Iowa Statehouse

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It was a sprint to the finish when lawmakers returned to the statehouse June 3rd. Back in March, after the first Iowa cases of the coronavirus were confirmed, the Legislature started what turned out to be a two-and-a-half month break. Yesterday, June 14th, Iowa lawmakers adjourned the 2020 session.

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On this episode of River to River, guest host Katelyn Harrop speaks with several guests about some of the latest and ongoing coronavirus stories in Iowa, including Gvernor Kim Reynolds' decision to partially reopen businesses in 77 of Iowa's 99 counties, and how survivors of domestic violence can access resources during this national crisis.

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In the spirit of social distancing, lawmakers are keeping their distance from the Iowa Statehouse, which could impact what's accomplished during the 2020 legislative session.

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On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric talk with Iowa lawmakers about childcare legislation being debated at the statehouse.

Michelle Brooke, owner and director of Mrs. Brooke’s Curious Kids Program, shares her experience teaming up with Lee Container to provide childcare for that business and the challenges she sees in the future for childcare in Iowa.  

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On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and IPR statehouse reporter Katarina Sostaric speak with lawmakers from both parties about the ongoing debate within the Iowa house and senate regarding how much of the state budget will go toward funding k-12 education. 

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In this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with University of  Nothern Iowa political science professor Donna Hoffman about the latest caucus counting news and IPR's digital team about their concerns over social media in the wake of delayed results from the Iowa caucus. He also covers several other topics from the week's news.

Guests include:

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A group of Iowa House Democrats is waiting to hear what comes next in a lawsuit aimed at rolling back changes to the process for choosing Iowa Supreme Court justices. The lawmakers are challenging new rules passed on the last day of the legislative session giving the governor more influence over the membership of the judicial nominating commission.

Roughly 15 percent of Iowa residents are ethnic minorities, yet the state has just a few non-white legislators.

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with the four members of Iowa's Legislative Black Caucus, formed last month: Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, D-Des Moines; Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo; Rep. Phyllis Thede, D-Bettendorf; and Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines.

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A bill that would raise the cost of owning solar panels has divided Iowa legislators.

In this episode of River to River, co-hosts Ben Kieffer and Katarina Sostaric talk with lawmakers about possible additional fees for solar customers.

Later, they discuss the debate over stricter laws governing drivers who want to use cell phones behind the wheel.

First half guests:

John Pemble

A measure strengthening Iowa's animal cruelty laws, a proposal allowing over the counter birth control, and a bill to change the limit on the potency of medical marijuana have all made it through the second funnel week at the Iowa legislature, allowing the bills to be considered and possibly passed before the end of the session.

In this hour of River to River, Ben Kieffer and co-host Katarina Sostaric talk with several Iowa statehouse reporters about the bills that have made it through the latest legislative funnel, and which did not.

Panelists include:

James Q. Lynch/The Gazette

Some of Iowa's youngest state lawmakers have made a plan to break through partisan gridlock and foster cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. On this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Emily Woodbury talks with two members of the Iowa Future Caucus, Senator Zack Wahls and Representative Joe Mitchell, about their priorities at the capitol and why they feel they are well equipped to tackle the partisan divide.

Iowa Courts

Democrats have cleared an initial hurdle in a legal challenge over the state’s closest legislative race. Local elections officials will take another look at ballots tossed out in northeast Iowa’s House District 55 race. The candidates are separated by nine votes, and if a judge ultimately orders the ballots be counted, they could potentially change the outcome of the race.

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Recounts in two competitive Iowa legislative races have confirmed the initial results. But one of the competitors says her campaign still isn't over.

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Elections officials improperly counted ballots in Iowa’s closest statehouse race. Despite the error, state officials say there’s no way to undo it. 

Zach Wahls via facebook /

Iowa’s largest LGBTQ rights group is celebrating the primary election victory of advocate Zach Wahls in Eastern Iowa’s Senate District 37.