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Iowa House Advances Tax Bill, But Lawmakers Still Haven’t Agreed On A Path Forward For Tax Changes

Daily Digest

Friday, May 7

4:41 p.m. – Iowa counties continue to accept less vaccine doses

State health officials say Monona and Emmett are the only two Iowa counties to accept their full allocation of COVID-19 vaccine doses for next week.

40 counties accepted part of their allocation. 57 counties declined all new doses.

State officials say because of the decrease in demand, they have accepted less than a third of their federal vaccine allocation for next week.

Iowa, like many states, has seen a decline in demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in recent weeks.

According to state data, nearly half of adult Iowans are fully vaccinated. Close to 60 percent have had at least one dose.

3:40 p.m. – Iowa DOC hires new security operations director

The Department of Corrections (DOC) has hired a new security operations director in the wake of the killings of two prison staffers in March. Multiple investigations are underway into the incident at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.

DOC Director Beth Skinner announced Friday that a Wisconsin prison official will be the department’s new security operations director. Brian Foster will start the job later this month, traveling across the state to improve safety at all nine Iowa prisons.

Skinner also says she has made commitments for operational changes and equipment upgrades.

“Additional fixed cameras, body worn cameras, IT-related security measures, equipment upgrades and replacements. Additional tool control measures, both for work crews and workshops. Additional CERT emergency response teams.”

Skinner acknowledged that the killings of two staffers have shaken the DOC. Multiple Iowa agencies and out of state prison officials are investigating. More changes are expected to follow.

12:59 p.m. – Report shows that Iowa cut public health funding just before the pandemic began

A new report has found Iowa cut its public health funding just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual report by the nonprofit Trust For America’s Health found that Iowa was one of seven states that decreased its state funding for public health in 2019.

“We also found that Iowa has cut its own state public health funding by about 3 percent. And that's a little upsetting because Iowa also cut funding in last year's report as well by about 1 percent.”

Dara Lieberman is with the organization. She says public health has been chronically underfunded for years, and this has become more apparent with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We've seen health departments having to respond with overworked staff and with archaic technologies, like using phones and fax machines to track the disease.”

The report found Iowa has received nearly $460 million in pandemic response funding from the CDC, ranking it 23rd in the nation per capita.

10:59 a.m. – Hinson says she supports removing Liz Cheney from GOP leadership

First District Congresswoman Ashley Hinson says she supports her party removing Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney as the number three U.S. House Republican.

Cheney has repeatedly criticized former President Donald Trump for falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen. Cheney also was one of ten House GOP members who voted to impeach Trump.

Hinson says she supports New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who a growing number of Republicans are advocating for to replace Cheney. Hinson says Stefanik is the best person to help her party focus on taking the House in 2022.

“We need to be focused on sharing that common sense agenda with the American people, and I believe Elise is the right person to unify us so we can do that.”

Stefanik gave interviews Thursday echoing former President Trump’s false narratives that there was “unprecedented unconstitutional overreach” in the 2020 election.

10:37 a.m. – Iowa Dept. of Human Rights creates ‘Youth Justice Council’

The Iowa Department of Human Rights is adding another group under its juvenile justice division. The new committee will be made up entirely of young people.

The new subcommittee’s working title is the Youth Justice Council. As of now, some specifics are still in the works, but the council will be made up entirely of youth who have had experience in the juvenile justice system.

“I think, by creating this intentional space for a youth-driven, youth-directed subcommittee, it's affirming that belief that your voice is heard, and it matters,” says Jill Padgett, a juvenile justice specialist within the department. “And it's really up to us and up to the decision makers to amplify their voices.”

Kayla Powell is the Youth Development Coordinator for the juvenile justice planning division within the Department of Human Rights. She says young people are known for taking action on issues.

“I'm excited that we'll be able to resource that energy and resource expertise and really mobilize their ideas to get them to get a better juvenile justice system in Iowa,” Powell says.

Padgett says part of the foundation for the new subcommittee is researching how other states have been successful. As of now, the official launch date is set for fall of this year.

10 a.m. - 18 deaths, 398 new cases of COVID-19 reported Friday in Iowa

6 a.m. – Bill banning certain concepts from school lessons and government diversity training heads to governor’s desk

Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives sent a bill to the governor’s desk Thursday that would ban certain topics from government diversity trainings and school lessons.

