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Iowa Lawmakers Don't Advance Racial Profiling Ban

Daily Digest

Friday, March 5

4:21 p.m. – University of Iowa presidential search process update
A University of Iowa committee in charge of the search for the school’s next president is moving ahead with plans to hold public forums with the finalists.

Applications for the position are due March 15. Once finalists are selected, the committee hopes to bring the candidates on campus for a combination of virtual and in-person meetings.

The committee is in the early stages of planning forums with the finalists, which would be open to the campus and the broader public. Sandra Daack-Hirsch is a co-chair of the search committee. “We envision that to be in a hybrid fashion where, you know, we are taking into consideration the number of people who can gather responsibly, finding a space that allows for that, along with the opportunity for people to be part of that forum in a virtual…in a virtual way.”

The committee will begin reviewing candidate applications in mid-March. The Board of Regents plans to select the new president by the end of April.

2:34 p.m. – ICIW staff and some incarcerated individuals receive COVID-19 vaccines
All staff and some incarcerated individuals at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women have received the COVID-19 vaccine, a staffer said Friday. Advocates across the country say prompt vaccinations are sorely needed behind bars, where deadly outbreaks have raged. But the rollout is apparently out of step with the state’s eligibility guidelines.

Speaking at an Iowa Board of Corrections (ICIW) meeting, Deputy Warden Lorie Woodard said the process at ICIW is well underway.

“All of the staff here and those women that are in a skilled nursing status, our ADLA workers, all of those folks who wanted the vaccine have received it,” said Woodard.

Representatives from the Department of Corrections and Department of Public Health have not responded to requests for comment on vaccinations at other state prisons.

10 a.m. - 13 deaths, 508 new cases of COVID-19 reported Friday

Thursday, March 4

4:22 p.m. – Bill censoring tech companies advances to the full Senate
A bill that would penalize tech companies for removing controversial posts is advancing to the full Iowa Senate. —

Companies like Facebook and Google could lose state and local tax breaks if a judge finds that a blocked post is protected free speech.

Social media companies have said they are stepping up efforts to remove disinformation. But Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, says they have too much influence over public discourse. “If they can censor the President of the United States of America, they can censor any one of us.”

Democrats opposing the bill warn it could cause tech giants with data centers in Iowa like Google and Facebook to take their business elsewhere. Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, says it goes beyond the legislature’s authority. “Social media and other platforms are not the government. Therefore their actions are not violations of the first amendment.”

A similar bill that passed out of the House Judiciary committee would be limited to cases where elected officials are blocked online. Under the House plan the tax breaks could be restored if the official’s account is restored.

4:06 p.m. – Policing bill doesn’t pass funnel deadline
Republican lawmakers didn’t advance Gov. Kim Reynolds’ policing bill this week ahead of a legislative deadline. Reynolds’ bill sought to increase protections for police, punish cities that reduce police funding, raise penalties for protest-related crimes and ban racial profiling.

Senate Republicans advanced most of those policies, but not the proposed ban on racial profiling. A House committee approved a police protections bill with some bipartisan support.

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, was asked why Republicans didn’t advance the racial profiling ban. “In our conversations with law enforcement, it was going to be very difficult in how that would be implemented. And that doesn’t mean—session doesn’t end when the first funnel ends. There’s going to be continued conversation around a lot of issues that may not have made it through the first funnel.”

Democrats in the Black Legislative Caucus are calling on Republican leaders to take up the anti-racial profiling legislation. Reynolds’ office didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

12:49 p.m. – Republican lawmakers advance bills that members of the Iowa Legislative Black Caucus say could take state 'backwards'
In the first full legislative session since Iowans took to the streets to call for progress toward racial justice, Republican state lawmakers have advanced several bills that would take the state in the opposite direction.

Democrats in the Iowa Legislative Black Caucus see proposals to ban the 1619 Project from schools and undermine school diversity plans as retaliation to last year’s progress toward racial equity.

"The path for racial justice and racial equity is an uphill climb," says Rep. Ras Smith, D- Waterloo, who leads the caucus. "Though it seems in 2021 in Iowa, the hill is getting steeper. Instead of building on the progress made last year, Black History Month was marked with GOP legislation that’s taking us backwards."

Smith also called on Republican leaders to pass the part of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ policing bill that would ban racial profiling. Ahead of this week’s key legislative deadline, lawmakers advanced only the pieces that give more protections to police, increase penalties for protest-related crimes and prevent cities from reducing police funding.

