Gazette Daily News Podcast, the Weekend of Jan. 16 and Jan. 17

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald waits for the start of a Condition of the State address at the Capitol in Des Moines.
State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald waits for the start of a Condition of the State address at the Capitol in Des Moines. He reported Friday on the level of government borrowing in Iowa in the 2020 fiscal year. (The Gazette)

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This is Stephen Schmidt from the Gazette digital news desk and I’m here with your update for Saturday Jan. 16 and Sunday Jan. 17.

Your weekend weather continues the sporadic precipitation of the last few days. According to the National Weather Service, there will be a chance of snow in the early morning Saturday in Eastern Iowa with a chance for flurries throughout the rest of the day. The temperature will settle into the high 20s, so freezing rain should be off the menu. Sunday the temperature will remain similar and so will the chance for flurries, with things finally calming down Sunday night to mostly cloudy skies.

Five days into the Iowa legislative session lawmakers and staff have been alerted that someone “associated” with the House has tested positive for COVID-19. Chief Clerk of the House Meghan Nelson and Secretary of the Senate Charlie Smithson sent messages to lawmakers and staff shortly after 6 p.m. Friday alerting them that someone who had been in the Capitol Wednesday tested positive earlier in the day.

The lack of a mask mandate for Iowa legislators created divisions even before the session started. In the House, Democrats have asked that people attending committee meetings in person be required to wear masks. Those proposals have been defeated largely on party line votes.

Democrats also have criticized Republicans for not delaying the 2021 session until more Iowans receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

The outstanding debt for state and local governments topped $17.9 billion for the fiscal year that ended last June, Iowa’s state treasurer Michael Fitzgerald reported Friday.

That’s a 4.8 percent increase from the previous fiscal year, Fitzgerald said, though Iowa remains among the states with the lowest debt in the nation.

“Usually, for Iowa, you’ll see 3 (percent) to 5 percent growth in the debt,” he said. “Iowa is a pay-as-you-go, low-debt state, and it’s continuing to be that way, but local governments are making some investments.

With reports that armed protests are possible, steps are being taken to ensure the Iowa Capitol remains a safe place in the coming days. An FBI memo, obtained earlier this week by ABC News, warns of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.According to the report, one group has called for supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump to “storm” government buildings on Wednesday even if Trump won the state — as he did in Iowa.

An officer with the state public safety department and the Iowa State Patrol, the agency in charge of protection at the Iowa Capitol, said the department’s intelligence division is monitoring social media and other channels for prospective security concerns and is working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The Iowa National Guard has not been asked to protect the capitol at this time, but they are available if needed.

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