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Iowa Senate approves second redistricting plan

Daily Digest

Thursday, October 28

4:12 p.m. – Des Moines Public Schools credit district’s mask mandate for decline in COVID-19 cases

Des Moines Public Schools says they’ve seen a decline in COVID-19 cases following the district’s mask mandate.

The week of September 13, the district peaked at an average of 41 cases per day. On September 15, the district’s mask mandate went into effect after a judge paused the state’s ban on school mask mandates. Last week’s numbers show there were only 69 new confirmed cases.

Meghan Schaeffer, an epidemiologist with Polk County, says COVID-19 cases in the state peaked in mid-September, but schools did not decline as quickly as the rest of the community.

“Then, after the injunction was issued, we saw further deceleration after the mask mandate requirements were put back into some schools, and that seems pretty clear in the data.”

Schaeffer says while masks are important to stopping the spread, other actions like social distancing, ventilation, and efficient testing are equally important to keeping students in schools.

As COVID-19 vaccines for younger children move closer to approval, Schaeffer says parents should consider vaccination and talk with their pediatrician.

4:03 p.m. – More Iowans could get medical or religious exemptions from employer vaccine mandates under bill moving through the Iowa legislature

A bill that would allow Iowans to get medical and religious exemptions from employers’ COVID-19 vaccine mandates has advanced in the Iowa Legislature.

Under the bill proposed by House Republicans, employees seeking a medical or religious exemption simply have to state they believe the vaccine would hurt their health or would conflict with the tenets and practices of their religion. The bill doesn’t require them to get proof from a doctor or religious leader.

Vaccine mandate protesters at the Statehouse and some business representatives opposed the bill.

Lindsey Maher is with a group that’s against vaccine requirements. “It seems like we are replaying May 5, 2021 all over again. Where we the people were blindsided with last minute legislation that is ineffective and designed to look good but fail.”

Lawmakers who support the bill say it will help keep people from being fired for now and they might take more action in the future. The House State Government Committee advanced the bill with some bipartisan support.

Health experts say the vaccines approved for COVID-19 are safe and effective, and leaders of major religions haven’t opposed vaccinations.

4 p.m. - Criminal investigation launched into Iowa town’s spending

The Story County Sheriff’s Office has launched a criminal investigation into questionable spending of public money in the small central Iowa city of McCallsburg after a state audit identified tens of thousands of dollars improperly spent or not collected.

The audit released Thursday says investigators identified more than $47,510 in utility bills that were improperly reduced or not collected for dozens of the town’s approximately 400 residents, including for accounts for the homes of Mayor Chris Erickson and Councilwoman LeAnne Hazen.

Auditors found that Erickson made no utility payments for his home for nearly two years from 2017 to 2019, and that Hazen made no payments for 18 months. Both Erickson and Hazen are up for re-election Tuesday.

Neither Erickson nor Hazen returned phone messages left Thursday by The Associated Press seeking comment.

The audit also identified more than $32,000 in improper disbursements, including more than $25,000 to former City Clerk Jennifer Heithoff, more than $4,500 in pay increases to city officials that did not comply with state law and nearly $800 of improper charges to a Staples office supply charge account.

Heithoff resigned in July 2019, and the state auditor’s office conducted an audit of city finances covering her tenure at the request of city officials. In all, the audit found the small city mishandled or wrongly spent nearly $90,000 from 2014 through 2019.

A publicly-listed phone number for Heitoff could not be found Thursday.

Entry via the Associated Press

2:32 p.m. – Ottumwa pride groups say anti-LGBTQ comments made by candidates for city-wide office show how important the group’s work is

Organizers with Ottumwa Pride say anti-LGBTQ comments made by candidates running for city council won’t deter their work. The group says it remains committed to making the community a more welcoming place.

At a public forum in Ottumwa last week, mayoral candidate Rick Bick voiced opposition for city support of LGBTQ Pride activities, asking if a "pedophile group" also deserved "special preference."

City council candidate Matt Pringle said he would vote against providing city permits for Pride events.

