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Wednesday, April 28
4:41 p.m. – New Department of Corrections policy bans family, friends and third parties from sending books to prisons
A new policy banning family, friends and third parties from sending books into Iowa prisons is raising civil rights concerns among loved ones and advocates.
ACLU of Iowa communications director Veronica Fowler says limiting inmates’ access only to books they buy from approved vendors undermines their rights to freedom of expression. “The freedom to read is so closely linked to the freedom of thought and the freedom to learn and no matter what your positon is in our society we should not be limiting that. Within reason.”
The policy also appears to cut off access to nonprofits dedicated to sending books to inmates. Loved ones say the change will result in significant cost increases that for some will be prohibitive.
The Department of Corrections says the policy is needed due to an increase in contraband entering the prisons with books. Similar bans in other states have prompted legal challenges and public outcry.
3:34 p.m. – Iowa Senate votes to remove time limit on filing child sex abuse charges
The Iowa Senate has voted unanimously to remove the time limit on filing criminal charges against people accused of sexually abusing children.
The Senate attached this legislation to a different bill after it failed to advance earlier in the session.
Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, says now is the time to change the law.
“Whether it’s five days from the time of their crime, or 50 years from the date of the crime, someone who has committed sexual abuse against a minor should not get a free pass simply because the victim does not come forward within an arbitrary deadline.”
Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, who has tried to change this law for years, says it’s a step in the right direction. But she says the legislature must also remove the time limit on civil actions, so that survivors can sue people and institutions for their abuse.
3:10 p.m. – Iowa Senate passes bill that would limit what can be taught in diversity trainings, school curriculum
The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that puts some ideas off limits for diversity training and school curriculum.
A list of banned concepts includes the idea that Iowa or the United States are systemically racist and that an individual may be unconsciously racist.
An amendment to the bill states it is not meant to prohibit teaching about sexism or racism. But opponents say the bill could forbid discussion on topics such as reparations or implicit bias.
Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Windsor Heights, says that if the bill becomes law, schools and government agencies may cancel diversity trainings because they would be unsure of what is allowed.
“It will chill the speech of well-intentioned educators who can’t find clear direction here, but only find pitfalls and traps,” Trone Garriott says.
Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, says the bill protects against what she called scapegoating of a particular group for racism or sexism.
“We are seeing curriculums and instruction creep into our schools that are fundamentally hostile to a specific race or sex, and it must stop,” Sinclair says.
The amended bill now goes back for consideration in the Iowa House.
2:42 p.m. – Legislature sends governor bill targeting financial exploitation of dependent adults
The Iowa legislature has sent the governor a bill to give investment advisors some legal protection for reporting suspicions that someone who cannot manage their own finances is being fleeced.
“It defines financial exploitation as wrongfully depriving eligible persons of assets, properties, etc.,” said Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge.
The proposal is patterned after laws in 27 other states. It outlines when financial advisors can delay transactions if they suspect it is not in the best interest of a dependent adult. Advisors who report suspicious financial activity to authorities would be shielded from lawsuits. Representative Jon Jacobsen of Council Bluffs read from a Boston College paper during House debate of the bill.
“A 2018 report by the U.S. (Securities and Exchange Commission) estimated 90 percent of older adults who suffer financial abuse are exploited by trusted individuals such as neighbors, care providers, church officials or family members,” Jacobsen said, “and that accumulated losses can be in excess of $3 billion a year.”
In a separate bill, legislators are setting aside money so the Iowa Insurance Division can hire an investigator to focus on complaints about financial fraud targeting elderly and dependent adults. Legislators are also asking for a yearly report on how many dependent Iowa adults are victims of financial exploitation
Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa
1:14 p.m. – Reynolds says she won’t drop biofuels mandate if it isn’t passed by the legislature this year
Gov. Kim Reynolds says she is not giving up on her proposed state biofuels mandate if it doesn’t get approved by the legislature this year.
Iowa lawmakers have been working on amendments to her bill, but it hasn’t passed in the House or Senate. Reynolds says she’ll continue to look for ways to boost the renewable fuels industry.
“Then what I will do is I will convene all the stakeholders again over the interim, and we will continue to have the conversation. We should be partners in this.”
