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DART To Provide Free Rides To Cooling Centers Friday And Saturday

Daily Digest

Friday, July 23

2 p.m. - Pork Producers push for year-round visas for foreign born workers

An Ankeny woman, who is president of the National Pork Producers Council, is urging members of the U.S. Senate to reform the visa system so immigrants working as farm hands or in meat packing plants can stay permanently.

“Our foreign-born workforce is an essential part of our supply chain, and we need visa reform to reflect our year-round needs,” says NPPC president Jen Sorenson. Sorenson is also the communications for Iowa Select Farms, the largest pork producer in Iowa and the eighth largest in the United States, according to the company’s website.

“Unfortunately the U.S. is suffering from a serious labor shortage negatively impacting our farms and our processing plants,” Sorenson says. “As any pork producer will tell you, there is no pork season. It requires a full time, hardworking and dedicated workforce on our farms and in our processing plants.”

The current H-2A visa program allows agribusinesses to fill temporary positions with foreign-born workers. Sorenson says that’s designed for seasonal agriculture, like vegetable and fruit farms, not for livestock operations, which need a workforce all year long.

“If the labor shortage is not addressed, it could lead to farms and packing plants shutting down,” Sorenson says. “As a result, pork production would be constrained, leading to higher food prices for consumers and the United States becoming an unreliable trading partner for the many countries around the world that rely on our pork.”

In March, the U.S. House passed a bill to make changes in the visa program for temporary farm workers. Sorenson says the bill is an “excellent solution” — if the bill’s cap on the number of visas in the bill is eliminated, so an unlimited number of visas for farm workers is available.

“We would not want to find ourselves in a situation where we are competing against our fellow livestock farmers for a specific number of workers,” Sorenson says, “and that is why we ask for an uncapped H-2A program and also a year-round H-2A program.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, invited Sorenson to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Grassley also invited Leon Sequeira, an assistant U.S. Labor Secretary in former President Bush’s Administration and the former legal counsel to the Senate’s Republican leader.

“The worker shortage on our farms continues to get worse with each passing year and it is threatening the future viability of labor-intensive agriculture in America,” he said during the hearing. “Farm work is honest, honorable and necessary work, but there are simply not enough U.S. workers willing to do it.”

The National Pork Producers Council’s president told senators the labor shortage in the pork industry is exacerbates by continued population decline in rural areas of the country, where most pork production and processing is located.

7 a.m. - DART to provide free rides to cooling centers Friday and Saturday

The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) will offer free rides to cooling centers in Polk County Friday and Saturday. DART’s Paratransit services will also participate in the service.

To use the service, riders should tell bus drivers when they board that they would like to go to a cooling center, and the driver will take them to the nearest facility.

The National Weather Service reports that the heat index is expected to climb above 100 degrees in parts of Iowa, including Des Moines. Extra safety precautions are recommended, including drinking extra water and avoiding spending time outside at the hottest portion of the day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

6 a.m. – Organizers prepare for the return of RAGBRAI

Organizers are wrapping up their final preparations ahead of this year’s RAGBRAI, which starts on Sunday.

The weeklong bicycle ride across Iowa went virtual last year due to the pandemic, and coronavirus concerns are keeping some cyclists away this year too.

Still, some 15,000 people have officially registered. In Sac City, an overnight town with a population of 2,000, organizer Dale Wegner says they’re still looking for volunteers.

“We’re asking some of the school kids to come up from the other towns to help us do some of the things that need to be done. The community is really trying to pull together as much as possible to make this an enjoyable experience for everybody.”

RAGBRAI is not requiring riders to be vaccinated or screened ahead of time. Organizers say they have precuations in place and are encouraging mask wearing in crowded areas.

Cam Nelson is an organizer in Fort Dodge, one of the overnight stops. He says they are taking measures to allow social distancing and extra hygiene. But he says local businesses are still hoping to see a lot of visitors.