Kristen Payne, an Ottumwa Pride board member, says the comments show how important their work is, especially for young people. “As the adults in the community that are members and allies to the LGBTQ community, we model for them…that this is a community that is ok for you and it is safe for you. And it is important that we keep going and not go anywhere.”

The group says they’re not slowing down: they have a meeting scheduled for the day after the election to plan next year’s agenda.

1:49 p.m. - The Iowa Senate has approved the second redistricting plan 48-1

The Iowa Senate has approved the second set of proposed political boundaries for the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

The vote was 48-to-1, with State Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, casting the only no vote. Iowa’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency drew the second set of maps after Republican senators rejected the agency’s first proposal earlier this month.

Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, says the second proposal isn’t perfect and doesn’t address all of his concerns. “However it did improve on the average population deviation and some of the compactness measures for the four congressional districts and the 150 legislative districts.”

The House State Government Committee has also approved the redistricting plan, moving it to the full House of Representatives.

Senate GOP leaders haven’t publicly talked about how the second set of maps appears to be more politically favorable to Republicans than the first set. Iowa law prohibits considering the addresses of current lawmakers and voting patterns when drawing new districts.

10:30 a.m. – Iowa lawmakers to consider bill that would provide exemptions for businesses’ COVID-19 vaccine requirements

Iowa Republican lawmakers are proposing that businesses provide medical and religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The Iowa Legislature is scheduled to consider the new bill Thursday while lawmakers are in a special session to vote on redistricting maps.

The bill would require employers that mandate COVID-19 vaccines to exempt staff from getting vaccinated if they say it would hurt their health or if they say it would conflict with the tenets and practices of their religion. The bill doesn’t require them to get their exemption certified by a doctor or religious leader.

It also directs the state to not deny unemployment benefits to people fired for refusing to get vaccinated. Health experts say the vaccines approved for COVID-19 are safe and effective, and leaders of major religions haven’t opposed vaccinations.

8 a.m. - Plan 2 for redistricting up for a vote today in Iowa legislature

The Iowa Legislature reconvenes Thursday in special session to vote on new maps that change the boundaries for Iowa congressional and legislative districts.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate rejected Plan 1 for redistricting, so the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency released a second set of maps last Thursday. If approved, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican from Ottumwa, might wind up running against one another in 2022. Both live in the proposed 3rd congressional district.

The maps for legislative districts show 58 members of the Iowa House and Senate live in the same district as at least one other incumbent. Republican legislative leaders have not indicated whether this second set of maps has majority support. Democrats, who hold a minority of the seats in the Iowa House and Senate, plan to vote for the new redistricting plan.

Some Republicans have been pressing for a vote today on legislation that would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates. During the legislature’s October 5 special session, Representative Jon Jacobsen of Council Bluffs said the House needs to act this fall.

“People’s lives and livelihoods are on the line. A deliberative body should not be afraid of robust discussion and debate in the marketplace of ideas,” Jacobsen said. “…It’s even more important than plotting out reelection maps.”

Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, has also been pressing for a vote. “I’ve gotten email after email,” Salmon said, “dozens of emails literally begging us to protect their freedom to be able to choose their own health care treatment and not risk losing their job.”

Rep. Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights, the Democratic leader in the Iowa House, said today’s special session should focus on the redistricting plan and other issues should be addressed in 11 weeks when the 2022 legislature convenes.

Entry via Radio Iowa

Wednesday, October 27

4:10 p.m. – Advocacy groups say changes to voting laws can make it more difficult for Iowans with disabilities to vote

Advocates say they’re concerned that Iowa’s new election laws put up more barriers for voters with disabilities.

Catherine Johnson, the executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, says the shortening of the early voting period, moving up deadlines for voting by mail, and restricting who can help a voter return their ballot could be especially problematic.

“74 percent of voters with disabilities do vote early, either at the polling place or by absentee mail ballot. And so you can see when you restrict the time of that shorter and shorter and shorter…the ability to participate for a person with a disability becomes more narrow.”

