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NEWS 11.10.22: Iowa Loses $30 Million in Childcare Assistance, GOP Controls Statehouse, RSV Impacts South Dakota Hospitals and Children, and More

The state of Iowa is losing $30 million in federal money that would have helped families access basic childcare services.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports the governor’s office says the loss of that money is the result of a deliberate decision to avoid having to commit $3 million in matching state funds toward child care.

But a Democratic state lawmaker says it’s her understanding that Iowa’s application for the $30 million in federal grants fell victim to the state’s inability to review the paperwork and submit it on time.

The grant money can be used by states to coordinate early-childhood care and learning programs and services that already exist and help children from low-income families enter kindergarten prepared and ready to succeed in school.

This year, the grant-application process encouraged states to consider the changing needs of children and families due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to invest in strategies addressing those needs.

Having previously received funding under the same grant program, Iowa was one of 25 states or territories deemed eligible as “renewal” grant recipients.

The Des Moines Register reported earlier this week that the state of Iowa has refused to ask federal officials to reallocate millions in unspent federal money the state was awarded for rental assistance and affordable housing in Iowa. The decision means $89 million meant to help low-income Iowans with housing will probably be returned to the U.S. Treasury and then doled out to other states.

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican leadership may have an easier path forward with appointments and legislation in the upcoming session as Republicans take a supermajority in the state Senate and add to their majority in the state House.

In the Iowa Senate, Republicans gained at least two seats, according to unofficial results. With at least 34 seats, Republicans have a two-thirds majority. That means state Democrats can no longer block appointments by Gov. Kim Reynolds to state agencies and boards and commissions. More on the story from the Iowa Capital Dispatch can be found here.

Republican Senator Amy Sinclair of Allerton has been chosen as the new president of the Iowa Senate.

Sinclair previously served as majority whip and chaired the Senate Education Committee. She takes the place of former Senate President Jake Chapman, who lost reelection this week.

In a statement, Sinclair says she appreciates the trust her colleagues put in her. She says she looks forward to, quote, “continuing the progress we have made to make Iowa the best state in the country.”

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver was reelected by his Republican colleagues to continue as the majority leader. He’s served in that position since March of 2018.

Voters in eight of Iowa's 99 counties had EMS essential funding referendums on their ballots on Nov. 8. Five counties received the required 60% threshold to pass the ballot referendum.

KCCI Television in Moines reports, in Iowa, EMS is not considered an essential service, meaning there's no guarantee or requirement that an ambulance will show up when someone dials 911.

Voters in Osceoloa, Pocahontas, Kossuth, Jones and Winnebago counties passed the funding. Voters in Calhoun, Floyd and Worth counties rejected it.

The Libertarian Party of Iowa appears to have won full party status. In order to be recognized, an organization has to receive at least 2% of the total votes cast for governor or president in the last general election.

Unofficial results show Libertarian Rick Stewart got two-point-four percent of the vote in this year’s gubernatorial election. That means the party will have full status as early as next year. That comes with access to primary elections, inclusion in the caucuses and an automatic spot for a Libertarian candidate on a presidential ballot.

This isn’t the Libertarian Party of Iowa’s first time as a major party. In 2016, presidential candidate Gary Johnson got enough votes to get past the 2 percent threshold. But in 2018, Jack Porter fell short in the governor’s race, losing the status.

Residents of Nebraska have approved a new photo identification requirement for future elections. The measure was one of several decided Tuesday that could affect the way votes are cast in the next presidential election. Arkansas voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have raised the threshold to pass future ballot initiatives. A proposal to expand early voting passed in Connecticut and was leading in Michigan. The measures were among 130 state ballot issues. Others touched on contentious policies such as abortion rights, marijuana legalization, gun rights and gambling.

Nebraska U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse has won final approval to become the 13th president of the University of Florida, capping a swift and sometimes contentious process. Sasse, a Republican, was confirmed for the post by the state university system Board of Governors on a voice vote Wednesday. Sasse will leave the Senate — he’s two years into his second term — before taking the Florida school’s helm in February. The vote came just over a month after Sasse was revealed as the sole finalist for the job. That followed a confidential search process that drew a vote of no confidence from the Florida Faculty Senate.

An earlier-than-normal and more resilient strain of RSV infections in South Dakota is causing severe illness in young children, sparking concerns that pediatric intensive care units could become strained, especially if combined with a winter spike in influenza or COVID-19 cases. More on the story from the Argus Leader can be found here.

Officials report the number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations and positive tests have increased in the past seven days.

The feds report right now 180 Iowans hospitalized have tested positive for the virus. That’s up 40 hospitalizations from last week.

That’s as state health officials say more than 25 hundred positive tests have been reported in the past week. A slight uptick from last week’s count.

Officials also added 22 Iowans to the state’s COVID death count. 10,229 Iowans have died from the virus so far.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 64 percent of all Iowans have completed their primary COVID vaccine series. A little over 11 percent have received the most recent bivalent booster.

The Board of Regents facilities committee has approved plans for several million dollars of work on buildings on the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa campuses. Radio Iowa reports the plan includes remodeling a residence hall in Iowa City and artificial turf at the U of I’s rec complex. Iowa State plans to spend more than $2.25 million to remodel Memorial Hall. The University of Northern Iowa plans to expand the Gallager Bluedorn Performing Arts Center with a budget of about $14 million dollars.

Aubrey Trail will not get a second murder trial for the killing and dismemberment of Sydney Loofe. The Nebraska Supreme Court in a decision Thursday, just shy of the five-year anniversary of the 23-year-old Lincoln woman's disappearance, affirmed Trail's conviction and death sentence for the murder. The Omaha World Herald Reports, Trail's appeal was automatic, because he was sent to death row. Though, he said he didn't want one.

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