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NEWS 4.7.22

Nebraska lawmakers have overridden nearly all of Gov. Pete Ricketts’ line-item budget vetoes, restoring more than $172 million in expenditures.

Lawmakers voted in favor of all three motions to override the Republican governor, who had raised concerns about some of the spending items that they previously approved. Ricketts’ vetoes had scaled back spending increases for providers who care for vulnerable Nebraskans, affordable housing in urban areas and a planned bike trail to connect existing routes between Omaha and Lincoln, among other items. Lawmakers chose not to override a veto that will leave $14 million in the governor’s emergency fund. Lawmakers had voted to transfer that money out of the fund.

Abortion rights supporters have scored a surprising victory in Nebraska, derailing a bill that would have automatically outlawed abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns its Roe v. Wade decision. The vote on Wednesday frustrated abortion rights opponents, who usually win fights over the issue in Nebraska's conservative Legislature.

More than a dozen other conservative states have passed similar measures already, but abortion rights supporters in Nebraska managed to block it using a filibuster in the single-chamber Legislature. Lawmakers fell two votes short of the 33 they needed to end the filibuster and force a vote on the bill. The 31-15 vote left the proposal essentially dead for the rest of the year.

It’s not clear if Iowa’s legislative session will end within the scheduled 100 days as Republican leaders negotiate policy priorities and the budget.

One Democratic leader in the House says Governor Kim Reynolds’ plan to create state-funded scholarships to use for private schools seems to be a main sticking point with Republicans in rural areas who oppose the idea.

The Senate passed the private school scholarships bill, but the House hasn’t passed it. House and Senate Republicans also disagree on whether there should be a one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits. And they’re working toward an agreement on changes to Iowa’s bottle deposit law.

Lawmakers’ daily allowance ends after April 19th, but the session can continue for as long as it takes to pass the state budget.

Governor Kim Reynolds announced today (Thursday) that Iowa will shut down one of its state-run residential facilities for people with severe disabilities. The Glenwood Resource Center in southwest Iowa will be permanently closed and the campus sold in 2024.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice found Glenwood residents were subjected to harmful human experimentation and poor medical care. The DOJ later said the state was likely violating federal law by caring for Iowans with disabilities in institutions rather than in their homes and communities.

The state’s negotiations with the federal government to address these concerns continue. But Reynolds and the top two Republican legislative leaders say in a statement that they decided Iowa wouldn’t be able to comply with the DOJ’s expectations for care at Glenwood.

The Iowa Department of Human Services plans to move some residents to the Woodward Resource Center, and others to community-based care. State officials say they plan to invest in building up community services for Iowans with disabilities.

Governor Reynolds is using $100 million in federal pandemic relief money to finance new tourist attractions in Iowa and enhance existing sites.

Cities, counties and other organizations will be able to apply for what the governor is calling “Destination Iowa” grants. According to a news release from the governor’s office, the money will support “transformational, shovel-ready attractions” that give visitors a “reason to explore” and Iowa residents are a “reason to stay.”

Radio Iowa reports the grants will be divided among projects for tourism attractions and outdoor recreation and for developments that are economically significant or transform existing public spaces.

State officials will start accepting Destination Iowa grant applications May 9.

All four Iowans who serve in the U.S. House have introduced a bill that would upgrade the communications network for the National Weather Service. Damage to a fiber optic cable at a Weather Service office in Texas delayed warnings during last month’s tornado outbreak in Iowa.

Congresswoman Cindy Axne of West Des Moines, a Democrat, says it’s important for congress to pass this bill now rather than address it later in the year during federal budget negotiations.

“It is literally a life saving measure, possibly,” Axne says. “There is no way in God’s green acres that anyone would think there should be a delay in getting information to wherever a disaster is occurring.”

Iowa’s congressional delegation is lining up bill co-sponsors from other states, as Axne says it’s not just Iowans who depend upon timely warnings from the National Weather Service.

“We are seeing increased severe weather patterns across this country,” Axne says. “To react to those is of utmost importance and this does that completely.”