“We just want to showcase the community and how great Fort Dodge is. So with all those people coming in, the economic impact is amazing and that kind of speaks for itself. Supporting local businesses, getting people in businesses here in town.”

Thursday, July 22

1:55 p.m. - Iowa could receive as much as $170 million as part of opioid lawsuit settlement

The state of Iowa would receive as much as $170 million as part of a nationwide opioid lawsuit settlement worth $26 billion.

The settlement involves drug-maker Johnson & Johnson, along with three major opioid distributors that were accused of ignoring signs of escalating addiction and overdose deaths tied to opioids.

Last year, opioid-related deaths in Iowa increased more than 30 percent to 213. Attorney General Tom Miller says most of the money from this settlement will go toward treatment and prevention to reverse that trend.

“It’s not going to be enough money to solve the whole problem. We’re not going to have money to throw around. But we think there’s going to be enough money, if we spend it wisely, to make a real dent in this problem and to really help.”

Miller says the money will be paid over a period of 17 years and the final amount will depend on how many Iowa counties sign on to the settlement. He says around two-thirds have, so far.

Iowa is also part of settlements with the consulting firm McKinsey and a pending bankruptcy settlement with Purdue Pharma. All told, the state could receive up to $200 million through opioid litigation.

11 a.m. - 17 GOP lawmakers ask Iowa health system to explain vaccine policy

Seventeen Republicans serving in the Iowa legislature have sent an open letter to Trinity Health, the company that is requiring that staff in seven MercyOne hospitals in Iowa get the COVID-19 vaccine by September 21.

The letter from the lawmakers says last week’s order has caused “confusion and distress” and it asks the health system to explain its rationale for the decision. Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said he did not compose the letter, but signed on to send a message.

“I’d like to prevent other employers from making this same mistake,” Schultz said.

Schultz would like to see Trinity Health rescind its vaccination mandate for employees at MercyOne hospitals in Clinton, Dubuque, Dyersville, Mason City, New Hampton, Primghar and Sioux City. The requirement applies to the health clinics associated with those hospitals as well. Schultz said the letter makes clear that he and other lawmakers “are paying attention,” because they’re fielding complaints from constituents.

“How do we reverse what’s already happened and maybe stop permanently that employers can require a hastily approved and not properly tested product could be put into somebody unwillingly?” Schultz asked.

In a written statement last week, Trinity Health’s president said the vaccines are a proven way to prevent COVID-19 deaths, and the health system is doing its part to end the pandemic by requiring employees get vaccinated. Schultz said he’s hearing other hospitals may issue the same vaccination mandate and may limit visitors and require face coverings for those who do visit patients during flu season.

“I’m starting to get hints that this is never going to go away until people start telling people to knock it off,” Schultz said.

The letter includes nearly 70 questions of Trinity Health. The first asks the company to “describe in detail” how its vaccination policy will protect people.

Republican Senators Jim Carlin of Sioux City, Jesse Green of Harcourt, Dennis Guth of Klemme and Brad Zaun of Urbandale co-signed the letter. The 12 Republican co-signers from the House are Terry Baxter of Garner, Brooke Boden of Indianola, Steven Bradley of Cascade, Mark Cisneros of Muscatine, Thomas Gerhold of Atkins, Jon Jacobsen of Council Bluffs, Anne Osmundson of Volga, Sandy Salmon of Janesville, Jeff Shipley of Birmingham, Henry Stone of Forest City, Cherielynn Westrich of Ottumwa and Skyler Wheeler of Orange City

Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson

10 a.m. - Miller-Meeks Warns Delta Variant Threatens Return To Normal

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s website shows the number COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals has been increasing over the past three and a half weeks.

U.S. Rep/ Mariannette Miller-Meeks, an eye doctor and the former director of the state health department, went on the floor of the U.S. House Thursday to urge Iowans and Americans to get vaccinated.

