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Newscast 4.5.24: Bill would give Iowa governor bigger role in judicial appointments process; Funding details for Iowa & South Dakota public universities

The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa

The Iowa governor would have more control over the judicial appointment process if a bill becomes enacted in the Legislature.

The Iowa system for judicial selection has long been lauded for having scant political tilt to the merit system work carried out by the Judicial Nominating Commission.

The Iowa Senate study would remove the most senior judge in the district from the judicial nominating commission, The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported. Instead, the governor would “appoint six eligible electors of each judicial election district to the district judicial nominating commission,” according to the bill wording.

Some attorney organizations have expressed concern that the proposed change could negatively impact the quality of judges appointed. The Senate bill also contains details related to funding Iowa courts for the next fiscal year.

Additionally, Iowa Senate Republicans have revealed their proposal for next year’s education budget, including a funding increase for the state’s public universities.

The Board of Regents would receive an additional $12.3 million dollars to spread across the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa.

Republican State Senator Jeff Taylor said the plan is meant to meet with overall spending targets set by Republican leaders. It also mirrors the 2.5 percent funding increase that lawmakers approved for K-12 schools for the 2024-25 year.

Taylor said the final amount to be set will be determined after negotiations with House Republicans.

Additionally, there will be no tuition increase for students attending the six public universities in the state of South Dakota. The South Dakota Board of Regents in a Thursday release reaffirmed its commitment to affordability in higher education by freezing tuition again for the 2025 academic year.

Board of Regents Executive Director Nathan Lukkes said this marks a fifth consecutive year of keeping tuition and fee increases nearly flat, since many students have financial challenges.

During the 2024 Legislative Session, $5.7 million was allocated to the regents system, so long as the six South Dakota public universities would hold fees flat and continue to absorb ongoing costs at their institutions, the release said.

Additionally, for the first time in at least five weeks, the price of gasoline has gone down in Iowa.

The price of regular unleaded gasoline decreased 6 cents this week, averaging $3.27 across Iowa according to AAA. Many Sioux City and surrounding towns are selling unleaded this week from $3.13 to $3.39.

The Siouxland price was well below $3 for much of January and February.

Compared to one year ago, the current $3.27 average price is down 3 cents. The national average unleaded gas price is $3.55.