The Iowa Legislature

 

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As the rate of new COVID-19 infections remains high in Iowa, the state's top health official says they are working on more rapid testing options. 

As the spread of the virus remains high across the state, demand for COVID-19 testing has skyrocketed.

Interim state Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia says testing is widely available across the state. But the department is seeing some issues for those who need rapid testing.

 

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A new law going into effect in Iowa on July 1st is problematic for Sioux City’s top human rights official. Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer has more.

On Tuesday, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new law banning teaching about white privilege and racial equity in public schools, colleges, and universities. The measure also applies to training for state agencies.

The Director of the Sioux City Human Rights Commission, Karen Mackey, says the measure is short-sided and comes from a place of white privilege. 

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A MidAmerican Energy power outage impacted sections of Sioux City today.  A MidAmerican spokeswoman said the outage began sometime around 10:53 a.m.. Some 1,477 customers are impacted. Customers should have had power restored by 2 p.m..

Unity Point Health-St. Lukes was one of the biggest customers impacted by the outage. In a Facebook post, the hospital reported that their backup generators are running "and patient care continues," though ambulances are being diverted.   

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A MidAmerican Energy power outage is impacting sections of Sioux City today.  MidAmerican spokeswoman Tina Hoffman said the outage began sometime around 10:53 a.m.. According to a MidAmerican outage map, some 1,477 customers are impacted. Some smaller, apparently unrelated outages in the metro area bring the total without power to 1,488 as of noon.  Customers should have power restored by 2 p.m. Hoffman said. 

Fewer than one-third of Iowans now support the Legislature's push for an amendment that says the state constitution does not secure a right to abortion, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.   Support for the proposal has dipped slightly from 33% last spring to 31% this year, the poll found. The opposition has also risen, with 58% of Iowans now saying they're opposed, up from 54% a year ago.

In an after-midnight vote, the Iowa House passed a bill to provide public funding for charter schools run by groups unaffiliated with local school districts. Republicans suspended House rules to allow a vote after midnight, without a public hearing requested by Democrats, and placed a “time certain” limit on debate.

Under the bill the State Board of Education would have authority to approve charter school applications from local school boards and from so-called ‘founding groups’ that could operate a school independent from the local school board.

This week on The Exchange, we have a preview of what to expect when Downtown Live! returns this June with organizer Brent Stockton. Also, we talk with Ryan Haskins of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra about its return to stage and its streaming service as well. 

Local historian Russ Gifford presents "Eleanor Roosevelt: A Woman Who Made A Difference," Monday, March 22, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. live on Zoom, as part of Western Iowa Tech Community College's Lifelong Learning Program.  Here is a preview.

This week on The Exchange, a report on the aquittal in the nationally-watched story of Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Suhouri.  Sohouri was pepper sprayed and arrested this summer at a Black Lives Matter event in Des Moines.  She was accused of disobeying a police order.  The trial in Des Moines lasted three days. 

Woodbury County Democratic Party

On Monday night the Woodbury County Democratic Party is holding an event to address what they call voter suppression by Republicans in the Iowa Legislature.

“These are potential laws based on Donald Trump’s lie about the last election in 2020,” said Jeremy Dumkrieger, Democratic Party Chair for Woodbury County.

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate are fast-tracking a bill to shorten the early voting period in Iowa from 29 to 18 days. Plus, county election officials would be banned from sending absentee ballot applications to voters.

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South Dakota’s attorney general has been charged with three misdemeanors including careless driving after he hit and killed a man with his car. Jason Ravnsborg, a native of Cherokee, Iowa was charged today. Ravnsborg initially told authorities he thought he had struck a deer while driving home from a Republican fundraiser on September 12. Ravnsborg has said he didn’t know he struck a man until he returned to the scene and found the body the next day. The man’s relatives have questioned Ravnsborg’s account.

This week on The Exchange we talk with Siouxland State Senator Jim Carlin.  The Republican lawmaker announced this week he is planning to run for the US Senate seat long held by Republican Chuck Grassley. Also, we talk about several bills in the Iowa legislature this year that could affect the LGBTQ+ community with Keenan Crow director of policy and advocacy for the advocacy group One Iowa. 

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An Iowa House subcommittee has approved a one-time appropriation of 30 million dollars for schools that have been in-person during the pandemic. Any district that allowed at least 50 percent of students to attend in-person could qualify for payments, but the schools that offered the most days of all in-person learning would receive the largest share of funding. Supporters say it would help cover the cost of mitigating COVID-19 in the classroom. 

This week on The Exchange, we hear from US Senator Joni Earnst about the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.  Ernst says she has constitutional concerns about the process.

Also, we talk with Dennis Todey. He is the director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Midwest Climate Hub in Ames about the possiblity of drought in Iowa this spring and summer.

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Governor Kim Reynolds announced yesterday, Iowans 65 and older will soon be eligible for the next wave of COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Governor Reynolds talked about the second tier of COVID vaccination in Iowa, which will eventually immunize more than 530,000 people. Iowans 75 and over, health care workers and staff, and residents at long-term care facilities were given the first batch,

The second tier rollout begins February 1. It will offer vaccines to essential frontline workers, first responders, and teachers. Reynolds says the state cannot open up vaccines to all Iowans just yet.  