The initial bill referred to a list of “divisive concepts” that would be off-limits. That language was changed to “specific defined concepts,” but it still bans teaching that the state and country are fundamentally or systemically racist.

The bill was also amended to say it does not prohibit teaching about slavery, sexism, segregation and racial discrimination.

“We don’t have to use racism to teach against racism,” says Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison. “We don’t need to have to be racist and scapegoat entire groups of people in order to teach against racism.”

Democrats have opposed the bill, saying it could limit implicit bias training and deny the existence of white privilege.

“All this amendment does is rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic,” says Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton. “It’s cosmetic. It’s not substantive. And it doesn’t make what was — in my opinion, and I think the opinion of many many people — a very problematic bill any better.”

The Iowa Department of Education has already postponed a conference about equity in education in response to this legislation.

Thursday, May 6

4:53 p.m. - Sen. Chuck Grassley hopes to bring more efficient markets and competition to cattle producers

Sen. Chuck Grassley has reintroduced legislation to force meatpackers to buy at least 50 percent of the beef cattle they slaughter weekly from the open market. The bill also says livestock must be slaughtered no more than 2 weeks after a producer makes an agreement with a buyer.

Cora Fox, with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, says that would assure buyers and sellers that the cattle are going to move quickly to slaughter. “The delivery dates are pretty far out. Definitely more than two weeks for most people, which means that you're going to be feeding them longer. And they're going to be taking up space on your farm longer, costing you more money. And the packers don't pay you to keep those cattle and keep feeding them.”

And corn is expensive right now, so Fox says many producers aren’t breaking even.

4:31 p.m. – Iowa House advances tax bill

House Republicans and Democrats have voted to advance a tax plan that would speed up income tax cuts, expand child care tax credits, and exempt pandemic relief grants from state income taxes. This comes as Republican legislative leaders still haven’t agreed with each other on a path forward for tax changes.

Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, says Democrats can support this tax plan because it’s not the same as the bill promoted by Senate Republicans and Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Their bill would phase out payments to local governments known as the “backfill” and use that money to shift mental health funding from county property taxes to the state.

Isenhart says he doesn’t support those changes at this time. “I agree with Speaker Grassley that we have not considered all the ramifications of what that might be.”

Democrats said they also support provisions that would give tax breaks to food banks and first responders.

3:22 p.m. – Ruling finds that Bettendorf Police Officer’s deadly shooting of Black man last February was justified

The Scott County Attorney’s Office has decided that the deadly shooting of a Black man by a police officer in Bettendorf in February was legally justified. Officer Zachary Gish shot 49-year-old Brian Scott four times after police were called to respond to a domestic dispute between Scott and his ex-girlfriend.

The county has released body cam footage and a 911 call of the incident, in which Scott’s ex-girlfriend says he threatened to kill her and himself.

First Assistant County Attorney Amy DeVine said the footage shows Scott fired a gun at officers first.

“Brian Scott fired his weapon first. And then it was Officer Gish who had to fire his duty weapon. Once somebody has fired his weapon at officers, he has left him no choice but to fire. A taser isn’t going to do anything to somebody who’s firing a gun at officers.”

Gish is back on patrol for the Bettendorf Police Department after being put on administrative leave during the investigation.

2 p.m. - Bill sets new penalty for fatal wrecks involving excessive speed

The Iowa House and Senate have unanimously voted to create a new crime for driving at an excessive speed and causing someone else’s death.

Rep. Jon Thorup, R-Knoxville, is a state trooper and was the bill’s floor manager in the House.

“This bill increases the penalty for speeding 25 miles per hour or more in cases where such speeding results in the death of a human being,” Thorup said. “The penalty would become a Class C felony.”

According to the Iowa Sheriffs and Deputies Association, it’s difficult to appropriately charge a speeding driver involved in a fatal accident if prosecutors cannot prove the driver was intoxicated or intentionally targeting someone. The bill passed the House unanimously March 23. It passed the Senate yesterday on a 48 to zero vote.