“For the last few months, I have traveled across my district administering vaccines to Iowans,” Miller-Meeks said. “It has been a pleasure to see my constituents and the entire country have a renewed sense of freedom and a return to normal, but fully engaged living is threatened the delta variant, which is causing increased hospitalizations and deaths, especially among those unvaccinated.”

Miller-Meeks suggested if you haven’t gotten a shot and have concerns, talk to your doctor.

“It is miraculous to have three safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 so rapidly,” Miller-Meeks said. “…Decades of research informed the development of these break-through vaccines and millions have been vaccinated with tremendously low risk.”

As she spoke, Miller-Meeks, who is a Republican, positioned a large photo showing her giving a COVID-19 vaccine to the chair of the Iowa GOP.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s data, 47 percent of Iowans are fully vaccinated.

Entry via Radio Iowa

9:16 a.m. – Former U.S. Rep Finkenauer announces run for Senate seat currently held by Grassley

Former one-term Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer has announced she is running for the U.S. Senate. Thursday she became the first major Democrat to challenge U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, one of the longest serving senators in U.S. history.

In a campaign launch video, Finkenauer said Grassley and others in power failed to stand up for democracy when pro-Trump rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol January 6.

“Since the Capitol was attacked, they’ve turned their backs on democracy and on us,” she said. “They made their choice and I’m making mine. I’m running for the United States Senate.”

Finkenauer echoed some of her previous campaign themes, like improving job conditions and empowering working class families.

Grassley has not yet said if he will run for an eighth term.

6 a.m. - 12 additional deaths, 1,395 new cases of COVID-19 reported last week in Iowa

Wednesday, July 21

3:14 p.m. - Reports of labor trafficking increased during the pandemic

Labor trafficking during the pandemic has increased, according to the number of calls to the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Polaris, an organization that works to stop such trafficking, tracked the numbers and found a more than 70 percent increase in reports of forced, coerced or fraudulent labor. It found trafficking was largely within H-2A visa holders, who are temporarily allowed to work in the United States.

Andrea Rojas is the director of strategic initiatives on labor trafficking at Polaris. She says they found labor trafficking in agricultural workers was even worse during the pandemic. “Workers that we decide are essential in order to maintain the fresh produce on our tables, and yet we fail constantly to protect them.”

Last year, Iowa had more than 4,000 H-2A visa holders. Rojas says the best way to stop trafficking is to change the system, which currently enables it.

2:23 p.m. - Police deploy tactical units, serve federal search warrants at 13 locations across Des Moines

Police deployed tactical units and served federal search warrants at 13 locations across Des Moines early Wednesday morning as part of a large, multi-agency operation. But details are scarce on what officers were looking for.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Des Moines listed 13 areas in the city that were searched. They span nearly the entire city, including a spot in the East Village downtown and another near the Iowa State Fairgrounds. But the release gives no details on arrests or what officers found.

A Tweet from the Des Moines Police Department said only that there are no safety concerns for the surrounding neighborhoods.

The operation involved regional law enforcement programs including the Mid-Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force and the Central Iowa Gang Task Force.

More than 20 local, county, state and federal agencies were listed as part of the investigation including Des Moines, the Polk and Story county sheriffs, and four regional FBI offices.

12 p.m. - Iowa is soon to be under a La Nina Watch

The Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service is issuing a La Nina Watch for later this year.

Cooler than normal Pacific Ocean surface temperatures lead to the formation of a La Nina, which can cause cooler, wetter conditions in Iowa and across much of North America.

Meteorologist Doug Kluck, with the National Weather Service in Kansas City, says we just had a La Nina pattern fade away several months ago. “Two La Ninas in a row or two winters with La Nina activity or signs in the equator aren’t that unusual,” Kluck says. “Actually, it does tend to happen fairly often that you have back-to-back years of La Nina.”

Historically, La Ninas have caused below-normal temperatures across much of the Northern Plains states. An El Nino can bring weather extremes, including severe drought or severe flooding.