Bill Kallestad with the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council agrees, saying voting laws should be more flexible and simple so more people can participate.

Iowans who want some help voting can contact their county auditor to ask about curbside voting, Election Day voter assistance and the new rules for having someone else return a voter’s absentee ballot.

3:53 p.m. - Significantly more meatpacking workers were infected with COVID-19 than previously thought, according to a new report

A report released by a U.S. House subcommittee Wednesday found at least 59,000 meatpacking workers were infected with COVID-19, and at least 269 workers died at plants operated by the five largest companies in the country.

That number is significantly higher than previous estimates.

The report found documents from the companies which showed they failed to address virus outbreaks and address worker concerns.

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-IA 2nd District, testified at a House subcommittee hearing on the report Wednesday. She said she found plants quickly implemented many safety protocols during a time when experts still knew little about the virus.

“Let's not forget that even experts like Dr. Fauci didn't know what was going on in those early months, and guidance was changing daily.”

According to state data, nearly a dozen meat processing facilities in Iowa experienced COVID-19 outbreaks last year.

2:10 p.m. - Winnebago announces plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions

Forest City-based outdoor lifestyle manufacturer Winnebago Industries is setting a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century.

CEO Michael Happe says the company is making the pledge through a campaign led by the Science-Based Targets Initiative.

“We recently strengthened our commitment to sustainability by joining the Business Ambition for 1.5 Degree Celsius, a United Nations-backed global coalition of business leaders,” Happe says. “As part of this program, we are committing to help limit the impact of climate change by setting a goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We also announced additional goals on water, waste, and product sustainability.”

Happe says the company’s goals include: zero waste to landfills, with 90 percent diversion of waste by 2030; net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; reduce freshwater use by 30 percent by 2050; have eco-friendly upgrade options on all their new products by 2025; and product life-cycle assessments by 2030.

“We look forward to working with the Science-Based Target Initiative and external validators to develop and enact a plan for achieving this net-zero goal, which represents an important focus of our corporate responsibility strategy,” Happe says.

Winnebago Industries last week reported a record fiscal year with a profit of almost $282 million for the manufacturer of Winnebago, Grand Design, and Newmar recreational vehicles as well as Chris-Craft and Barletta boats.

By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City via Radio Iowa

1:06 p.m. - State reports 117 additional deaths, 6,983 new cases of COVID-19 over the last week

State health officials report that 6,983 new COVID-19 infections have been this week.

That’s as the state’s 14-day test positivity rate continues to decline. On Wednesday, it was reported at 8 percent, down from 8.3 percent the previous week.

531 Iowans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s a drop from last week’s number of 557. This marks the ninth week straight that state hospitalizations have remained above 500.

An additional 117 Iowans have been confirmed in the past week to have died from COVID-19. This brings the state’s total death count to 6,965 .

12:34 p.m. - Iowans under 11 could start receiving the Pfizer vaccine as soon as next week

Iowa kids ages 5 to 11 could be eligible to start receiving Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations as early as next Thursday.

University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics experts say the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control still need to authorize the vaccine before it can be distributed to kids.

The CDC panel is expected to meet early next week. Rami Boutros is the director of pediatrics at UIHC. He says getting children vaccinated can prevent them from getting seriously ill and spreading the virus to others.

“There is more complications from the disease, even for younger children. There is still death reported with COVID. And we know, what we have seen with the vaccine, that it prevents severe illness in children.”

This week, an FDA advisory panel accepted Pfizer’s data that its vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infections in young kids.

11 a.m. - Tyson says 96 percent of workers are fully vaccinated, ahead of deadline

Tyson Foods has announced more than 96 percent of its active workforce nationwide have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s about a week ahead of its November 1 deadline.

The company announced in early August that it would require all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.At the time, Tyson said it was concerned less than half of its national workforce had been vaccinated, despite offering incentives and launching educational campaigns to encourage employees to get the shot.

Several Tyson meat processing plants in Iowa experienced large COVID-19 outbreaks in spring of 2020, which affected thousands of employees.