Republican Congressman Randy Feenstra of Hull and Congresswoman Ashley Hinson of Marion, who’s also a Republican, both say “every second matters” during severe weather and the National Weather Service must have a functional and reliable communications system. Republican Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Ottumwa says she’s proud of the Iowa delegation’s bipartisan effort to get the Weather Service the tools it needs to issue timely warnings of potentially disastrous storms.

Statement from the Sioux City Branch of the NAACP:

Today's vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court is of enormous importance to our nation and to history. After 233 years, the court will finally have a Black woman justice deciding our most significant cases with tremendous impact on our lives and the lives of families.

As a country we should celebrate this historic moment that has taken too long. Fifty-five years ago, former NAACP Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall broke down the wall when he was confirmed as the first Black American to sit on the Supreme Court. Today, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson shatters the glass ceiling to finally make room for a woman who happens to be black on our nation's highest court.

Judge Jackson is an unequivocally qualified candidate to make history. We join the nation in beaming with pride as we celebrate her achievement of rising to the highest level one can. With her even-handed approach to the law and commitment to fairness and equal justice, our Supreme Court will be better and stronger, as will our nation.

News release from the State of Iowa:

Gov. Reynolds announces Glenwood Resource Center to close in 2024, stresses commitment to residents and staff during transition

GLENWOOD -- Today, Governor Reynolds, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, and House Speaker Pat Grassley announced that the state intends to close the Glenwood Resource Center (GRC) in 2024. Located in Glenwood, GRC provides residential care and other services for Iowans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Over the next two years, GRC will continue to provide care for its residents while working with their guardians and families to transition them to community placements or the Woodward Resource Center. Existing staff members will be critical in supporting a smooth transition for residents and, as such, will be offered retention incentives to continue working at GRC during this time. The state will also assist staff in identifying new career opportunities in Iowa as their employment nears an end.

Additionally, the state will work with local government officials and community leaders to minimize the impact on the Glenwood community and Mills County, and to identify alternative uses for the GRC campus after the facility closes.

Throughout the transition period, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) will work with care providers statewide to build the resources needed to ensure access to the full continuum of care for Iowans with disabilities.

In November 2019, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a two-part investigation into Iowa’s state-operated resource centers for the time period spanning from 2017 through 2020, focusing on serious allegations involving GRC and the state’s over-reliance on institutional settings for serving individuals with disabilities. DHS has worked cooperatively with the DOJ throughout the investigation and has implemented its own improvement efforts to address concerns.

Despite the progress that has been made, significant challenges remain. While negotiations with the DOJ continue, the expectations that have been outlined for services, workforce, and additional investment at GRC cannot be attained and sustained long term at the facility. Accordingly, in line with its commitment to serving individuals in the least restrictive setting, the state will enhance support to community providers as it simultaneously looks to expand services at Woodward Resource Center, making it a central point of care delivery and coordination for vulnerable Iowans.

“While necessary, the decision to close the Glenwood Resource Center is a difficult one that I take very seriously. For many residents, it’s the only home they’ve ever known. I am fully committed to a seamless and successful transition of care for them, their families and the staff at Glenwood,” stated Gov. Reynolds. “Iowans with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve quality care that aligns with the expectations of the DOJ. Our best path forward to achieve those standards is closing GRC and reinvesting in a community-based care continuum that offers a broad array of services. That’s what we’re prepared to do to continue to meet the needs of Iowans.”

“Despite significant effort over the last two years to improve care and respond to DOJ directives, continued operation of the Glenwood Resource Center has become untenable. This was a difficult decision, and we are committed to ensuring that the transition process thoughtfully addresses the concerns of everyone impacted by the closure,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver.

“In addition to families, guardians, residents and staff, this decision directly affects the entire Glenwood community, and we don’t take that lightly,” said House Speaker Pat Grassley. “As we work to meet the needs of GRC residents in the least restrictive setting possible, we will also be working closely with state agencies and local officials to ensure we support the needs of the community throughout this process.”

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services will be on-site at GRC beginning today to meet with guardians, family members, and staff. The department will continue to provide updates and critical information as work progresses.

Additional information and ongoing updates can be found online at dhs.iowa.gov/doj.