The Iowa State Patrol issued 85 percent more tickets to drivers caught going 25 miles an hour or more over the speed limit in the first six months of last year compared to the previous four-year average.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

11:16 a.m. – More than one-third of the state faces moderate to severe drought

More than one-third of Iowa is in moderate or severe drought.

The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor says 37 percent of the state is in one of those two categories – up from 19 percent just a week ago. Another 40 percent of the state is considered “abnormally dry.”

Much of the state had below normal rainfall in April.

The worst of the drought is being felt in 13 northwest Iowa counties. The only counties not experiencing any level of drought are in southeast and southwestern parts of the state.

10 a.m. - Two additional deaths, 711 new cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday

Wednesday, May 5

3:43 p.m. – Iowa Senate passes vaccine passport ban

The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that would ban state and local governments from issuing ID cards that say whether someone got a COVID-19 vaccine. It now goes to Governor Kim Reynolds for her signature.

The bill also says businesses will be ineligible for state-funded grants and contracts if they require visitors to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. There’s an exception for health care facilities, and employers will still be allowed to ask their employees if they’ve been vaccinated.

It passed the Senate 32 to 16, with one Democrat joining all Republicans in support of the bill. No senators spoke about the bill before the vote except for the bill’s manager, Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel. He said Iowans shouldn’t have to get a chemical injected into them to go to a baseball game or grocery store.

2:59 p.m. – After devastating flooding, construction to raise a levee near Hamburg begins

Officials in Hamburg and the Corps of Engineers broke ground Wednesday on construction to raise a levee to better protect the town in southwest Iowa from flooding.

Hamburg Public Works Director Alan Dovel says he can’t describe his excitement.

“This is what Hamburg has needed for a long time,” Dovel says. “It’s going to give the community a sense of security, knowing that we have protection now from the Missouri River.”

The project is expected to be completed in six months.

The levee was damaged after floodwaters overtopped it in 2019. Dovel says the town is still recovering.

“We’re not 100 percent recovered. It’s going to take years to do that. We still have the 60 plus homes in the south end that still have to be demolished and cleaned up.”

Hamburg has wanted to build the levee higher since the 2011 flood. That year, the Corps added dirt to the top of the levee and it held back floodwaters.

2:49 p.m. – Reynolds proposes broad tax bill that would shift mental health funding from county level to state

Gov. Kim Reynolds is proposing a wide-ranging tax bill that includes shifting mental health funding from counties to the state. Iowa Senate Republicans support her proposal, but the House GOP has a different tax plan.

Reynolds’ bill would ensure more income tax cuts take effect in 2023, something House Republicans have now agreed to after opposing that move for a long time. It would also phase out the inheritance tax, expand the child care tax credit to more Iowans, put more money into housing programs, and more.

Reynolds and Senate Republicans are also proposing eliminating payments to local governments known as the backfill, then using that money to fund the state’s mental health regions.

Reynolds says her bill is a “compromise” that’ll bring $400 million in tax relief.

“Iowa has never been in a better position to take tax burdens off the backs of Iowans and invest state revenue to sustain critical and important services,” she says.

But House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, hasn’t agreed to all parts of Reynolds’ bill. He says shifting mental health funding is complicated, and lawmakers should take more time to get it right.

“You have to have a really good plan on the back end and what those guardrails are," says Grassley. "I think the governor has brought us kind of a good starting point for that but with where we are in session, and as little conversation that happened within the last four months, I’m not convinced that we can get there and do it properly.”

2:12 p.m. – Tyson to open first health center for employees in Storm Lake

Tyson Foods has announced it will open its “pilot” health center in Storm Lake May 26.

Storm Lake is among six other pilot clinics. In a previous interview with IPR, Tyson spokesperson Derek Burleson said the company had planned for the clinics before the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Tyson, the clinics will offer healthcare for the more than 3,000 employees at the Storm Lake plants and their families.

1:56 p.m. – Reynolds announces outreach efforts to encourage more Iowans to get vaccinated

Gov. Kim Reynolds says the state is increasing outreach to encourage more Iowans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Around 57 percent of Iowa’s adults have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s on par with national numbers.

Reynolds says the state is taking multiple approaches to increasing this number. This includes launching a statewide vaccine campaign next week and hosting pop-up clinics at well-attended events.

