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NEWS 9.15.22: Money Request for Iowa Universities, Democratic Candidate Priorities, Dairy Farm Fine, and More

The Iowa Board of Regents will ask state lawmakers to increase general funding for the state’s three public universities by $32 million next year, and more for special projects.

That’s about a 7% increase, which is greater than anything the Republican-controlled legislature has approved recently.

Part of the additional funding would go toward supporting first-generation students and to boost recruiting to fill workforce shortages in nursing and teaching.

Last year the legislature passed a $5.5 million general funding increase to be shared by Iowa State, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa. That was about a third of what the universities had requested.

Democrats running for seats in the Iowa House of Representatives say protecting abortion rights is one of their top priorities. Their other priorities are legalizing recreational marijuana, lowering costs for Iowans, and investing more in public schools.

Republicans have controlled the Iowa Legislature for several years, so Democrats haven’t been able to decide what bills get debated and passed. House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst says if they win more seats, they can block Republican attempts to further restrict abortion.

 “If we can stop a total ban and allow some exemptions, that’s a nice starting place. But our goal is to protect and defend reproductive freedom in this state. And we will do that through a constitutional amendment and every way we can before then.” 

Konfrst says these priorities are supported by a majority of Iowans. The Des Moines Register Iowa Poll found 60% of Iowans say abortion should be legal, and 54% favor legalizing marijuana.

The owner of a northwest Iowa dairy farm was ordered to pay the state more than $36,000 for a massive manure release last year that killed nearly 100,000 small fish in a nearby creek, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The manure discharge happened when a worker at Rock Bottom Dairy, near Lester, neglected one night to shut off an irrigator that spreads manure onto a nearby field. For more on the story from the Iowa Capital Dispatch click here.

The unidentified owners of a shuttered western Iowa nursing home mired in debt now stand accused of deliberately defrauding creditors to the tune of more than $800,000. More on the story by the Iowa Capital Dispatch can be found here.

Donations continue to pour in to help a 17-year-old sex trafficking victim who was ordered by a court to pay $150,000 to the family of a man she stabbed to death after he raped her. A GoFundMe campaign set up for Pieper Lewis raised more than $200,000 just one day after the restitution order was handed down by an Iowa judge and reached more than $430,000 on Thursday night. Prosecutors described the sentence as merciful for a teen who had been horribly abused, but it struck some observers as unnecessarily harsh. Lewis pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter and willful injury in the June 2020 killing of 37-year-old Zachary Brooks, a married father of two.