Kluck says the last La Nina, which evaporated this past spring, didn’t have the normal impacts. “A lot of people attribute a lot of things to that and I’m not sure we can in North America,” Kluck says. “We saw last year wasn’t a typical La Nina year in terms of when it was supposed to get cold.

The Northern Plains, for example, were supposed to be perhaps cooler and wetter than normal. That wasn’t the case.” Kluck says the issuing of the watch means it’s anticipated there will be a formation of a La Nina by late fall and into winter.

Via Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton for Radio Iowa

7 a.m. – Iowans react to federal court’s recent DACA ruling in Texas

A federal court’s decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has meant more waiting for Iowans, according to legal experts.

The court’s ruling in Texas last Friday found DACA unconstitutional, which means many peoples’ status is up in the air, according to Jody Mashek, the co-legal director at Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice. She says people can still apply for DACA, but their applications won’t go anywhere.

“It's got to be excruciating for people who have an initial application pending. Probably a little scary too, they've voluntarily submitted their information to the federal government, when maybe the federal government most likely did not have any knowledge of them.”

Mashek says the decision is not necessarily final, and that the case still needs to go through the appeals process.

6 a.m. - New UI president says academic freedom is critical for university success

The new University of Iowa president is making it clear she believes academic freedom is critical to the success of the institution.

Barbara Wilson officially started the job last week, after leaving the University of Illinois system.

She takes the post at a time when some Iowa professors are getting pushback for their work. This year some state lawmakers sought to ban tenure at public universities.

Wilson told reporters Tuesday that faculty recruitment depends on academic freedom.

“They're not going to come here if somehow tenure is threatened or their ability to do the kind of work that they need to do. And that will certainly be a really important part of my goal. Is to help people appreciate that, not just legislators but taxpayers, families, students.”

In her brief time on the job, Wilson says she’s already met with Gov. Kim Reynolds and some state lawmakers. She says she looks forward to building more relationships across the state to help support the UI.

6 a.m. – UI president says proposed tuition increases are reasonable

The new University of Iowa president says she thinks proposed tuition increases for the school are “reasonable”. But Barbara Wilson says she will be looking at financial aid and scholarships to make up for the price hikes.

Tuition is slated to increase at all three state universities, by more than $280 for in-state students at the UI and Iowa State University and $115 at the University of Northern Iowa.

UI President Barbara Wilson says while the added costs may strain some families, the university still has lower rates that many of its peers.

But speaking to reporters Tuesday, she warned that without more funding from the state, the cost burden on students may get worse.

“I think the goal is to allow increases when needed, but to keep them very manageable and closely connected to inflation and/or to the amount money we get from the state. And when the state keeps us at a level the playing field, we don't have a lot of other levers.”

The Board of Regents is slated to vote on the tuition increases next week.

Tuesday, July 20

2 p.m. - Iowa’s corn crops are at critical stage, still need more rain

Forecasters say it’ll likely be dry much of this week, but last week’s heavy thunderstorms brought some areas of the state four and even five inches of rainfall. Still, overall precipitation is still well below normal in northwest Iowa.

Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Joel DeJong says with corn is getting into the pollination phase and more rain would be a big help.

“Four or five inches below normal right now, yet, even after some pretty good rain since the first of July,” DeJong says. “Our timing was about perfect for the rainfall because we’re not quite at 50 percent silked at this stage but we’re starting to see a lot more silks on those corn plants and it is that critical time period.”

DeJong says Iowa’s soybean fields will soon be entering a critical phase, too.

“August is much more critical for beans,” DeJong says. “It’s really nice to have some moisture now so we can really try to accelerate some of that growth and development, get those rows closed as fast as we can.”

DeJong says they haven’t seen any real disease issues with the crops but bugs are becoming a problem for some growers.