“We're going to continue to do the outreach and educate and inform, and we're going to work on a launch of a radio television ad in multiple languages. So we're going to continue to, to move it, and then we'll continue to evaluate where we're at.”

The White House announced this week it’s aiming to have 70 percent of American adults receive at least one dose by July 4.

The vast majority of Iowa counties declined all or part of their vaccine allocation this week due to decreasing demand.

1:56 p.m. – Reynolds defends decision to turn down federal funding for school COVID testing

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she declined $95 million in federal funding for COVID-19 surveillance testing in schools because the state already has sufficient funding for testing.

Reynolds says the state still has nearly $300 million available for testing supplies and services from previously allocated funding. And no Iowa school districts have claimed expenses for testing to the state.

“At some point, we can't continue to just take this money. There is a cost to taxpayers, and the amount of money that is flowing into these states because of the bad decisions that some of the other states have made is unconscionable.”

Several Democratic state lawmakers have criticized Reynolds for her decision, saying the state should take all the pandemic support funding it’s offered.

10 a.m. - One additional death, 138 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday

9 a.m. – EPA head says there will still be a role for biofuels under the Biden Administration

The head of the U.S. EPA says there will continue to be a role for ethanol and other biofuels, even as the Biden Administration makes plans to invest in electric cars long-term.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan made a trip to Iowa Tuesday that included a tour of an ethanol plant near Nevada. Regan later told reporters in Des Moines that the move to electric cars will be a long transition.

“You know we’re going to have to figure how the markets coincide so that they coexist, but the President has made it very clear that agriculture has a seat at the table, and that we’re very interested in advanced biofuels.”

Biofuel supporters have been pushing the Biden Administration to make ethanol distribution part of the President’s infrastructure spending plan.

6:31 a.m. – Miller-Meeks among group of Republican lawmakers encouraging Americans to get vaccinated

Miller-Meeks part of @GOPdoctors pitch for COVID-19 vaccines

Second District U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa is among 18 Republicans in the U.S. House who are health care providers, and they’re urging Americans hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The GOP Doctors group posted a video online Tuesday, and Miller-Meeks speaks first in the rotation: “As a doctor, I made the decision to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Miller-Meeks is an eye doctor and the former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health. Miller-Meeks has been to several vaccination clinics in the 2nd congressional district, administering the shots herself.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

6:30 a.m. – EPA expected to give Des Moines full ownership of downtown Superfund site

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to give the City of Des Moines full ownership of a downtown Superfund site this month. Officials say it will lead to the final cleanup of a site that joined the Superfund list in 1983.

The soil and groundwater at the DICO site in downtown Des Moines are laced with carcinogens from decades of industry, but the EPA says the site could be ready for redevelopment soon. Speaking at an event with federal and state environmental officials, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said cleanup could be finished by the end of the year.

“We’re going to get this cleaned up and move back into a productive part of our great city.”

Developers led by a company tied to Kum and Go convenience stores want to build a professional soccer stadium there. EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who visited the site with state and local officials, says his agency wants to make more sites like DICO ready for rebuilding.

“We have too many Brownfield and Superfund sites that need to be reclaimed, cleaned up, returned back to the communities, so they can be economic vessels for these communities.”

Even after redevelopment, soil and groundwater monitoring will continue indefinitely.

6 a.m. – Environmental Working Group says Iowa needs wider, more frequent monitoring of microcystin toxins

A new analysis from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says Iowa needs to monitor more bodies of water for a toxin that’s produced by a microscopic organism called blue-green algae.

EWG’s report says Iowa does routine weekly monitoring for microcystins on state park beaches, but it’s missing other locations like lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Anne Schechinger with EWG says the state should do more monitoring to keep people from getting sick. These microcystins can cause nausea or liver failure, among things.

“Since they have such potentially serious public health impacts, it’s really important to monitor so we can warn people to stay away from affected water bodies.”

A water quality supervisor with the Department of Natural Resources says the state tests for microcystins in lakes too, but it’s a fairly new program. The state tests about 130 lakes three times per year.

Schechinger says it’s a step in the right direction, but wants to see more frequent testing.

“You can't tell if a blue-green algae bloom is toxic unless you test. You can't just look at it and tell it's toxic. So you need to do testing in any body of water that people are going to recreate in or near to really keep people safe.”