10:42 a.m. – UAW striker killed in traffic accident while walking to the picket line

A 56-year-old union member and John Deere employee was struck in a traffic accident and killed while walking to the picket line in Milan, Illinois Wednesday, according to the UAW.

The worker was employed at the Milan John Deere Parts Distribution Plant and was a member of UAW Local 79.

Union members are in the second full week of a strike, demanding larger wage and benefit increases at a time of record profits for the company.

All picket duties are canceled for the day due to the tragedy, according to a message from Local 79.

9 a.m. - Woman sues University of Iowa, fraternity over sex assault

A woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted at a University of Iowa fraternity is suing two men and the fraternity.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges two members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, also known as Iowa FIJI, assaulted her at a party at the fraternity in September 2020. She also alleges the assault was filmed and photographed and the images were widely circulated.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the two men and the fraternity. It also names and Mu Deuteron, the corporate entity under which FIJI operates, and the Phi Gamma Delta Educational Foundation, a nonprofit based in Kentucky.

The Associated Press is not naming the two men because they have not been charged. They were expelled from the fraternity, The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

The lack of charges prompted several protests on the University of Iowa campus, including on Aug. 31, when about 1,000 people gathered outside of the fraternity house and a second location calling for action on the case and to abolish the fraternity.

An online petition making similar demands had more than 167,000 signatures as of Tuesday.

The AP does not typically name alleged victims of sexual assault.

Entry via the Associated Press

Tuesday, October 26

4:11 p.m. - Telehealth company wants to help Iowans in ‘contraceptive deserts’ get access to birth control

Many parts of Iowa are considered “contraceptive deserts,” which means there isn’t a lot of access to different types of birth control. A telehealth organization is trying to reduce the number of these deserts.

Telehealth company Twentyeight has launched services in Iowa to help an estimated 170,000 people in need of some sort of birth control in the state.

Although there are active groups in Iowa to provide birth control to this population, co-founder Amy Fan says another option can only help, especially one that focuses on historically underserved populations.

“I really hope that the more telehealth players there are, the more options women have. And at the end of the day, the better access will be.”

But she says there are still additional steps Iowa needs to take in increasing affordability. More than half of Iowa’s counties have been defined as “contraceptive deserts.”

12:18 p.m. – Iowans need to get their absentee ballots in quickly if they want them to be counted, say election officials

County election officials are urging Iowa voters to return their absentee ballots quickly.

Under the new voting laws, it’s too late to put ballots in the mail in some parts of the state.

Absentee ballots now have to be received by your county auditor by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. This year, that’s November 2.

Adams County Auditor Becky Bissell says, depending on where you live, it might be too late to put your ballot in the mail.

“In southwest Iowa, I would not recommend putting it in the mail, because our mail goes to Des Moines and then back to us,” Bissell says. “And so I do fear that it’s not going to get back to me in time if my voters were to be putting it into the mail now.”

Bissell says at this point, voters should bring their completed ballot to their county auditor’s office or use the ballot drop box in counties where those are available.

Republicans in the Iowa Legislature shortened the timeframe for early voting this year and moved up the deadline for voting by mail.

10:16 a.m. – Grassley says he’ll reintroduce a bill that would add agriculture officials to national security committee

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley plans to reintroduce a bill this week to add top agriculture and food officials to a national security committee.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) reviews whether foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies threaten national security.

Grassley, a Republican, says U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration officials are only occasionally called to take part in committee discussions. He says they need more permanent slots.

“It’s in our national security interest to ensure agriculture supply chains are safe from potential adversaries.”

Grassley first introduced this bill with Democrat Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2017.

9 a.m. - Domestic violence deaths in Iowa match 2020 at end of September

A report by the Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division shows there were 17 domestic violence deaths in the first nine months of 2021.

Division Director, Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, says that is the same amount in all of 2020. “That’s absolutely the first big concern that we see — we are once again at a higher rate than we have been historically — and with three months left to go in the year we are already at 17 domestic violence homicides,” Tibbetts Murphy says.