“We’ve had some insect issues, gall midges along the edges of soybean fields,” he says, “and I’m getting several calls about corn kind of lodged, particularly on continuous corn acres that have some rootworm injury. We’re seeing beetle numbers get high in those fields so we need to watch those silks to make sure they’re not getting clipped by beetles and so we can pollinate that corn crop.”

DeJong encourages producers to scout their fields and make sure those kernels get pollinated as this is the critical time for corn.

Entry by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton via Radio Iowa

1 p.m. - Grassley calls on Biden to create national strategy targeting drug overdoses

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is calling on the Biden administration to take action on the nation’s drug overdose deaths which, according to the Centers for Disease Control, hit a new record high in 2020.

“93,000 people died of opioid overdoses last year,” Grassley says. “That’s a 30 percent increase from the previous year, so it’s a real problem.”

Grassley, a Republican, says the administration “isn’t serious” about working with Congress to find solutions to the massive amounts of extremely lethal drugs that are being smuggled into the United States.

“China is sending its fentanyl to Mexico and it’s coming across the border, just like all the illegal aliens are coming across the border and in historically high numbers,” Grassley says. “There’s enough fentanyl coming into the country to kill everybody in the United States ten times over.”

Grassley is scheduled to take part in a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. entitled, “The Federal Response to the Drug Overdose Epidemic.” He says it’s very difficult to write legislation that specifies what sorts of drugs need to be more closely regulated or banned.

“Let’s say we make a drug illegal today. Through chemical components, they can change it just a little bit and the next day it can be legal,” Grassley says. “We need to make sure that the analog is part of the program so we can outlaw any deviation from what you might call pure fentanyl.”

As bad as the overdose death rates are, Grassley says they will likely continue to rise without immediate intervention by the president and Congress. He’s calling on Biden to create “a coordinated national strategy” to address the “overdose crisis.”

Entry via Radio Iowa

9 a.m. - USDA rates two-thirds of Iowa corn, beans in good to excellent condition

The latest USDA report on Iowa crop conditions indicates corn and soybean fields have responded well to recent rain, but Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig says the report shows more moisture is needed.

Last week, hail and high winds did damage some Iowa crops last week, but the damage was “scattered” and not widespread according the USDA. Under half of Iowa pastures are rated good to excellent and some farmers are feeding their livestock hay to supplement dwindling grazing opportunities.

Topsoil moisture levels are now rated adequate or surplus in 67 percent of the state. The growth of corn and soybeans is ahead of the five-year average, with corn conditions rated 68 percent good to excellent. Soybean condition are rated 66 percent good to excellent.

The USDA reports hay production is behind normal and the second cutting of alfalfa hay is 63 percent complete statewide. The oat harvest has started in about quarter of the state. Last year, Iowa farmers harvested 5.6 million bushels of oats.

Entry via Radio Iowa

6 a.m. – At least 3 arrested at Des Moines City Council meeting

The Des Moines City Council approved police funding items Monday evening and police arrested at least three people at the meeting.

The arrests came after the council voted 4-to-2 to not hold a public comment period regarding requests to separate police funding from the consent agenda.

Council member Josh Mandelbaum proposed allowing 30 minutes of public comment on the matter, but said he’d still vote to approve the police funding items, calling them “basic” and “appropriate for the consent agenda.”

“I’m just willing to listen to some public comment on it, if folks feel they feel the need,” Mandelbaum said.

Council member Joe Gatto said there was no need to have the dedicated public comment period. “So I’m not going to support anything like that, just to sit here and be able to take some type of criticism or comments of any kind. I think we’ve had plenty of that.”

One person stood on their chair and held a sign, and other racial justice activists voiced their objections.

Monday, July 19

3:31 p.m. - Des Moines City Council will not consider funding increase for security firm following report of CEO’s comments about BLM activists

The Des Moines City Council is no longer planning to consider increased funding for a private security firm. That’s after the Des Moines Register reported the CEO of Conley Group sent emails describing racial justice protests in Des Moines as “terrorism” and called local Black Lives Matter activists disparaging names on social media.