10 a.m. - 35 deaths, 570 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday

Wednesday, March 3

9:54 p.m. – House committee advances bill that would create state-funded charter school system

An Iowa House committee has advanced a bill that would create a system of state-funded, independent charter schools.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, disagrees with that description because the founding group of a charter would not be elected like a local school board.

“What makes a public school a public school is elected school board members who are accountable to the voters.”

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, said the charter founders would be held accountable through a contract with the State Board of Education.

“If they are not doing well, they’re going to get revoked. We’ve seen that happen in other states,” says Wheeler. “We’ve seen that happen around the country. So that’s different than a traditional public school where that doesn’t happen.”

Another school choice bill that would create voucher-style scholarships for some families will not advance in the House. It could still come up for debate, though, because it passed as part of a larger package in the Senate.

5:43 p.m. UI will take public comment on proposals that reimagine the role of police and campus safety officers

The University of Iowa is taking public comment on proposals to reimagine campus safety and the role of police officers. The review stems from this summer’s protests against systemic racism and police brutality.

A UI committee has outlined three potential models for approaching public safety, some of which include moving away from the traditional role of police and diverting calls for service to other responders like health care providers.

“A lot of these ideas are drastic or feel drastic, just because we are not accustomed to imagining a world without the kind of policing that we have right now,” says Julia Zalenski, the legal director of Prairielands Freedom Fund, a bail fund. “But once you start doing that, it's…it's right there, right? It's…it's for the taking. We can do it.”

She points to UIPD officers’ role, along with other local law enforcement, in using tear gas against protesters last summer.

“The…way that we approach policing in our community as a whole, even if we don't feel it directly, it has impact across a bunch of different spheres,” Zalenski says.

The public can submit online comments on the proposals until Friday at 5 p.m.

3:45 p.m. – Iowa House panel advances executive orders bill
Republicans on an Iowa House panel have advanced a bill that would direct any institutions receiving public funding to not enforce some executive orders from the president of the United States.

Under the bill, the legislative council could ask the state attorney general to review an executive order and try to get the state out of following it.

Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, says he sponsored the bill because he feels the executive branch has been taking powers away from the states. “So we really need to be starting to balance the executive and the legislative powers in the federal government, along with the state powers in the 50 states.”

Democratic Representative Christina Bohannan of Iowa City, who’s a law professor, says she agrees presidents sometimes issue too many executive orders when Congress doesn’t act. But she says part of the bill is likely unconstitutional because states are required to follow federal law unless a court strikes it down.

3:17 p.m. – Tyson begins offering vaccines to plant employees in Iowa, though some workers are hesitant
Meat processing company Tyson Foods began vaccinating its employees against COVID-19 Wednesday. Tyson partnered with local health departments and Hy-Vee to distribute and administer the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to their employees. They started at plants in Perry and Waterloo.

Tyson has prepared to vaccinate workers who want to get the vaccine, but that’s not all of them.

Jorge Iván Soto has advocated for Perry Tyson plant employees since the pandemic began. He says some workers are still hesitant about getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over Moderna or Pfizer.

“A lot of them just feel apprehensive of taking this because they feel like there haven't been enough studies done, and they felt like this specific vaccine or the one they're going to be given, if it’s not Moderna, then it was rolled out too quickly. And there's just not enough research.”

Soto says, overall, it is a good thing Tyson has begun vaccinating workers, but the company has to remember to be as transparent as possible with its employees.

A Tyson spokesperson says the company expects all Perry employees who want the vaccine should have it by the end of the week.

2:24 p.m. – Reynolds tells Iowans Johnson & Johnson vaccine is effective, receives vaccine during press conference

Reynolds vaccine
Gov. Kim Reynolds chose to receive her dose of the vaccine, on camera, during a press conference Wednesday, March 2021.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says Iowans should not be discouraged from getting the newly FDA-approved Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine trials determined the one-dose vaccine has an efficacy rate of 72 percent. That’s lower than those of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which both have efficacy rates over 90 percent.

However, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been found to be extremely effective in preventing severe illness caused by COVID-19. Reynolds says that’s why she chose to receive her dose of the vaccine, on camera, during a press conference Wednesday.

“I wouldn't ask Iowans to do anything that I'm not willing to do,” she says. “I trust that this vaccine is both safe and effective. And I appreciate the convenience of getting it done with just one dose.”

Reynolds says the state will receive more than 25,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

2:24 p.m. - Reynolds says data error is reason for state’s low administration rate of 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Gov. Kim Reynolds says a data error is a major reason behind the state’s low administration rate for second COVID-19 vaccine doses.

In recent weeks Iowa has made progress in getting more people vaccinated, with 17 percent of Iowans now reported to have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But just six percent of Iowans have received their second dose, according to CDC data. That’s one of the lowest rates in the country.

