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In the news
FENTANYL DEATHS RISE: Fentanyl seizures in Iowa have quadrupled in the first six months of 2022 compared to the first half of last year, leading Gov. Kim Reynolds and state officials to announce efforts to educate young Iowans about the dangers of illicit opioid use.
The synthetic opioid, which is often designed to look like prescription pills such as OxyContin and Percocet, is now indicated in more than 80 percent of opioid-related deaths, Reynolds said on Tuesday.
The rise has been more dramatic among Iowans under age 25, who saw a 120 percent increase in deaths since 2019.
Iowa has one of the lowest rates of drug overdose deaths in the United States at 14.3 per 100,000 in 2020, ranking 47th among the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that number is going up, Reynolds said.
The state’s Health and Human Services department is expanding an existing messaging campaign to teens and young adults to include warnings about the risk of fentanyl.
REYNOLDS’ COURT CHALLENGE: Gov. Kim Reynolds said she was disappointed that the Iowa Supreme Court didn’t take up her request to reconsider a recent ruling that overturned the state’s constitutional right to an abortion but still left some protections in place.
However, Reynolds said Tuesday she remains undeterred in her belief that it is the proper strategy to continue pursuing legal remedies to a pair of abortion restrictions already passed into law by her and her fellow Statehouse Republicans.
RED-FLAG LAW CHANCES UNCLEAR: In a state where lawmakers have loosened gun restrictions for several years, incentives are coming from the federal government to enact so-called red-flag laws, that would allow groups to petition a court to temporarily confiscate a firearm from a person who is deemed to be dangerous.
The federal gun control legislation passed in June included funding for states to enact the laws. Gov. Kim Reynolds didn’t rule out the state passing a red-flag law next year, but she questioned their effectiveness.
SENATORS REBUFF NATIONAL ABORTION BAN: Iowa’s Republican U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst on Wednesday both rejected the prospect of a federal ban on abortions in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Ernst and Grassley, who have both supported abortion restrictions, said the matter should be left to each state to set its abortion policies.
They said …
“No matter how many laws or rules you have on the books, if somebody has evil in their heart, you can't handle that.” — Gov. Kim Reynolds on red-flag laws.
“As a proud Iowa Corn Growers Association member and one of only two farmers in the U.S. Senate, I am committed to being a voice for American agriculture and advocating for the family farmer.” — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley after receiving the National Corn Growers Association’s President’s award.
Odds and ends
BRAIN-EATING AMOEBA : A Missouri resident who recently swam in an Iowa Lake was infected by an amoeba that causes a rare brain infection.
The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services is testing the Lake of Three Fires in southwest Iowa for the organism, called Naegleria fowleri.
10 YEARS SINCE EVANSDALE MURDERS: This week marked the 10-year anniversary of the disappearance of cousins Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, and Elizabeth Collins, 8, of Evansdale, whose bodies were found five months later in December 2012.
Their bodies were found by hunters at Seven Bridges Wildlife Park, a secluded area about 20 miles from Evansdale, which is just outside Waterloo.
The Iowa Department of Public Service said the investigation into the murders is ongoing, involving state and federal investigators, with tips continuing to come in.
HANCHER SEASON: Woodward and Bernstein, Leslie Odom Jr., Patti LaBelle, Yo-Yo Ma and the American Ballet Theatre are among the heavy-hitters headed to Hancher for its 50th anniversary season at the University of Iowa.
Tickets are on sale now to donors at the $120 level and higher, and go on sale to the rest of the public Aug. 15.
COVID-19 CASES RISE: Iowa saw a 30 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases in the past week along with a rise in hospitalizations, according to state and federal data.
Cases jumped to 5,187, as of Wednesday, up from the previous week’s total of 3,980. The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 increased from 190 to 229.
STATE FUNDS APPRENTICESHIPS: Iowa Workforce Development awarded more than $3.6 million to 88 businesses and governmental agencies on Wednesday to create or expand apprenticeship programs.
The entities receiving the money included utilities, hospitals and the Iowa Department of Corrections, all offering the training in high-demand jobs.
More in the news
COGGON SOLAR: A plan to build a 640-acre solar farm near Coggon is on hold until a district court judge reviews a legal challenge from four nearby landowners.
Martin, Paula, Tom and Laura Robinson are appealing the rezoning, approved in January by Linn County supervisors, that will allow Coggon Solar to be built.
UNIVERSITIES LAND OUTSIDE FUNDING: Bolstered by tens of millions in federal stimulus and COVID aid, both of Iowa’s public research universities busted external funding records in fiscal 2022 — by $49 million at the University of Iowa and $42.6 million at Iowa State University.
The UI secured $867 million in external funding — including research-related grants and support — topping the campus’ previous record of $818 million set in fiscal 2021, representing a 6 percent jump.
Iowa State amassed $601.7 million in external funding — a nearly 8 percent jump over its previous high of $559.1 million the year before and marking its first step over the $600 million line.
STATE SETTLES MALPRACTICE SUIT: The state will pay $7.5 million after a man suffered disabling injuries after surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for a bleeding brain tumor.
Christopher Dolan, 47, is in a wheelchair and requires constant care, according to the settlement.
TIM SCOTT TO JOIN HINSON BBQ: South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott will headline Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson’s barbecue campaign fundraiser in August.
The Republican senator has made frequent trips to Iowa in recent years, leading to speculation that he’s considering a bid for president in 2024. Hinson is running for re-election in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, facing state Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, in the November election.
SCHOLTEN JOINS FRANKEN: J.D. Scholten, who ran for Congress in northwest Iowa’s 4th Congressional District in 2018, was hired as the political director for Mike Franken, the Democrat running for the U.S. Senate against Republican Chuck Grassley.
Gazette Des Moines Bureau