Tuesday, May 4

3:22 p.m. – Central College is going ‘test optional’

Central College in Pella is joining scores of other schools across the country in going “test optional” for its admissions process. Hundreds of colleges and universities chose not to require SAT or ACT scores from students during the pandemic. Central is making the change permanent.

Dean of Enrollment Management Chevy Freiburger says the change will improve access for students who don’t test well.

“The standardized test score for Central has always been one component, and we’ve always had a holistic review through that admission process and have found that greater success is, for Central, is on the GPA and on the courses.”

Critics have long argued that standardized tests reinforce racial and economic inequality. The pandemic has accelerated a shift away from requiring the tests.

2:31 p.m. - Deadline for REAL ID pushed back again

The deadline to get your driver’s license transitioned to a REAL ID has been pushed back by the pandemic.

Iowa DOT Customer Services Bureau director, Darcy Doty says many states had their driver’s license offices closed for several months during the height of the outbreak.“We were able to stay open, we had some limited capacity, but we were able to stay open to continue issuing REAL ID’s. Iowa’s in pretty good shape overall — we have about 53 percent who have a credential with us — 53 percent have a REAL ID,” Doty says.

She says Iowa issues some 2.5 million licenses annually. The REAL ID deadline is now May 2023. You bring in a series of documents that are checked by the DOT to verify your identity and your license is then converted. Most people get their licenses converted when they are renewed — but Doty says you can come in before the license expires.

“Do not wait, we don’t want a bottleneck on May 3rd 2023 of people waiting to get in to see us. So we just ask customers to plan ahead, schedule that appointment and we’d be glad to take care of you,” according to Doty.

She says you can find all you need to know about the REAL ID on the DOT website.

“We’ve got an information checklist on our website so people can go in and click on the list of the documents that they have and they tell you exactly what you’ll need to have with you. That way you can schedule an appointment,” Doty says.

The REAL ID has a star surrounded by a gold circle in the upper right-hand corner. You will be required to have the REAL ID to fly after the May 2023 deadline.

Entry via Dar Danielson for Radio Iowa

11:53 a.m. – State Refugee Services prepares for more refugees to resettle in Iowa

Iowa is expected to see more refugees resettled in the state after President Joe Biden increased the cap this week to more than 62,000.

As of right now, the state doesn’t have the proper infrastructure to handle an increased capacity. That’s according to the chief of the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services Mak Sućeska. But, he says, they’ve already been working on it.

“We will have to be intentional in mitigating some of those concerns and barriers. And then once that is addressed, we can move along accordingly. So there has to be a lot of pieces in place. It's not as easy as it may seem.”

Sućeska says even though the declaration was just signed, the state likely won’t see a drastic increase right away. Iowa might see a change closer to the end of the year.

“With the Biden Harris administration, it will obviously look a little different as well, we will see an increase in numbers. But that doesn't necessarily mean the floodgates will open.”

Sućeska says it will be a tedious process to make sure Iowa is prepared for more refugees, but they’ve done it in the past and it has worked.

11:13 a.m. – Two cases of COVID-19 ‘India variant’ confirmed in Iowa

State health officials have confirmed two cases of a COVID-19 variant, commonly known as the India variant, in Iowa.

The cases were identified in two adults in Jefferson County.

Officials say they are still learning about the characteristics of the strain. But they say there is no evidence it is more easily transmitted or more likely to cause severe illness.

The UK and Brazilian COVID-19 variants also have been previously identified in the state. These strains are believed to be more easily transmitted, but scientists say all approved vaccines are effective against them.

10 a.m. - 373 new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday in Iowa

6:04 a.m. - Iowa Renewable Fuels leader says EPA’s waiver decision fulfills Biden campaign pledge

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rescinded three waivers that had excused Sinclair Oil refineries in Wyoming from the federal requirement to blend ethanol into gasoline.

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director Monte Shaw says the waivers were granted on the last day of the Trump Administration.

“What was most shocking about them, not just the lateness of them and they aren’t justified to begin with, but these refineries are in the 10th circuit court,” Shaw says.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has jurisdiction over six states, including Wyoming. It’s the court that ruled early last year that small refineries only qualified for the exemption from blending ethanol into gasoline if they had applied for extensions of waivers originally granted in 2010. Shaw says the EPA’s decision fits with the law, but just as importantly it matches what candidate Joe Biden said on the campaign trail.

