IPR News Stories

senate subcommittee meeting
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Republican senators advanced three proposals and tabled one this week that would change eligibility requirements for public assistance programs.

Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) chaired the three-member subcommittee meetings on each of the bills. The Opportunity Solutions Project, which is associated with a conservative think tank based in Florida, submitted the proposals.

“A lot of these bills are focused on the public general perception that there is a large fraud problem,” Schultz said. “But I’ve looked into it—I’m not sure there is.”

Amy Mayer / IPR file photo

After more than 20 years, an early tool of genetic engineering in crops is doing more than just killing pests. It’s providing environmental benefits, too, according to a new study in the journal Biological Control.

John Pemble / IPR File Photo

To amend the state constitution, two consecutive Iowa General Assemblies must approve a resolution. Then it must be approved by Iowa voters. But first, the Secretary of State must publish the amendment in newspapers.

jeff  danielson
John Pemble / IPR

Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) abruptly resigned Thursday afternoon from the Iowa Senate. 

The four-term Democrat submitted a one-sentence resignation letter Thursday to the leaders of the House and Senate.

Swiss Meat and Sausage has been butchering animals and selling meats in a small, unincorporated east-central Missouri town for 50 years. Co-owner Janice Thomas wants to expand, and to do that, she’ll need more business from out-of-town customers.

“If there is one place that has some room, it’s with our online ordering,” she said.

The community of Swiss has minimal internet access: It’s not high speed, and it’s unreliable.

reynolds
John Pemble/IPR file photo

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to allow Iowans to get some forms of birth control directly from a pharmacist without going to a doctor first has an uncertain future at the statehouse.

The bill would allow specially trained pharmacists to dispense up to a one-year supply of some forms of birth control, and would require insurance to cover it.

Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Peosta) chairs the House Human Resources Committee. She said Wednesday Republicans on the committee are discussing the proposal, a priority of the governor.

Katie Peikes/IPR

A mental health center that had an uncertain future nearly a year ago, will soon be shared by counties across the western part of the state. The move comes as Woodbury County changes the way it will provide mental health services next budget year.

Kate Payne

One of rural Iowa’s most unique restaurants is losing its chef, leaving the future of the Ladora Bank Bistro somewhat uncertain. The struggle to find a new owner for the restaurant shows how difficult it can be to keep historic buildings open in small town Iowa. 

Courtesy of Chad Shook

A western Iowa principal recently returned home from Puerto Rico where he spent a week helping to rebuild a school affected by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Julian Garrett
John Pemble / IPR

Senate Republicans advanced a proposal out of a committee Monday that would change the make-up of the judicial nominating commissions that recommend potential judges to the governor.

The bill would allow the governor and statehouse leaders from the same political party to appoint three-fourths of the members of each commission, and statehouse leaders from the other party would appoint the remaining fourth.

Jimmy Emerson/flickr

The Iowa House of Representatives passed a K-12 education package Monday evening that increases funding to public schools by nearly $90 million for the school year starting in the fall.

The first measure House lawmakers considered offered a 2.06 percent increase to per-student funding.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

The first major changes to the Iowa Democratic caucuses were proposed Monday. Iowans who take part in the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating process would be able to do so virtually if the proposal is approved by a central party committee and the Democratic National Committee.

Iowa Democrats have had to physically attend the caucuses to declare their choices since 1972. Critics have said the process excludes people who can’t attend because of work or disability. State party leaders unveiled plans for next year to allow Democrats to use a phone to participate.

courtesy DMARC

Beginning this week, agencies that help get food to hungry Iowans are expanding their services.

The Des Moines area’s DMARC Mobile Food Pantry will add four more stops to its schedule, which will provide a healthy, three-day supply of food to some people who haven’t been able to get it from other food pantry locations.

Luke Elzinga, DMARC’s communications manager, says the additional stops mean the mobile pantry will reach more of the people the agency knows are in need.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

The mayor of South Bend, Indiana is a relatively unknown Democratic presidential candidate and worked to remedy his lack of name recognition this weekend with a trip to Iowa. Pete Buttigieg made several stops in Ames and Des Moines. At a house in Johnston, he said the president’s administration pits business against things like healthcare and childcare.