Iowa is currently receiving 19,500 doses per week. However, those numbers could change with the new administration in place.

But Gov. Kim Reynolds said the state currently ranks 46th for the number of doses it's allocated. 

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 State lawmakers returned to the Iowa Capitol today. Education, taxation, safety are the top priorities for 2021 Iowa legislature. And today they were Joined  inside by hundreds of anti-mask protestors.

Hundreds of people --- few, if any, of them wearing face coverings --- packed into the Iowa Capitol rotunda today and then into the Senate and House chamber galleries. The were protesting mask-wearing and other public health measures designed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic.

State lawmakers returned to the Iowa Capitol today. Education, taxation, safety are the top priorities for 2021 Iowa legislature. And they were joined inside by more than 200 anti-mask protestors.

 

Iowa has surpassed 700 COVID-19 deaths as another seven deaths were reported by the state on Friday. 

Coming up on the exchange, we have a wrap up of the 2020 legislative session with Republican Siouxland State Senator Jim Carlin and Siouxland Democratic State Represenative Chris Hall. Carlin and other Republicans voted for a budget that is basically status quo in the age of COVID 19.

However, Chris Hall says republicans basically handed over decisions about the 8 billion dollar state budget to the governor and her staff.  

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Republican senators from four states that have seen severe flooding from the Missouri River are backing legislation that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to change its management of the river to reduce flood risk. 

The proposal would require the Corps to take steps to reduce flood risks along the lower Missouri River by changing the way it manages the dams and by strengthening levees along the river.

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The governing body for Iowa’s three state universities is imposing new travel restrictions due to coronavirus.

The Iowa Board of Regents is immediately canceling all university-sponsored international travel for all faculty, staff, and students at Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI for 30 days, including Spring Break.

In addition,  faculty, staff, and students who are already out of the country, are being recalled if they’re in China, Iran, Italy or South Korea.

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Fears about the coronavirus have prompted the Iowa Board of Regents is immediately canceling all university-sponsored international travel for all faculty, staff, and students at Iowa, Iowa State and UNI for 30 days, including Spring Break.

The board says faculty, staff, and students who are already out of the country, are being recalled if they’re in China, Iran, Italy or South Korea.

The Iowa Senate has passed a bill to enhance criminal penalties for abuse and neglect of companion animals. 

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The governing body for Iowa’s three state universities is imposing new travel restrictions due to coronavirus.

The Iowa Board of Regents is immediately canceling all university-sponsored international travel for all faculty, staff, and students at Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI for 30 days, including Spring Break.

The board says faculty, staff, and students who are already out of the country, are being recalled if they’re in China, Iran, Italy or South Korea.

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Two Sioux City residents announced today that they would run for the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors.  Retired Sioux City Police Department officer Kevin McCormick will run as a Democrat for the District 1 seat in November.

McCormick was shot in the head during a routine traffic stop in 2012, then returned to work within two weeks.  Republican Keith Radig currently holds the District 1 seat. 

And A Sioux City teacher has announced his candidacy for an open Supervisors position that will be determined in an April special election. 

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  The Iowa Senate has passed a K-twelve school funding deal nearly three weeks after a deadline passed for establishing the funding increase.

It would give a 2.3 percent increase or about 85-million new dollars for base per-student public school funding. Republicans in the Senate first proposed a 2.1 percent increase, and the House and the governor proposed 2.5 percent. 

Democratic Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames says it’s too little too late, and the state can afford to do more.

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Iowa’s senior senator took part in what he says was a “top secret” briefing in a congressional chamber this morning to discuss the impact of the coronavirus, according to Radio Iowa.

In a conference call with Iowa reporters, Senator Chuck Grassley didn’t want to reveal many details of the briefing but did say he met with officials from several federal agencies involved with public health. 

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Gov. Kim Reynolds says today she is ok with a state board's recommendation to change the level potency of legally available medical marijuana products. Some lawmakers wanted to allow higher amounts of THC. THC is the chemical that makes recreational marijuana users high.

Lawmakers have been searching for a bill that would meet Reynolds' approval after she vetoed a proposal last year that would have expanded the state's medical-marijuana program. 

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There is a possible case of the mumps in northeast Nebraska. The Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department sent a letter this week to parents in the Laurel-Concord-Coleridge School District about the contagious disease.  The possible case in the school district hasn’t been confirmed yet.  

A bill requiring some Medicaid recipients to work in order to maintain health coverage is moving to the floor of the Iowa Senate after passing in committee today.

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Health officials are looking into a possible mumps case at a school in northeast Nebraska.  The Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department sent a letter this week to parents in the Laurel-Concord-Coleridge School District about the contagious disease.  

They recommend young people be immunized against the mumps.  They also say women who are pregnant and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of complications from the mumps.  The possible case in the school district hasn’t been confirmed yet.  

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The 57 Americans who've been held in quarantine at a Nebraska National Guard camp are preparing to leave Thursday and are in good health, a federal health official said.

They landed at Omaha's Eppley Airfield on Feb. 7, having flown from the Wuhan region of China, the center of the COVID-19 outbreak.

They soon were bused to Camp Ashland southwest of Omaha, where they've been biding their time with daily health checks, staying in hotel-style rooms and having no contact with soldiers in training there. The evacuees include more than a dozen children.

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