Reynolds says state health officials have determined one reason for this is because many second dose vaccinations at the state’s long-term care facilities done by chain pharmacies were not properly reported.

“We spent a lot of time over the last several days, really researching this so we could get to the bottom of it,” Reynolds says. “And what we found was the largest percentage, I think it was over 70 percent was tied to our pharmacy providers.”

Reynolds says the issue is expected to be resolved soon.

11 a.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds to hold a press conference

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Press Conference | March 3, 2021, 11:00 a.m.

10 a.m. - 3 more deaths, 625 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday

Tuesday, March 2

4:54 p.m. – Juvenile court system employee faces criminal charges
A former employee of the juvenile court system in northeast Iowa is facing criminal charges for allegedly racking up more than $130,000 dollars in improper and unsupported credit card charges.

During her time at the First Judicial District’s Juvenile Court Services, Nicole Foelske allegedly used department funds to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards, which she routed to her personal account.

The findings stem from a report released Tuesday by State Auditor Rob Sand.

The charges against Foelske include theft, felonious misconduct in office and ongoing criminal conduct.

4:13 p.m. – Polk County residents receiving Moderna vaccine may be delayed in getting their follow-up shot
Polk County health officials say Hy-Vee has stepped in to ensure thousands of residents will get their second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Polk County officials announced last week that up to 14,000 people who received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine through its public health department may be delayed in getting their follow-up shot.

That’s because the county was allocated significantly less of the Moderna vaccine this month than anticipated.

Polk County Health Department Director Helen Eddy says Hy-Vee has offered to vaccinate those who need their second Moderna dose.

Eddy says this means everyone affected should get their second shot by March 15. “We were projecting that it would take us until April 5 to April 12 to catch up those doses. So this is a significant improvement in that timeline. And we are so thankful to Hy-Vee for that.”

County officials say the department will email those eligible to set up their second appointment at Hy-Vee.

4:13 p.m. – Polk County likely not offering Phase 1B, Tier Two vaccinations in March
Polk County health officials say they likely will not be moving on to COVID-19 vaccine Phase 1B, Tier Two until at least next month. This includes some workers in manufacturing plants and Iowans with disabilities living in congregate settings.

Polk County Health Department Director Helen Eddy says the county will not move on until 70 percent of tier one is vaccinated. That’s a group that includes more than 100,000 residents.

And Eddy says county officials will require that qualifying tier two frontline workers with underlying conditions go first. She says that’s due to the extremely limited vaccine supply. “We may not have enough vaccine to vaccinate all of their frontline workers. So within even those frontline workers, they may need to prioritize depending upon vaccine supply.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced last week that those in Tier Two will become eligible to get vaccinated early this month.

2:49 p.m. – Grassley pushes for federal assistance for farmers to be included in coronavirus relief package

The U.S. Senate will soon consider a proposed sixth coronavirus relief package, and Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator says he is pushing to bring back an amendment for farmers offered by a colleague in the U.S. House.

Iowa 4th District Republican Rep. Randy Feenstra proposed federal assistance for farmers devastated by disasters during the pandemic. That includes the August derecho in Iowa. House Democrats struck down Feenstra’s proposal. But Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley thinks there will be opportunities to offer amendments in the Senate.

“We know that Democrats probably aren't going to let us get very many of them adopted,” says Grassley.

The USDA estimates 850,000 acres of crops in Iowa could not be harvested because of the derecho.

1:56 p.m. – Penalties for rioting and protest-related offenses would increase under new bill in Iowa Senate

Penalties for rioting and other protest-related offenses would increase under a bill advancing in the Iowa Senate.

Under the bill, drivers in some cases will not be held liable for injuring protesters who are blocking traffic, and law enforcement would be required to detain people for 24 hours if they are arrested for alleged protest-related crimes.

Republican lawmakers who sponsored the legislation say it is a response to last summer’s protests against racial injustice. Several provisions come from a bill proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds that she called the Back the Blue Act.

Keenan Crow with One Iowa, an LGBTQ advocacy group, says it is disappointing that lawmakers are advancing this part of Reynolds’ bill and not the part that would ban racial profiling by police.

“This piece of legislation isn’t going to make our community safer,” says Crow. “And it isn’t going to make people respect law enforcement any more. It’s just going to further the divide that has already been created and further increase that level of distrust.”

Police union representatives told lawmakers the bill is needed to protect law enforcement officers and the public.

1:30 p.m. – Iowa House subcommittees advance school choice bills

Iowa House subcommittees are advancing two separate school choice bills. One would expand the state’s charter school system, and the other would create voucher-style scholarships for students in low-performing schools.