The council was set to vote on expanding the scope of Conley Group’s contract with the city and more than doubling the city’s payments to the company.

City Manager Scott Sanders says in a statement Tom Conley’s remarks are, “concerning and inconsistent with the culture and practices of the City of Des Moines.” Sanders ordered the funding increase to be removed from Monday’s city council meeting agenda.

Brandi Webber, who plans to run for city council, spoke at Monday’s meeting. “I would like to call on the council to cancel all contracts with Mr. Conley and his security team.”

Webber also asked them to rescind support for city officials who knew about Conley’s remarks before the Register reported on them.

Sanders says the comments will be investigated before the council meeting scheduled for August 9.

Entry updated with additional comments 6:30 a.m. Tuesday

3:05 p.m. – Blight strikes vegetables early this year, and could cause problems for fall holiday meals

A fungus that attacks vegetables has shown up early this year in Illinois. It could threaten the availability of pie at Thanksgiving.

Phytophthora blight is a vine infection that can damage vegetables including peppers, squash and pumpkins.

Mohammad Babadoost is a professor of plant pathology at the University of Illinois. He says the blight usually shows up in late August or early September, but heavy rains led to its appearance in early July this year. He says it is a real threat to Illinois, which provides more than 90 percent of the canned pumpkin in the United States.

“If we do not have enough processed pumpkins, we may not have enough canned pumpkin for let’s say, Thanksgiving. The pie pumpkin.”

Babdoost says the damage can be mitigated if growers are on the lookout for it and apply fungicides.

Entry via Harvest Public Media

2:37 p.m. – EPA begins demolition at Des Moines superfund site

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun tearing down buildings at the DICO superfund site on the south side of downtown Des Moines, where developers would like to build a soccer stadium.

The agency has capped the area with asphalt and installed treatment wells to contain soil and water contaminated with industrial chemicals.

Once all the buildings are down, EPA spokesperson Ben Washburn says the site will be ready for redevelopment, but the agency will stay involved.

“We’re going to make sure that the site remains protective of the people that come and use it in the future. And part of that is making sure that the remedies that we have in place, whether something that is capped or the groundwater treatment system, remain effective and operational.”

Developers, led by a subsidiary of the company that owns Kum and Go convenience stores, are raising money to build a professional soccer stadium on the DICO site.

The EPA plans to finish its part of the demolition next month. City officials have said the rest of the site will be clear by the end of the year.

2 p.m. - Online tool to help counties calculate use of federal pandemic relief

The state auditor says there’s a new tool to help Iowa counties determine how much federal assistance they can use to cover pandemic-related losses in tax revenue.

State Auditor Rob Sand says the National Association of Counties online calculator takes a lot of “guess work” out of a complicated process.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure folks across the state of Iowa are aware of that,” Sand says, “because that’s going to make their work more efficient in trying to figure out how to spend American Rescue Plan dollars.”

Sand’s office has fielded questions from local officials asking for help in calculating tax revenue losses that can be linked to the pandemic.

“They can head to the calculator and essentially answer a couple of questions and it will spit a number back out to you that is your allotment for lost revenue,” Sand says.

Counties, as well as cities and states, must use American Revenue Plan money by 2026. Funds may be used on infrastructure projects as well. Sand says the sooner local governments come up with budgets for the pandemic relief, the sooner they can line up contractors to get the projects done on time.
Entry via Radio Iowa

10 a.m. - Studies will look into the impact of gambling on Iowa’s economy, way of life

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has hired two companies to do socio-economic studies of the gambling industry.

Racing and Gaming administrator, Brian Ohorilko says they will take a look at several social issues. “Does it increase bankruptcies, divorce rates, crime rates? That is the socio-economic piece that will be studied as part of this,” he says. “The other piece is a market component that looks at the overall health of the industry.”