Reynolds’ proposal has faced stiff opposition from gas station companies and transportation interests. Renewable fuel, corn and soybean interests support her bill.
12:19 p.m. – Reynolds signs broadband expansion bill
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Wednesday aimed at expanding high-speed internet access across the state. That comes after the House and Senate voted unanimously to approve the bill.
The new law establishes matching grants for companies that expand broadband in underserved areas. Most of the grants will go toward developing internet access with download and upload speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. Some grants will allow for lower upload speeds in hard-to-reach areas.
This was one of Reynolds’ highest priorities for this legislative session.
“In the 21st century when access to high-speed internet is growing increasingly necessary for everyday life, from work to entertainment to health care, we needed to act. And I’m proud to tell Iowans we did just that.”
Reynolds asked lawmakers to allocate $150 million in each of the next three years to fund the grants.
House and Senate Republicans have agreed to provide $100 million. Reynolds says it’s a great start, and she expects to use federal funding to bring the total up to $150 million.
10 a.m. – Three additional deaths, 503 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday in Iowa
Wednesday’s COVID-19 numbers for Iowa
*From Tuesday 10 a.m. to Wednesday 10 a.m.*
503 new cases
Three new deaths
2,251,036 number doses administered
999,451 individuals fully vaccinated
— Iowa Public Radio (@IowaPublicRadio) April 28, 2021
6 a.m. – Lawyers argue over Renewable Fuel Standard in front of U.S. Supreme Court
Lawyers for renewable fuels groups and small oil refineries sparred on their interpretation of the Renewable Fuel Standard in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday.
Last year, an appellate court ruled small refineries can be exempt from blending renewable fuels into their gasoline only if they’ve been continuously exempt already. Lawyers put their definitions of the word “extension” on center stage in front of the Supreme Court.
Peter Keisler represents the oil refiners. He argued that all small refiners were exempt from their blending requirements in the first years of the Renewable Fuel Standard program, and he says they can ask to extend that any time if they’re facing economic hardships.
“No dictionary defines extension to require continuity,” Keisler says. “And Congress has used the term elsewhere, when it’s specifically authorizing the temporal resumption of a benefit after a lapse.”
Matthew Morrison represents the Renewable Fuels Association and other biofuels groups. He says “extension” means to prolong. And the EPA can prolong an exemption from blending requirements, not create new ones.
“EPA’s unauthorized carve outs have resulted in billions of dollars of lost revenue to biofuels producers, devastating the rural economies anchored by the renewable fuels industry,” says Morrison.
All small oil refineries had exemptions in the beginning of the Renewable Fuel Standard program. An attorney for the refineries argued they can get it extended any time if they’re struggling financially.
Tuesday, April 27
4:42 p.m. – Iowa House approves reproductive crimes bill
The Iowa House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that makes it a crime to provide false reproductive material during fertility treatments. It stems from cases of people discovering through ancestry websites that they’re not the biological children of their parents.
Republicans amended the bill to make that an aggravated misdemeanor, bringing it down from the initial proposal of a Class C felony.
Rep. Kristin Sunde, D-West Des Moines, says the higher penalty should apply because it’s a serious form of sexual assault. “Imagine if I had a successful procedure and then years later my son and I submitted DNA to Ancestry dot com and I found out that my son wasn’t actually my biological son, he is the biological son of my doctor. What an incredible violation.”
The House also added a provision that says women 18 and older can give consent to getting a hysterectomy. It bans health care providers from requiring consent from a spouse or any other person.
3:39 p.m. – More Iowa counties decline weekly COVID-19 vaccine
State health officials have confirmed 80 of Iowa’s 99 counties declined all or part of their weekly COVID-19 vaccine allocation for next week.
This marks a rapid increase from last week when 43 counties declined their full allocation.
Shelley Bickel is the administrator for the Wayne County Health Department. She says she declined the county’s entire 100 dose allocation for the first time next week because demand has sharply decreased.
That’s even though less than half of Wayne County’s adult population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to state data. “And I think part of the problem is the 18- to, probably, 50 year-olds, who – those are probably the ones we’re not getting it to like everybody else. They don’t want it.”
