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In the news
ABORTION REACTION: Iowa abortion rights activists were energized by the results of a Kansas vote on Tuesday, where voters roundly rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have removed abortion protections.
Iowa activists said the results show that efforts to restrict access to abortion are unpopular in even deep red, rural states.
Republican lawmakers in Iowa have passed a similar amendment to Iowa’s constitution that would remove abortion protections. If the resolution passes the Legislature again in 2023 or 2024, it would go before voters in November 2024.
ERNST CHANGES BURN-PIT VOTE: After facing criticism from veterans’ groups and Democrats, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, voted to support the Honoring Our PACT Act, which extends health care and disability benefits to millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
Ernst had previously joined a group of Republican senators to oppose the bill over a budget provision. But Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley both supported the bill on Tuesday, which passed 86-11.
MAQUOKETA CAVES MURDERS: The Cedar Falls family killed at Maquoketa Caves State Park on July 22 died of gunshot wounds, stabbing and strangulation, according to autopsy results released Thursday.
Tyler Schmidt, 42, died from a gunshot wound and multiple sharp force injuries — meaning stab wounds. His wife, Sarah Schmidt, 42, died of multiple sharp force injuries. And their daughter, Lulu, 6, died from a gunshot wound and strangulation, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said Thursday.
The Schmidts’ son, Arlo, 9, survived the attack.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said the evidence shows Anthony Sherwin, 23, of LaVista, Neb., entered the family’s tent, where a struggle took place. The autopsy confirmed he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound elsewhere in the park.
Officials say they have “indicators” as to what precipitated the attack but are continuing to investigate.
PALO MURDER: Samantha Faith Bevans, 34, of Palo, and Tacoa Talley, 38, of North Liberty, face first-degree murder charges in the July 14 death of Jodie Bevans, 58, of Palo.
Samantha Bevans is Jodie Bevans’ stepdaughter.
According to a criminal complaint, Samantha Bevans told investigators that Talley choked Jodie Bevans while she suffocated her stepmother with a pillow on July 14.
Investigators found a note written by Samantha Bevans that had “Kill Jodie” listed under that Thursday, according to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
“We’re still in this fight. And we will continue this. I’m committed to fighting for Iowa to maintain its position on the nominating calendar.” — Ross Wilburn, chairman on the Iowa Democratic Party, on his party’s efforts to remain first in the presidential nominating calendar
“Those are unconstitutional overreaches that have to be stopped, and they’re stopped in court with a federal judge, and that’s exactly what I aim to do as attorney general." — Iowa Republican Attorney General candidate Brenna Bird on environmental regulations affecting agriculture
Odds and ends
DEMOCRATS IN LIMBO: Iowa Democrats said they’re still dedicated to keeping Iowa first in the national party’s calendar for presidential nominations after the Democratic National Committee decided to hold off on deciding the calendar until after the midterm elections in November.
The party was originally slated to decide the new calendar this week, but Iowa Democrats now have to wait three months for a decision.
MIKE PENCE AT IOWA STATE FAIR: Former Vice President Mike Pence will make another swing through Iowa this month, planning to visit the Iowa State Fair, according to Politico.
The Indiana Republican has made several trips to Iowa in recent months and is widely thought to be considering a run for president in 2024.
C.R. DOWNTOWN LIBRARY CLOSED: The downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library will be closed until September to clean and repair damage from a July 27 fire in a light fixture.
COVID-19 CASES DIP, HOSPITALIZATIONS UP: COVID-19 cases in Iowa fell slightly in the past week, but hospitalizations continued to rise.
The state on Wednesday reported 5,768 new cases of COVID-19 icompared to 5,924 new cases the week before. The number of people hospitalized with the virus increased to 309, up from 249 the week before.
More in the news ...
GRASSLEY TO SUPPORT ELECTORAL COUNT REFORM: U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he would support a bill that would rewrite the 1887 Electoral Count Act and aim to ensure a peaceful transition of power between presidents.
The bill would clarify that the vice president does not have discretion over the electoral results, raise the threshold for Congress to object to electoral votes, and clarify other procedures.
MEDIA SUES BETTENDORF: The Quad-City Times and other media companies are suing the Bettendorf school district and school board after being barred from covering a May 25 meeting with 200 to 300 parents concerned about violence in the district’s middle school.
School employees were stationed at the doors of the Waterfront Center to keep reporters and photographers out.
The lawsuit asks Scott County District Court to find the school district in violation of Iowa’s open meetings law and to issue an injunction prohibiting the school board from violating the statute in the future. The lawsuit also asks the court to fine members of the board who took part in the meeting.
POWER LINES: Eighteen new electrial transmission projects will wind through Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s Midwest subregion. Five of those projects are planned either wholly or partially in Iowa.
MISO’s board of directors recently approved the $10.3 billion portfolio. It consists of more than 2,000 miles of power lines that should improve the power grid’s reliability, cost-effectiveness and resiliency.
DISCRIMINATION SUIT: A Black administrative judge in Iowa who said her firing was because of her race agreed to a $225,000 settlement with the state and is in the process of being reinstated to her position.
Renee Sneitzer, of Cedar Rapids, was fired from her job with the Iowa Department of Corrections in 2017 for not adhering to a supervisor’s orders, but in April an administrative law judge found that the state did not provide just cause, and ordered her reinstated.
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau and Gazette staff