Tibbetts Murphy can’t say there is a direct link to the pandemic, but says it is an aggravating factor. “I certainly think the pandemic has made it much more difficult for those needing help to get access to it,” she says. “They really were forced to almost withdraw, so again, all of those supports were incredibly curtailed during the pandemic. So, I think that certainly can be a correlation with the rise in homicides.”

Tibbetts Murphy says the Victims of Crime Act or VOCA federal funding dropped nearly $18 million this year and that is also a concern. “Many of our programs rely on the VOCA funds for the majority of their budgets,” Tibbetts Murphy says. “And for a program to lose 8 percent this year — but a potential 20 percent of their budget next year — could mean not only the elimination of services in some communities, the elimination of some jobs in communities, but even the closing of programs and shelters across the state.”

She says a fix is in the works to restore some of the funding, but it could take some time. Eleven of the 17 people killed so far this year have been women, and that has been the case since the statistics started being tracked in 1995. “It’s been so unfortunate that we can’t seem to solve that,” says Tibbetts Murphy. “And that right now the most we can do is try to provide services and safety to victims so that they are able to make decisions about their planning and their lives in a way that is safe, or as safe as it can be. But the threat of that homicide is always there.”

Some domestic violence resources available include the Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline at 800-770-1650. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available at 800-799-SAFE or 799-7233. A text line is available by texting “START” to 88788. The Love is Respect Teen Dating Violence Hotline is 866-331-9474, or text “LOVEIS” to 22522. All services are free and confidential.

Entry via Radio Iowa

Monday, October 25

2:34 p.m. - Iowa public drinking water systems to be tested for forever chemicals

Testing for "forever chemicals" is underway at public drinking water systems across Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is the process of monitoring for the substances known as PFAS in the drinking water of more than 50 cities. The chemicals have been widely used in industrial and consumer goods and are linked to a slate of health issues.

The DNR’s Roger Bruner says if PFAS are detected, the water systems will have to do follow-up testing to track the contaminants.

“The protocol will be for any detections…that the community then goes on to quarterly monitoring to assess whether it was a one-time incident or if there’s a longer term problem with trending upwards or maybe it’s trending downwards.”

The DNR is testing for 25 kinds of PFAS. Bruner says results will be posted on the department’s website on a rolling basis.

2:09 p.m. - First woman enlisted infantry soldier in Iowa National Guard

An Ankeny resident and Iowa State University student has become the first woman enlisted infantry soldier in the Iowa National Guard.

Pfc. Taylor Patterson returned from basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia last month and is with Company C, 168th Infantry, the Guard said. There are approximately 9,000 service members in the Iowa National Guard.

It’s been five years since the U.S. Army opened combat arms positions to women. An infantry soldier must complete a 22-week training stint, where they learn skills ranging from squad tactics to close-quarter combat training.

Patterson says she succeeded in the training with the help of her drill sergeants and support from her family.

“There obviously was a lot of guys who didn’t think the females were able to do that, but I am like, I am proving it to you,” Patterson said.

Patterson is currently studying animal science at Iowa State University in Ames.

Entry via the Associated Press

12:17 p.m. - State reports 8% 14-day test positivity rate

10:42 a.m. – Coalition to offer culturally-specific training to Iowa’s Latino service providers

The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence is partnering with California-based organization Latinx Parenting Wednesday and Thursday to offer training and coaching to the state’s Latino service providers.

Organizers say the culturally-specific training goes hand-in-hand with preventing possible childhood traumas and multigenerational abuse.

Veronica Guevara is with the coalition and a parent herself.

“Especially in the context of anti-violence, investing in families is investing in the future. It's investing in economic stability, it's investing in an anti-violence. And I think that because of that, it was really important to bring this.”

Guevara says this was a good opportunity for the coalition to provide because it can serve as a preventative measure. “I think it really goes into moving from reacting to problems to preventing. So if we look at it from that context, what if we could stop childhood trauma and domestic violence before they occur? What would we need to do that?”