State health officials say they’re working with local leaders to determine why there has been a decline in demand and what additional education is needed.
10 a.m. – 346 new cases of COVID-19 reported Tuesday in Iowa
Tuesday’s COVID-19 numbers for Iowa
*From Monday 10 a.m. to Tuesday 10 a.m.*
346 new cases
No new deaths
2,238,291 number doses administered
991,431 individuals fully vaccinated
— Iowa Public Radio (@IowaPublicRadio) April 27, 2021
Monday, April 26
5:15 p.m. – Iowa Attorney General says officers were justified in firing weapons during Grundy Center standoff
The Iowa Attorney General’s office says four officers were justified in firing their weapons during a standoff in Grundy Center where Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Jim Smith was shot and killed.
Monday the Iowa Department of Public Safety identified the four officers who fired their weapons in the standoff: Hardin County Deputy Mitch Kappel, Trooper Josh Guhl, Trooper Matt Costello, and Trooper Spencer Baltes.
Michael Lang, who is accused of killing Smith, was hospitalized with three gunshot wounds after the standoff but has since been released and is in custody.
The Iowa Attorney General’s office said, after reviewing body and car camera video, that the officers “had no other reasonable choice” but to shoot Lang because he was still armed and threatening them.
5:13 p.m. – Des Moines Water Works resumes negotiations over whether to establish a regional water system
The Des Moines Water Works is continuing negotiations over whether to establish a regional water system to serve a greater portion of the metro area. Talks with the water systems of West Des Moines and Urbandale were stalled by the coronavirus crisis but were able to resume last summer.
Des Moines Water Works CEO Ted Corrigan maintains that regionalization would make for a more efficient system that is better able to plan for the future.
“I’m still supportive of regional governance. I think it will give us the strongest water utility and the strongest planning mechanism for the future.”
Corrigan says the utilities are currently briefing their separate boards on the basics of what regionalization would look like. The Des Moines Water Works board is slated to discuss the issue at a meeting Tuesday.
4:48 p.m. – Bill banning proof of COVID-19 vaccination moves forward
Government entities, schools and businesses in Iowa would be banned from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations under a bill advancing in the Iowa Legislature. The ban wouldn’t apply to health care facilities. Businesses that violate the bill won’t qualify for state-funded grants or contracts.
The bill also prohibits state and local government agencies from issuing any ID cards that say whether someone got a COVID-19 vaccine.
Nicole Hasso of Johnston says she supports the bill because individuals should get to decide if they want to be vaccinated or not. “For someone to tell me that I can’t go and shop, or I can’t go to my son’s basketball game because I’m not vaccinated, that’s against the rules. That’s against my constitutional rights.”
Several speakers told lawmakers they want the exception for health care facilities to be removed. But a key Republican said the current version of the bill is likely to get approval from the Senate and governor.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill Monday with some Democrats joining Republicans in support. A Senate committee is scheduled to consider the same bill Tuesday.
2 p.m. – University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics joins campaign to encourage vaccination
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has announced it is joining with 60 of the nation’s top healthcare providers to encourage more Iowans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The nationwide campaign will use advertising and social media to encourage people to get vaccinated.
It will specifically target groups that have higher hesitancy rates, like certain ethnic minority groups and those living in rural areas.
Mike Brownlee is the chief pharmacy officer with UIHC. He says hesitancy is increasing because the vaccine is now available to populations who are at low risk for getting seriously ill from the virus.
“We’re trying to help them see the more broad view, how this can not just help their them, their patients, their families, but everyone in the community and then the more vaccine that we have in the community, the more slows the spread, it can help everyone.”
State health officials have confirmed they did not accept more than 22,000 of their federal allotment of doses this week due to the declining demand.
10 a.m. – 182 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths reported Monday
6:30 a.m. – Iowa farmers assess damage from spring cold snap
Temperatures dipped to below freezing across the Midwest last week, and farmers are tallying up their losses from the cold snap.
To prepare for the colder temperatures, Will Lorentzen and Adrian White of Jupiter Ridge Farm harvested 80 pounds of rhubarb early. They still left some rhubarb out in the field and expected it to be a loss, but Lorentzen says there’s only a little bit of damage on the outside of stalks.