Ohorilko says the study is required by the legislature every eight years. “We’ll look at both parts and really try to give Iowans a good view of how gambling is impacting our state,” he says. Ohorilko says they decided a couple of different reviews was the best way to get the information.

“The two companies that were selected, they both are independent companies, they do different things. The commission felt like it was important to get two separate opinions,” according to Ohorilko.

Ohorilko says the two companies will present their findings at the IRGC’s January meeting. The state will pay $245,000 for both studies.

Entry via Radio Iowa

9 a.m. - Pella Windows adding 120 jobs at southwest Iowa plant

The Pella Windows & Doors company plans to shift more window production to its southwest Iowa factory and hire 120 additional workers in Shenandoah.

Company officials said they plan to move production of its wooden double-hung windows to Shenandoah from its factory in Macomb, Illinois, according to The Des Moines Register.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority agreed to give the company a forgivable $200,000 loan to help pay for the move. In return, the company said it plans to spend $5.6 million on equipment for the new lines, and the new jobs will pay at least $20.58 an hour, state officials said.

The city of Shenandoah is also providing a $40,000 forgivable loan.

Pella already employs about 300 people at the plant in Shenandoah. That will grow to over 400 once the change is made.

Entry via the Associated Press

6 a.m. – 30,000 Iowans worry they will lose housing when federal moratorium on evictions expires next week

Some 30,000 Iowans say they will likely lose their housing due to eviction in the next two months, according to a recent federal survey. Renters and service providers are bracing for a surge in evictions, as a federal moratorium is slated to expire next week.

With affordable housing shortages across the state, some renters say they are at a loss for where to go next.

“Even the filing an eviction, even if it doesn't actually…don't even end up being evicted, the filing of an eviction dramatically decreases your opportunities for future housing. So it's…it's huge,” says Ericka Petersen of Iowa Legal Aid.

The eviction orders are expected to have an impact on Iowans’ ability to find housing for years to come, according to Petersen.

“Other states have turned to things like expungements of…eviction records, but we don't have anything like that here right now. And so I think that it is going to harm and does harm a lot of people.”

With affordable housing shortages in communities across the state, some renters say they are at a loss for where to go next.

Qualifying Iowans can get rental assistance to pay down their bills. More information is available by calling 855-300-5885.

6 a.m. Judge denies defense’s request for more information on other potential suspects in Mollie Tibbetts case

A judge has denied the defense’s request for more information on other potential suspects in the death of Mollie Tibbetts. Cristhian Bahena Rivera, who was convicted of killing her, is seeking a new trial after new witnesses came forward in the case.

In a ruling released Friday, Judge Joel Yates said he has the authority to order the information be released, but didn’t see how it would be relevant to the case.

The requests from the defense came after two new witnesses came forward independently to name the same suspect, who was allegedly involved in a sex trafficking ring. The defense says more information is needed to determine if Tibbetts is connected to other disappearances in the area.

Prosecutors have dismissed the arguments, saying there’s no evidence to support them.

Bahena Rivera had been scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole this week, but his sentencing has been delayed while the motions are dealt with.

He’s slated to be back in court on July 27 for what’s expected to be an all-day hearing on a motion for a new trial.

Saturday, July 17

6 a.m. – South Dakota Governor speaks at Christian conservative leadership summit

In a speech to evangelical Iowans, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem defended her decisions to not close businesses or mandate masks or vaccinations in response to the coronavirus.

Noem, a Republican, may be considering a run for president. She spoke Friday at a political summit held by the conservative Christian group, The Family Leader.

Noem criticized states that closed churches and offices during outbreaks of COVID-19.

“We need strong leaders that have grit and tenacity that make right decision the first time a,nd they protect their people, understand their constitutional authority and stand by even when they’re in an unprecedented situation. And that’s what I’m going to encourage you to continue to look for.”

The summit may have given a preview of the 2024 Iowa caucuses. Along with Noem, former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke at the event.