Those proposals are key priorities of Gov. Kim Reynolds. They passed as one package in the Senate.

Supporters say the scholarships would make private school available to families that cannot afford it. Will Keeps, who runs a youth outreach program in Des Moines, told a House subcommittee that public schools leave some students behind. He spoke in support of the charter school bill.

“We notice through the years that we keep pouring money into public schools there’s still those thousands of kids that’s not being successful,” says Keeps.” So what do we do? We keep putting money in there? They need other options.”

But Shanda Carstens of Panora asked lawmakers to oppose the measure because it allows private schools to keep selective enrollment.

“These vouchers can go to schools that can legally pick who they educate,” Carstens said. “With two sets of rules, that’s not a competition. That’s the government picking which schools can win or lose.

Both bills now go to the House Education Committee, which is set to meet Wednesday.

The bills must pass through committee this week to be eligible for debate as separate measures in the full House.

Updated 2:47 p.m.

11:22 a.m. – Northeast Iowa residents say plan to expand cattle feedlot near Bloody Run Creek could harm water quality

Northeast Iowa residents are urging the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to reject a plan to expand a cattle feedlot in one of the state’s most environmentally sensitive areas.

The DNR is reviewing a nutrient management plan for a feedlot that would hold 11,000 head of cattle and produce 27 million gallons of manure per year.

The operation is near Bloody Run Creek, one of just 35 “outstanding Iowa waters” designated for their high water quality.

“The site poses risks to water quality,” says Mike Schmidt, an attorney for the Iowa Environmental Council. Schmidt testified against the plan during a public meeting Monday. “Bloody Run Creek is an outstanding Iowa water, and a cold water trout stream on karst terrain. So excess nitrogen and phosphorus could cause significant harm to aquatic life.”

Northeast Iowa is known for its porous limestone geology and is dotted with sinkholes. Residents have raised concerns that manure from the facility may seep through the bedrock and directly into the groundwater.

10 a.m. - 26 deaths, 456 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Iowa

Monday, March 1

5:05 p.m. – Iowa House panel advances permitless carry bill
Iowans would no longer have to get a permit to carry or acquire handguns under a bill advanced by Republicans on a House panel Monday.

Iowans purchasing any gun from a licensed dealer would still have to pass a national background check if they don’t have a permit. But the bill removes the permit requirement for private transfers, and makes it a felony to transfer, loan or rent a gun to someone if the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

State law already bans local governments from regulating guns, and this bill would specify that cities and counties can’t restrict the carrying of firearms.

Richard Rogers with the Iowa Firearms Coalition says the bill would allow anyone who can lawfully possess a dangerous weapon to carry it openly, concealed, or in a vehicle. “The principal benefit of this change, removing the requirement for permit to carry, will fall to those who suddenly find themselves seriously threatened, and need and want a gun now.”

Gun control advocates say Iowa’s permitting system helps reduce gun violence and shouldn’t be dismantled.

4:38 p.m. – New pipeline to pump carbon dioxide proposed
An Iowa company wants to build a pipeline that would pump carbon dioxide from 18 Midwest biorefineries to North Dakota. The carbon dioxide would then be stored underground. It would help biorefineries lower their carbon footprints and make them more competitive in the market.

Summit Carbon Solutions plans to install equipment at ethanol plants from Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas to liquefy carbon dioxide from fermentation so it can be sent through the pipeline.

Renewable Fuels Association President Geoff Cooper calls the project a significant development for the ethanol industry. “And frankly, puts ethanol from corn ethanol from these facilities on an even keel with the best electric vehicles that are out there in terms of their carbon footprint.”

The project is expected to be up and running in 2024.

4:37 p.m. – Iowa’s Regents universities announce plans for modified in-person graduation ceremonies for this spring
Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa released some details Monday, while the University of Iowa is “working to develop an in-person option” for commencement.

Both ISU and UNI will require all graduates and guests wear masks and practice social distancing, and some ceremonies may limit the number of people who can attend. The schools warn the plans may change, depending on coronavirus conditions.

3:46 p.m. – Iowa redistricting commission still lacks clarity on the process
The commission overseeing redistricting in Iowa still has little clarity over how that process may change, due to delays in the Census Bureau releasing critical population numbers.

Due to the pandemic, the data may not be published until weeks after a deadline for state lawmakers to approve the new legislative maps. If that happens, the state Supreme Court would take over the process.