“I’m still pretty pleased with our decision,” Lorentzen says. “It took a lot of weight off of late night worries. But, we lucked out. I believe the frost didn’t settle as hard as it could’ve on our particular patch.
Lorentzen says the farm isn’t even at a 10 percent loss. He adds all of their fruit blossoms seem to have made it through the cold.
Emma Johnson co-farms Buffalo Ridge Orchard. She says she expects a 30 to 50 percent loss in her apple crop, but that she is planting vegetables to offset those losses.
“We think there’s going to be a little less income in the orchard,” Johnson says. “We can maybe offset that with some storage crops such as potatoes and beets, carrots.”
She adds the damage throughout the orchard isn’t as much as they expected. Her husband drove a heater through the orchard to keep the ground warm and control the humidity to prevent a massive crop loss.
6 a.m. – Iowa turns down 22,000 of its vaccine doses as demand wanes
Iowa has asked the federal government to withhold more than one-quarter of its allotment of coronavirus vaccines this week because demand for the shots has waned across the state.
The Iowa Department of Public Health told the Des Moines Register Saturday that the state declined to accept 18,300 of 34,300 doses of Moderna vaccine it was slated to receive this week, and 3,510 of 46,800 doses of Pfizer vaccine.
“Along with several other states, we are seeing a slowdown of vaccine administration, but we are working with our local partners and community leaders to determine where additional education is needed and to gain an understanding of the needs of each county’s unique population,” said Sarah Ekstrand, a spokesperson for the state health department.
Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday that 43 of the state’s 99 counties had declined all or part of their weekly vaccine allocations for the week of April 26.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nearly 55 percent of Iowa adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 40 percent have been fully vaccinated against the disease.
The state allotment of vaccines doesn’t include thousands of doses that are being distributed directly through a number of pharmacies and clinics in Iowa as part of a federal program.
Entry via the Associated Press
6 a.m. – In the Iowa legislature: bottle redemption, more budgets, and a large law enforcement bill
As the 2021 session comes to a close, a measure that would change Iowa’s bottle redemption system receives a public hearing. Another large department budget passes out of an appropriations committee, one that includes a controversial income verification qualification for public assistance programs. And a large bill about law enforcement passes out of the House.’
You can hear about these issues and more from the Under the Golden Dome podcast.
Sunday, April 25
7:40 p.m. – Kansas task force created to find ways to attract livestock veterinarians to the rural Midwest
There’s been a shortage of livestock veterinarians throughout the rural Midwest for years, and it’s causing challenges for some producers. A new state task force in Kansas is trying to reverse the trend.
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kelsey Olson says people in industries such as cattle ranching need vets to help keep their herds healthy and breed new cattle.
“If you don’t have a veterinarian that you can contact to provide the various vet services, it can have devastating impacts to your business.”
The task force is asking ranchers to take an online survey to determine where the shortage is most severe and the problems it is causing.
Entry via Harvest Public Media
10 a.m. – 20 additional deaths, 220 new cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday in Iowa
Sunday’s COVID-19 numbers for Iowa
*From Saturday 10 a.m. to Sunday 10 a.m.*
220 new cases
20 new deaths
2,208,973 number doses administered
974,735 individuals fully vaccinated
— Iowa Public Radio (@IowaPublicRadio) April 25, 2021
Saturday, April 24
11:02 a.m. – Health officials lift pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine
State health officials announced they are lifting the recommended pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, effective immediately.
They say all vaccine providers can safely resume the use of the one-dose vaccine.
This follows a decision announced Friday by the CDC and FDA to end their recommendation for providers to temporarily stop using the vaccine. Federal officials were investigating six cases of severe blood clots in individuals who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They said they have determined the vaccine is safe and effective and that the chance of the blood clots occurring is very low.
10 a.m. – Three additional deaths, 436 new cases of COVID-19 reported Saturday in Iowa
Saturday’s COVID-19 numbers for Iowa
*From Friday 10 a.m. to Saturday 10 a.m.*
436 new cases
Three new deaths
2,174,800 number doses administered
951,514 individuals fully vaccinated
— Iowa Public Radio (@IowaPublicRadio) April 24, 2021