“He said he wanted to reign in these refinery exemptions, that they weren’t justified, that we need to follow the law and implement it appropriately,” Shaw says, “so for his EPA then to turn around and say: ‘Hey, these literally last minute exemptions don’t make sense. We need to pull them back,’ it makes sense because that is what he said he would do.”

Shaw says the Biden Administration’s EPA administrator will be in Iowa today and will tour an ethanol plant.

“Unfortunately I guess for him the previous administration left a lot of unfinished business on his calendar and that will include finally enforcing the small refinery waiver program appropriately,” Shaw says.

Other unresolved items include setting the federal ethanol production mandate for this year and announcing EPA labeling and equipment rules so retailers can sell E15 — gas with 15 percent ethanol — year round.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

Monday, May 3

4:32 p.m. - Creighton survey shows record Midwest economy number

The monthly Creighton University survey of business leaders shows the Midwestern economy saw its biggest-ever economic bounce during April.

On the zero to 100 scale, the business conditions index hit a record 73.9 for the month, its largest in almost three decades of surveys. Creighton economist Ernie Goss says the region’s economy, which includes Iowa and eight other states, has posted growth for 11 straight months now.

“This economy is moving along but it’s constrained, if you can believe that, constrained by supply bottlenecks,” Goss says. “Four out of the ten supply managers reported they were experiencing significant bottlenecks and delays in deliveries, so that’s slowing down the growth.”

Iowa’s business conditions index for April is lagging behind the region overall and rose to 67.9, up from 66.5 in March. The survey found hiring in the region sank during April, as more than one in five (22 percent) supply managers named finding and hiring qualified workers as the greatest 2021 challenge to their firm.

“The stimulus package that was put through by the Biden administration is having some negative impacts on the overall hiring,” Goss says, “simply because you’re paying workers more to remain unemployed rather than to get a job, and we’re going to continue seeing that be an issue going forward.”

In March and April of last year, the region lost 106,000 manufacturing jobs. Since bottoming out in April of 2020, Goss says the Midwest has added 58,000 manufacturing jobs. The economic pressures of the prolonged pandemic are appearing elsewhere, too.

“We’re already seeing higher airfares, the airlines are increasing prices on tickets and that’s being reflected in family travel,” Goss says. “Business travel, still not good. We’re seeing conferences being canceled, we’re seeing conferences being held on Zoom or on remote.”

Compared to pre-COVID-19 levels, Goss says Iowa manufacturing employment is down 4,300 jobs, or 1.9 percent, while average hourly manufacturing wages are 2.1 percent lower.

Entry via Matt Kelley for Radio Iowa

3:49 p.m. – Cedar Rapids modifies mask mandate

The city of Cedar Rapids is modifying its mask mandate to loosen requirements for people who are fully vaccinated. Under the new order, those who have completed their vaccine series don’t have to wear masks outside except when in large gatherings or crowded settings.

Fully vaccinated people also won’t have to wear masks when gathering with other fully vaccinated people indoors.

Mayor Brad Hart made the change to align with updated guidance released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

3:31 p.m. – Reynolds says she wants state law to limit transgender students’ participation in sports

Gov. Kim Reynolds said on Fox News last week that she wants to sign a law to limit transgender students’ participation in sports.

Governors in at least five states have signed laws this year that aim to ban transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Reynolds said she is working on similar legislation, saying that allowing trans women and girls to compete is “not fair.” There aren’t any such bills moving in the Iowa Legislature, but the proposal could come up as an amendment.

Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director Becky Ritland says it’s “frustrating” that the governor is bringing this up late in the session.

“In the state of Iowa, we have had zero cases of a transgender student participating in sports in an unequal way or using any sort of advantage to advance their athletic career.”

Ritland says this effort sends a message to trans youth that they don’t belong in their own community, and that message is bad for their mental health.

10:39 a.m. – Inmates across Iowa donate to the families of staffers who were killed at the Anamosa penitentiary in March

Inmates at Iowa’s prisons have donated more than $11,000 to the families of staffers killed at the Anamosa State Penitentiary in March.