John Pemble / IPR File Photo

State lawmakers are expected to vote on K-12 public education funding this week. It’s less than Governor Kim Reynolds requested, but it’s more than the last couple of years. This bill gives a 2.06 percent increase in base funding, or about $79 million. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checked in with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric. Here’s what to know about education funding and other issues going on at the capitol.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Growing up poor in Mississippi, Cedric Burnside didn't have running water.

It's a fact he highlights in the first song on his Grammy-nominated album, Benton County Relic.

In the upbeat, soulful song, titled "We Made It," Burnside croons verses like, "I came from nothing, I done been lower than low" and "Walk 3 miles every day, to have water in the house for another day."

Burnside grew up in his grandfather's house, along with many of his cousins. It wasn't until he was 12 years old that they finally got running water.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

There are a lot of Democrats with presidential ambitions in 2020 and many of them are already making trips to Iowa. This cycle, at least some Democratic candidates are trying hard to win over rural supporters who were largely ignored in 2016.

Ten farmers and small business owners sit around a table at the public library in Perry, Iowa and talk with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. He’s getting their perspective as he mulls whether or not to run for president.

He’s able to partake in farm country small talk like the price of farmland these days.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais

In his new position as President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, Charles Grassley is third in line of presidential succession.

During this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch about the constitutional role of President pro tempore, going way back to John Adams, the country’s first president of the Senate.

university of iowa
University of Iowa

A group of college students traveled to the Iowa Capitol Thursday to voice support for a proposal that aims to expand free speech rights on public college campuses.

“As conservatives, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we expected there to be a bias when we went to a public university,” said Jacob Minock, president of the Iowa State University College Republicans. “And we are okay with that. But we are not okay with being silenced. And that is why we are here.”

John Pemble/IPR

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, wants to expand marijuana access in Iowa.  Bolkcom says marijuana should be regulated and taxed like alcohol. Other states have legalized marijuana use in some form but it is still illegal under federal law, and it is unlikely Iowa legislators will take action.

But legislators are considering bills that would legalize sports betting.  In May 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that allows states to have this form of gambling. Eight states have legalized sports betting and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, wants Iowa to be next.

In theory, closing off China’s soybean market due to the trade dispute with the U.S. on top of generally low prices for the commodity should affect all industry players, big to small. Agriculture economist Pat Westhoff begged to differ.

Rural hospitals aren’t just providers of medicine and health care, but also are often major employers and a massive part of a town’s tax base. However, mounting challenges are forcing these hospitals to merge and close in droves.

Don Becker via USGS / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rescued_Flood_Victims,_Coralville,_IA_(2593492801).jpg

The National Weather Service is raising certain flood stage categories along parts of the Iowa River. The revisions are intended to ensure flood warnings better reflect the impacts communities are seeing on the ground.

Courtesy of Sarah Haptonstall

A western Iowa city that has been dealing with brown tap water for almost a year says it has finally found a fix.

The U.S. trade war with China has created a financial burden for farmers and companies that import Chinese goods. Consumers, on the other hand, have mostly been spared from the conflict.

That could all change if this month’s negotiations between the U.S. and China don’t go well.

Doc Searls

State officials are in Davenport this week conducting a broad review of the school district’s finances and practices. The audit could determine whether the Davenport Community Schools keep their accreditation. 

John Pemble / IPR

Representatives of Iowa’s lottery, casino, and horse-racing industries were among those making a case to lawmakers to let them handle sports betting in the state.  Pro sports leagues are also making a bid to run sports betting.

A Senate subcommittee Wednesday took testimony on four sports betting bills that favor different stakeholders.  Casino representatives say they have a long and successful track record handing betting in Iowa, and they’re already regulated by the state’s racing and gaming commission.

jake chapman
John Pemble/IPR

Republican senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would amend the Iowa Constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights.

school bus
Cannon Air Force Base

A Senate panel advanced a deal Tuesday by Republican statehouse leaders to increase funding for Iowa’s K-12 public schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

It would provide a 2.06 percent increase in base funding, which is an additional $78.6 million. A separate proposal aimed at reducing historical inequities in funding and transportation costs across school districts brings the proposed total up to $89.3 million in new dollars for next year.

The U.S. trade war with China, now approaching a year, is often framed as hurting manufacturing and agriculture the most. But that’s mainly collateral damage in an international struggle over power and technology that has its roots in the Cold War, when China was still considered a largely undeveloped country.

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