legalization, one that’s versatile and could open up new markets for farmers: hemp.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says the U.S.  Senate Judiciary Committee that he chairs is beefing up staff to help evaluate President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.        

And Grassley says if past confirmation schedules are a guide, the new justice could be on the bench to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy by the opening of the court’s next term on the first Monday in October.   

President Trump will announce his choice on Monday.     

Amy Mayer / IPR

After months of verbally sparring with trade partners, the United States is poised to implement wide-reaching tariffs Friday on imported goods, and one in particular has the agriculture economy on edge: soybeans.

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Single mothers living in poverty can improve their health when they take charge of their financial lives, according to preliminary findings that researchers now hope to demonstrate in a much larger study.

Sukup Manufacturing, Sheffield Iowa

A new workplace drug testing law went into effect this week so Iowa employers will be allowed to discipline more workers for inebriation on the job.   

The law will lower the allowed workplace blood alcohol standard from 0.04 to 0.02 to bring Iowa in line with federal law.   

Sukup Manufacturing External Relations Manager Rachel Geilenfeld lobbied the legislature for the change.

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The mayor of Cedar Rapids says his city is ready to capitalize on the state’s medical marijuana industry. That's after state officials awarded a license to the company Iowa Relief, LLC to build a cannabis manufacturing center in the city.

Karen Wendt, special to IPR

Cleanup continues in Polk County following this weekend’s heavy rains that caused flash flooding. Authorities say they may never know how many homes were damaged by the rapidly rising water.

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Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a law Friday requiring women seeking abortions to wait 72 hours between an initial appointment and getting the procedure.

In a 5-2 decision, the court ruled the waiting period violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says diversity alone will not be enough to win an upcoming vacancy on the state’s Supreme Court. Justice Bruce Zager is retiring on September 3, 2018 and Reynolds is slated to name his replacement. It could be an opportunity to diversify a judiciary overwhelmingly made up of white men.

Amy Mayer / IPR

In an annual survey, Iowa State University economists found the age of farmland owners continues to climb, and with that the number of acres owned debt-free also has increased.

About a third of the land is owned by people who are at least 75 years old and 82 percent of land is owned debt-free.  Typically, the older the landowner, the lower the debt load.

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The question of how to apply Iowa’s 'Stand Your Ground' law is once again before a judge, this time in Iowa's 6th Judicial District. The case involving a shooting outside of a Cedar Rapids bar could be another opportunity for a judge to weigh in on the 2017 measure.

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Tom Wolf / flickr

Iowa officials will distribute 2,000 free opioid overdose reversal kits throughout the state this Friday.

More than 350 pharmacies will have naloxone, a drug that stops an opioid overdose, available for free. Each kit has two doses of the drug in a nasal spray form, branded as Narcan.

It’s part of the state’s effort to address increasing opioid-related deaths in the state.

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John Pemble/IPR file photo

Twenty-two Iowans have applied to become the state’s newest Supreme Court justice.

The State Judicial Nominating Commission will interview applicants July 9 to start the process of choosing a replacement for Justice Bruce Zager. He is retiring effective Sept. 3.

This is the first Iowa Supreme Court vacancy since 2011. Some court watchers see it as an opportunity to diversify the state’s highest court because all seven justices are currently white men.

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