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NEWS 11.18.21

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The federal lawsuit over Iowa’s mask mandate took another step forward today.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is fighting to keep Iowa's law banning mask mandates in schools, a law that has been put on hold until the courts make their decision.

The state is appealing the temporary injunction of Iowa's mask mandate ban today by filing an appeal with the 8th Circuit Court.

Reynolds signed the bill into law in May. The ACLU sued and an injunction was into place, schools allowing schools to implement mask mandates.

Some parents turned in religious and medical exemptions, others ran for school board on an anti-mask platform.

The governor’s appeal claims mask mandates discriminate against children with sensory disorders, respiratory conditions like asthma, and those living with autism or other kinds of behavioral issues.

A new monthly survey of bankers in rural parts of the plains and western states shows mixed results, Siouxland Public Media’s Carolyn Lien has more on the Rural Mainstreet report.

The survey includes insight from all three Siouxland states. It suggests rising economic growth in the region, but confidence in the economy's future continued to drop.

The overall economic index rose in November to 67.7 from October’s 66.1. Any score above 50 suggests growth.

The survey's confidence index, which reflects bank CEO expectations for the economy six months out, sank for the fifth straight month to 48.4 in November.

That's the lowest level since August of last year and down from October’s 51.8.

Deere workers approved a new contract Wednesday that will deliver 10% raises immediately and end a monthlong strike for more than 10,000 employees. The United Auto Workers union members voted 61% in favor of the deal with the tractor maker. It was the third vote on a contract offer.

Workers recently rejected an offer that was similar to the one approved Wednesday. This latest proposal made only modest changes to the details of Deere’s internal incentive pay plan.

The new contract covers 12 plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas where the Moline, Illinois-based company’s iconic John Deere equipment is made. The workers had been on strike since Oct. 14.

Senator Jackie Smith is running for re-election to the Iowa Senate. She announced her plans on Wednesday. Her district includes portions of Sioux City and surrounding communities in Woodbury County.

Smith says she plans to continue working for middle-class families and to be a voice for working Iowans. She was first elected to the Iowa Legislature in 2018. She has supported bipartisan legislature for job training at community colleges, helped created a children’s mental health system, helping veterans injured in the line of duty, and improve justice for crime victims.

Enrollment in community colleges is down this fall in Iowa, but not as much as it is nationally.

Nearly 82,000 students are studying at Iowa community colleges. That’s a drop of almost 2 percent compared to a decline of about 6 percent across the U.S. However, enrollment is up at Western Iowa Tech Community College by 2%.

The Des Moines Area Community College saw the largest decrease in students, around 11 percent. Iowa Central in Fort Dodge had the largest increase, near 10 percent.

Former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will be “ambassador-in-residence” at Drake University, meeting with students and planning to host a yearly conference about U.S. and China relations.

Branstad, who was President Donald Trump’s Ambassador to China, graduated from Drake’s law school 50 years ago.

Branstad, the nation’s longest-serving governor, has just turned 75. His office on the Drake campus is in the law library.

Branstad hopes to organize an annual conference to focus on the U.S. relationship with China — a country Branstad said can be considered both an adversary and a potential trading partner.

Branstad said it was no easy task as the ambassador to evacuate 1300 people from China back to the United States. Branstad told reporters the Chinese government has done everything it can to cover up the origins of COVID-19 and the world probably will never know for sure how it started.

State and local emergency management officials need new ways to maintain disaster communications during long-term and widespread power outages. That’s one of the findings in a report on the August 2020 derecho issued this week by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The review found that local and state officials struggled with fundamental issues, like understanding how to properly request state aid. Breakdowns in communications strained resources, duplicated efforts, and hindered support for vulnerable communities like immigrants.

Many of the findings are similar to those in reports conducted for Linn County and the city of Cedar Rapids.

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Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.