Guevara says if there is enough interest in the online, bilingual training, the coalition will bring it to Iowa again.

9 a.m. - Iowa labor leader says union, non-union workers pressing for better pay, benefits

Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO president Charlie Wishman says the pandemic has changed the way workers think about their jobs. Charlie Wishman says it was no surprise members of the United Auto Workers turned down John Deere’s contract offer.

“You’re seeing what’s dubbed as ‘Striketober’ but that has started since before that,” Wishman says.

Wishman says John Deere workers are drawing a line in the sand for themselves and future workers.

“These folks are out here striking on behalf of members they haven’t even met yet, who haven’t even been hired yet,” Wishman says, “because one of the issues if they want to remove the retirement system for anybody hired after November 1.”

Paul Iversen, a labor educator at the University of Iowa Labor Center, says the two-tiered system the union’s striking over doesn’t provide the same level of pay and benefits to every worker.

“There is a huge difference between a two-tiered system and a seniority system,” Iversen says. “In a seniority system, you get more pay as you go along, but at some point, everybody doing the same job is making the same amount. Equal pay for equal work.”

Iversen says in a tight labor market, striking workers appear to have more leverage. “Ultimately, employers will have to change the way that they approach employees,” Iversen says, “or they’re not going to have anybody to do the work.”

The Iowa Federation of Labor’s president says it’s not just union workers who are challenging the status quo. “In the past two weeks in Sioux City, in non-union facilities, you’ve had walk-outs over pay and shift differential,” Wishman says. “…I believe we’re at the front end of a worker uprising in this country.”

Wishman and Iverson made their comments this week on the Iowa Press program on Iowa PBS.

Late Friday, John Deere announced it will continue providing health care benefits to union workers and employees will not lose bonuses they earned before the strike started October 14. The bonuses are paid for exceeding performance goals. The union would have had to start providing health care to striking workers, but the benefits would not have been the same as the plans Deere employees have now. A spokeswoman for the company said Deere and Company is taking these steps to demonstrate its commitment to doing what’s right by John Deere employees.

Contract negotiations resumed last Monday.

Entry via Radio Iowa

8 a.m. – Midwest appears on track for record-high harvest, despite extreme weather

Midwestern farmers are on track to harvest near record-high amounts of corn and soybeans this year, despite some extreme weather challenges linked to climate change.

In August, one of Randy Aberle’s fields of corn and soybeans near Gibson City, Illinois, got nine inches of rain. “We had some areas in those fields that the water was four feet deep.”

But he says the rain drained out quickly. And while his corn crop may have taken a bit of a hit this year, soybeans “are turning out really well. From what we’re seeing, it’s probably some of the best yields we’ve ever seen on beans.”

Eric Snodgrass is a science fellow at Nutrien Ag Solutions. He says while some areas of the Corn Belt got too much rain this year, some got too little. “This is going to be a year where we look back and remember the western Corn Belt having more troubles than the eastern Corn Belt, with respect to available moisture.”

Snodgrass says this intense weather variability that comes with climate change is the biggest threat to Midwest agriculture.

Entry via Harvest Public Media

8 a.m. - Republican lawmakers and protesters call on Iowa legislature to discuss workplace vaccine requirements during special session

State lawmakers will be back at the Iowa Capitol this week to vote on a second set of proposed political boundaries. But some Republican lawmakers and protesters have been calling on the legislature to take action against workplace COVID-19 vaccine requirements during this week’s special session.

Democrats like House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, say the legislature should stick to voting on the second proposed redistricting map. “January’s not too far away. There’s plenty of time to talk about lots of issues that the legislature should or should not consider in January. This is designed to address redistricting, and that’s what Iowans are expecting us to do, so that’s what we’re pushing for.”

It’s not clear if lawmakers will vote to consider any bills this week other than the one that proposes new political boundaries. Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison says GOP lawmakers are unified in opposing federal vaccine mandates, but it’s difficult to do anything about it when the rules aren’t official yet.