Ed Cook of the Legislative Services Agency says that doesn’t apply to congressional redistricting, which should follow the usual process. “And so at a minimum, the role of the commission in regards to public hearings is to for sure apply to congressional redistricting. There’s no deadline. What will happen with legislative redistricting at this point is unclear.”

Cook told the commission Monday he hasn’t gotten further guidance from state lawmakers or the courts on how they’ll handle the delay.

2:53 p.m. – Iowa to receive 25,600 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine
State health officials are reporting they will receive 25,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

The single-dose COVID-19 vaccine was granted emergency use authorization by the FDA Sunday.

State officials say the doses will go to 17 counties that have significant populations in the next tier of Phase 1B. This includes frontline workers in food and manufacturing plants and Iowans with disabilities who live in congregate settings.

The addition of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine increases the state’s total vaccine allocation to 91,100 doses. An additional 27,830 doses are also available to Iowans through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership program.

The 17 counties that will receive the Johnson & Johnson doses are Black Hawk, Buena Vista, Cerro Gordo, Clarke, Crawford, Dallas, Dubuque, Linn, Louisa, Marion, Marshall, Muscatine, Plymouth, Pottawattamie, Sioux, Tama and Wright.

2:00 p.m. – Mobile home residents call on Iowa lawmakers to pass a bill that would offer increased protections from park owners

Mobile home residents are encouraging Iowa lawmakers to approve a bill that would offer them more protections from mobile home park owners. This is the third time mobile home residents have pushed lawmakers for these protections.

Under the bill, mobile home residents would be protected from some forms of eviction and rent increases.

“It does not solve all the problems we face, but at least it provides manufactured home residents with some of the same legal rights already enjoyed by apartment renters in Iowa,” says Candi Evans, who lives in the Golfview Mobile Home Park in North Liberty. She says the bill is an important step to leveling the playing field for people like her.

A House subcommittee voted to move the bill forward last month. The only group openly opposed to the bill is the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association.

10:21 a.m. - Under The Golden Dome: Bill to change state election laws heads to governor's desk

One of the most controversial bills of the current legislative session proposes changing Iowa’s election laws and increasing penalties. If passed into law, it would reduce the number of days for early voting, close polls at 8 p.m. and require that all absentee ballots arrive at the auditor’s office by the time polls close. The bill received a public hearing, and two days later it passed in the House and Senate. Now Gov. Kim Reynolds is considering signing the bill.

Also, a bill from a Senate Education subcommittee advanced that would make it easier for superintendents and school board members to be removed if they willfully violate Iowa laws concerning Iowa schools. Get caught up with the Under the Golden Dome podcast.

10 a.m. - One new death, 200 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday

6:00 a.m. – State Ag agencies to offer online pesticide training classes

Midwest states are updating the way they teach farmers to safely use pesticides. The goals include making it easier for farmers to comply with standards and to keep the federal government out of the process.

The coronavirus pandemic shut down most of the in-person pesticide training classes around the region at the same time that states, including Missouri and Iowa, were looking to meet new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn says her department is working on new materials that can be accessed online.

“We’re really excited about that opportunity, and it will be a priority for us moving forward because if we don’t get the job done in Missouri, the EPA is going to come do it for us, and none of us want to see that happen,” says Chinn.

The EPA increased the requirements for safety training, and will take over the responsibility for any state that is not in compliance.

Sunday, February 21

7:40 p.m. – Poll finds that the pandemic has put farmers at higher risk of mental health challenges

Nearly one year into the pandemic, experts say increased financial pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic has put farmers at a higher risk for mental health challenges. A poll released by the American Farm Bureau last month found two out of three farmers and farmworkers said the pandemic has affected their mental health.

David Brown is a behavioral health state specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. He says farmers have faced major financial challenges from the pandemic, resulting in spikes in suicides and alcohol use.

“There has been a spike in deaths by suicide,” says Brown. “There is an increase in alcohol use. Certainly the state is selling a lot more alcohol through their venues and things like that.”

But he says that convincing farmers to get help can be challenging.

“Farmers are still self-reliant,” says Brown. “They're still independent. We know that having them ask for help is still going to be hard. And so we're still pushing a lot of programs helping others to know the signs and symptoms of stress.”

Brown says he is optimistic that a recent increase in government support for farmers will take some pressure off.

Farmers who need help can contact Iowa Concern, the Iowa Farm Family Wellness Alliance and COVID Recovery Iowa.

10:00 a.m. - 906 new cases, eight deaths reported over the weekend in Iowa

On Sunday, one additional death and 348 new COVID-19 cases were reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health. On Saturday, 558 new cases were reported. Seven deaths associated with COVID-19 were also reported Saturday.