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NEWS 12.1.22: Report says "White House Picks Michigan Over Iowa," Glenwood Settlement, Iowa Midterm Certification, EPA Supports Ethanol, Gas Prices Fall, and More

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Political reports Michigan will likely hold the "first in the nation" Democratic caucuses. More on the story can be found here.

The federal government would monitor Iowa’s troubled Glenwood Resource Center for the next three years under a proposed settlement between the state and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DOJ began investigating in 2019 and found Iowans with severe disabilities were subjected to human experimentation and poor medical care at the Glenwood facility.

The new agreement between the state and federal government has yet to be approved by a court.

State officials previously announced they would close the Glenwood Resource Center in about two years. The settlement requires the state to make sure residents are moved to integrated settings with appropriate services. The DOJ and Iowa have yet to reach an agreement on the DOJ’s separate finding that Iowa is keeping too many people with disabilities in institutions.

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services will receive more than $28 million from the federal government to strengthen its public health system.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week it is awarding $3.2 billion to local and state governments.

The majority of the funds come from the American Rescue Plan Act and will be directed towards workforce development. This means recruiting and retaining critical frontline workers such as epidemiologists and contact tracers.

In a statement, Iowa HHS says it will use the money to quote meet critical infrastructure needs.

This includes hiring staff that will help assist the state’s local health departments.

A boost for homeownership in Iowa will also be provided through COVID-19 relief money. Governor Reynolds today announced almost $20 million dollars in grants to provide 90 families with a place to call their own. Sixteen organizations statewide were awarded the money, including a dozen Habitat for Humanity affiliates. Siouxland Habitat for Humanity received more than $1.6 million to assist with six homes. The Iowa HOME Grant Program is part of a $100 million investment to increase the supply of housing options in the state. The money was provided through Federal American Rescue Act State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds set up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. More information can be found below in a news release issued by the State of Iowa.

State officials have certified most of Iowa’s midterm election results.

The State Board of Canvassers confirmed more than 1-point-2 million Iowans voted in the midterm elections. That’s the second-highest turnout in state history for a midterm election.

Fifty-five percent of all registered voters participated in the election.

According to Secretary of State Paul Pate, Winneshiek County had the highest voter turnout, with 64% of all registered voters participating.

A special canvass is being planned for three Iowa House races.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst has voted to block a strike by railroad workers and impose the labor agreement negotiated at the White House in September, but Ernst says she would have preferred to “keep congress out of it.”

Ernst, a Republican, tells Radio Iowa President Biden “could and should have done more to ensure a fair deal” for employees, including her brother, who works for a railroad. Eight unions approved the contract offer, but four unions representing tens of thousands of rail workers rejected it.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley also voted to intervene in the labor dispute and prevent a strike. Both Grassley and Ernst voted against a proposal to force the railroads to provide seven days of sick leave to employees. It got just 43 “yes” votes in the Senate.

The House voted last night to avert the rail strike, which could have started next week.

Former Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew has withdrawn his name from the consideration to replace Woodbury County Supervisor Rocky De Witt. The full story from the Sioux City Journal can be found here.

Representatives from Summit Carbon Solutions say they’re making progress getting landowners to sign voluntary easements for a carbon dioxide pipeline. The comments were made during a media tour Wednesday at an ethanol plant near Galva in a report by the Sioux City Journal.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed increasing ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supplies over the next three years. Thursday's announcement was welcomed by renewable fuel and farm groups but condemned by environmentalists and oil industry groups. The proposal also includes incentives for the use of biogas from farms and landfills, and biomass, such as wood, to generate electricity to charge electric vehicles. It’s the first time the EPA has set biofuel targets on its own instead of deferring to Congress. The agency opened a public comment period and will hold a hearing in January.

Senator Ernst issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“Today’s announcement gives our biofuel producers and farmers much-welcomed certainty for the next three years,” said Ernst, a tireless advocate for Iowa biofuel producers.“While I am pleased with the proposed levels for conventional biofuel, the flatlined levels for advanced biofuel do not reflect the immense innovation and growth the industry has experienced. I will continue to be a strong proponent for the Renewable Fuel Standard and promote Iowa’s homegrown biofuel – a cheaper, cleaner choice at the pump.”

This week, Ernst joined a bipartisan group of Midwest senators on a push to expand the year-round sales of E15 nationwide. The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act would extend the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to ethanol blends above ten percent.

Gas prices in the state are following the national trend and continue to drop.

AAA-Iowa says the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas in Iowa is $3.21, down about 14 cents compared to last week. Radio Iowa reports that price is down 31 cents from one month ago.

AAA says the price of oil has dropped on fears of an economic slowdown, and that has led to the drop in gas prices.

The national average price of a gallon of gas is $3.54, which is down 12 cents from last week.

News release from the State of Iowa:

Governor Reynolds announces nearly $20M to advance homeownership opportunities for Iowans

DES MOINES - Governor Reynolds today announced a total of nearly $20 million in investments to advance homeownership opportunities for more than 90 families through the development and rehabilitation of single-family homes and down payment assistance initiatives in dozens of Iowa communities. The grants were awarded to 16 organizations, including 12 Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the state to assist in meeting local housing needs.

“We know that homeownership is the leading driver of wealth creation,” said Gov. Reynolds.  “The investments announced today will not only assist many Iowan families in opening the door to homeownership, upward economic mobility and the ability to live in the communities where they work.”

“The awards made to Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the state will fuel a historic and transformational investment into sustainable homeownership opportunities for Iowans,” said Lisa Houser, Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity of Iowa. “Habitat for Humanity of Iowa commends Gov. Reynolds’ commitment and leadership in advancing housing opportunities for Iowans.”

Examples of projects awarded funds include:

  • The construction of 69 single-family homes by Habitat for Humanity affiliates to be sold to income eligible families in communities throughout the state. 
  • The development of six 3-D printed homes for first-time homebuyers in Muscatine with a specific focus on qualified first-time homebuyer teachers. 

The program had $20 million available for awards and received 24 applications requesting more than $30 million in funding.

The Iowa HOME Grant Program was created as a part of Gov. Reynolds’ $100 million investment to increase the supply of housing options and protect and expand housing opportunities for Iowans to live in or near the communities where they work. The funds are made available through Federal American Rescue Act State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds.

The awards list is available here.

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