“Another problem we have is businesses voluntarily deciding to mandate the vaccine and whether that’s appropriate or not. That’s where we are not as united because there are some folks that believe that we shouldn’t intervene on either side of this issue, that businesses should be able to decide for themselves.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she wants to take action against federal vaccine mandates but didn’t say if she wants to stop business owners from choosing to require vaccines.

Friday, October 22

2:57 p.m. - Forever chemicals linked to health issues may have spread to Iowa’s remote streams

Researchers have found the toxic substances known as forever chemicals in some of Iowa’s remote streams, suggesting the contaminants are spreading far beyond sites typically known to use them. The class of chemicals called PFAS have been used in household and industrial products for decades and are linked to a slate of health issues.

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Iowa detected PFAS in one-third of the streams they tested. The UI’s Dave Cwiertny worked on the study.

“I think it indicates that there are likely sources that we’re not probably thinking about correctly. That there are ways these things can reach parts of the environment that don’t necessarily…aren’t tied to the ones you read about in the news like an airport or a military base.”

Cwiertny says he’s especially worried about Iowans who rely on private wells, which are much more vulnerable to contamination. He says the findings also raise concerns for people who eat fish from the state’s streams.

1:44 p.m. – State argues that lawsuit against Reynolds’ over delayed response to public records requests should be dismissed

The state argued in Polk County District Court Friday that a lawsuit over the governor’s delayed response to public records requests related to Test Iowa should be dismissed.

Suzette Rasmussen sued Gov. Kim Reynolds and her legal counsel Michael Boal, alleging they violated Iowa’s open records law.

Sam Langholz is an assistant attorney general and the governor’s former legal counsel. He says the court should dismiss the case, partly because the records were provided. He gave other reasons, too. “As you make those judgments about the importance of dealing with legislative session matters or the pandemic or economic recovery versus responding to open records requests, that starts to get into policy considerations that are inappropriate for resolution here.”

Attorney Gary Dickey says the state’s position means agencies could just withhold public records until they’re sued, and then provide the records and get the case dismissed. “Think about how remarkable the position is that the governor’s taking in this, which is, we’ve got a statute that requires not just the governor, but all public agencies to produce records in the furtherance of transparency. And what the governor’s position is, is that nobody can ever enforce that statute.”

Langholz disagreed that this would be a slippery slope affecting other public offices.

Judge Sarah Crane says she’ll issue a ruling soon on the motion to dismiss.

12 p.m. - State reports 8.2% 14-day test positivity rate

9 a.m. - Drake forfeits football game due to “COVID-19 issues”

A football game between Drake and Stetson set for Saturday in Des Moines was canceled Thursday due to coronavirus concerns among Drake personnel.

The Drake University athletics department said in a news release that the Pioneer Football League canceled the game because of “COVID-19 issues within Drake’s Tier I personnel, which consists of student-athletes, coaches, managers, and staff.”

Drake medical staff and university administrators were involved in the decision.

Under the league’s rules, Drake will forfeit the game. Coronavirus-related game cancellations at the college level have been rare this season.

Teams in the Pioneer Football League participate in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Entry via the Associated Press

8 a.m. - Des Moines Día de los Muertos event will honor victims of gender-based violence

The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence is hosting their first Día de los Muertos celebration this Saturday in Des Moines. It will honor victims who lost their lives due to gender-based violence.

Veronica Guevara is the coalition’s director of equity and inclusion. She says most of the lives lost could have been prevented. “We wouldn't have to hold an event like this, but I think it's important to do so because we are bringing awareness to the issue.”

Organizers say it’s meant to honor the lives lived, not the way they lost their lives.

“We're always looking to bring the community in, in very different ways,” Lindsay Pingel is the coalition’s director of community engagement. “So this is just a new way to kind of look at that. But again, just to uplift the stories of those who've been lost and taken too soon.”

The tribute will have live music, guest speakers and activities. Pingel says she hopes to make this event annual and grow it in the future.

The number for the Iowa Victim Call Center is 1-800-770-1650 or text ˜IOWAHELP” to 20121.