The funds represent a significant amount for inmates who make between 27 and 87 cents an hour, according to a 2017 analysis.

A Department of Corrections spokesperson says inmates at all nine of Iowa’s prisons donated to funds for the families of Nurse Lorena Schulte and Officer Robert McFarland. Investigators believe two inmates killed them during an escape attempt.

Sue Hutchins of the advocacy group Living Beyond the Bars says many inmates knew the victims personally, and their donations demonstrate their compassion.

“Yes there are people who belong in prison and, yes, there are also people who are good people in prison who have made mistakes and who…who have just as much compassion and just as much empathy as a lot of us out here,” says Hutchins.

Hutchins says some were able to donate more than they usually would because of the latest round of federal stimulus checks.

10 a.m. - Seven additional deaths, 130 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday in Iowa

6:30 a.m. – Only 18 percent of farmers believe climate change is caused by human activities, according to ISU poll

A new poll suggests only 18 percent of farmers believe that climate change is caused by human activities. That finding comes as there is an increasing focus on agriculture’s role in mitigating the problem.

A majority of farmers believe climate change is real and will create weather problems in the coming years, but only 18 percent of them believe humans are to blame. That’s according to a new poll from Iowa State University.

But climate change activists say changing practices is more important than changing minds. Rolf Nordstrom is the President and CEO of The Great Plains Institute, a nonpartisan energy advocacy group:

“We don’t think that matters, as long as people are prepared and willing to adopt practices that can help society decarbonize.”

Nordstrom says it needs to be financially prudent for farmers to cut their emissions and participate in carbon sequestration programs. Then they can help reduce the impact of climate change, regardless of their position on human’s role in causing the problem.

Sunday, May 2

12 p.m. - Iowa turns down 71 percent of available vaccines due to low demand

Iowa is turning down nearly three quarters of the vaccine doses available to the state from the federal government because demand for the shots remains weak.

The Iowa Department of Public Health and Safety said the state asked the federal government to withhold 71 percent of the 105,300 vaccine doses that were available for the week of May 10. This is the second week in a row that the state has asked the federal government to hold back part of its allocation of vaccine doses.

Department spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand told the Des Moines Register that 88 of Iowa’s 99 counties have told the state they don’t need all or part of their weekly vaccine allocations for that week. That’s an increase from the 80 counties that declined vaccine shipments for this week and the 43 counties that declined all or part of their allocations last week.

“As we have shared before, these counties are doing exactly the right thing by only accepting the volume of vaccine that they can confidently administer,” Ekstrand said.

Demand for the vaccines appears to have peaked in early April across Iowa when the state set a record by giving 51,322 shots in one day. By last week, the highest daily total of vaccines given was only 23,159.

As of Saturday, 56.5 percent of all Iowa adults had received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Entry via the Associated Press

10 a.m. - Two additional deaths, 326 new cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday in Iowa

Saturday, May 1

5:11 p.m. – Immigration reform advocates march to Iowa Capitol

Advocates for immigration reform marched to the state Capitol Saturday to remind lawmakers of their promises. Those marching say immigration reform is a humanitarian issue, not a political one.

The people marching to the Capitol are interweaving Spanish and English as they walk, but they shout one phrase in unison: “Si se puede! Si se puede!”

They’re using the slogan to protest the nation’s current immigration policies.

“I believe immigrants have opportunity just like any American born here,” 28-year-old Jesus Colunga is among the marchers. He’s speaking in Spanish. “We didn’t cross the border, rather, the border crossed us.”

Colunga says immigration reform is important for Iowa because it affects people living here, whether they’re U.S. citizens or not.

Natalie Andrade is in charge of holding one of the banners with her parents. She wants the state’s lawmakers to know immigration policies affect everyone, including Iowans.

“If you have power to, to speak up, to change to make a change, you should be using your power to represent the people,” Andrade says. The 15-year-old wants more people from her generation to get involved in knowing the country’s immigration policies.

The demonstrators want President Joe Biden to remember his promise to provide more pathways to citizenship. They also want lawmakers to support legislation that offers more protections to asylum-seekers.

10 a.m. - 19 additional deaths, 388 new cases of COVID-19 reported Saturday in Iowa