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A roundup of news from across Iowa in the past week.
Vaccines could open up April 5
All adult Iowans will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 5, provided the federal government in the coming weeks follows through on its pledged vaccine allocations to the state, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced. The state has been moving through tiers of vaccine eligibility, most recently making it available to any adult with a serious health condition. Officials said they will be prepared for the influx of Iowans hoping to make a vaccine appointment.
As of Thursday morning, more than 425,000 Iowans had completed their COVID-19 vaccination and another 320,000-plus had received the first dose of the vaccines that require two doses, according to state public health data.
An additional 38 cases of the COVID-19 variant have been confirmed by the state public health department. Infectious disease experts believe this new version of the virus, often called the U.K. variant because it was first detected there, spreads more rapidly.
The Iowa Senate unanimously approved a package of state tax reductions, including the removal of economic hurdles required before previously approved tax cuts could be enacted. The proposal also would phase out over three years the state's inheritance tax.
The Republican-led Iowa House passed a so-called 'constitutional carry” measure, which removes the requirement that Iowans obtain a permit in order to possess a handgun. Republicans and Democrats disagreed over the legislations' potential impact on background checks in firearms purchases. Democrats said the bill would essentially eliminate background checks, while Republicans argued the proposal would result in more of them. The proposal is expected to also pass the GOP-led Iowa Senate.
The Iowa Senate on a party-line vote approved legislation that would deny tech companies future state and local tax breaks if they are found by a court to have illegally stifled free speech or certain viewpoints on social media platforms.
The Iowa House voted nearly unanimously to support legislation requiring public universities to protect First Amendment rights, but split along party lines on another bill addressing training and teaching about 'divisive concepts” such as racism, sexism and political ideology.
The Iowa Senate voted along party lines to approve legislation that says cities cannot prevent landlords from rejecting potential tenants who use government housing vouchers to pay rent. Opponents said the ban will hurt low-income Iowans, including veterans, elderly and disabled Iowans who get government housing assistance.
THEY SAID …
'Here I am, down on the ground, suffering from the derecho and you're going to kick me in the teeth.”
- John Zakresek, of Cedar Rapids, who lost 80 percent of the trees he owns in the derecho, on a proposed state property tax increase on private forest owners - a measure put on pause after the public hearing.
'The euphoria of the bill will pass, people will get their economic impact payment, they'll spend it, and then we have the burden of paying for it. And when all of that other stuff comes to light, that's when it becomes extremely unpopular.”
- U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, on Republicans' opposition to federal pandemic relief.
Odds and ends
Iowa DOT funds:
The Iowa Transportation Commission has approved using nearly $122 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to make up for lost fuel tax revenue over the past year and to pay for trail development across the state.
Republican senators are working with Gov. Kim Reynolds to direct federal money to cover a projected $7 million shortfall that hit Iowa preschools when enrollments dropped as parents kept their kids home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An Iowa Senate subcommittee gave bipartisan support to Gov. Kim Reynolds' proposal to expand affordable housing options. However, Republican senators raised concerns about the overall budget impact of several big-ticket 'asks.”
As U.S. officials race to address the rising number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, blamed President Joe Biden's administration for rolling back immigration policies that turned unaccompanied minors away at the border and for halting border wall construction.
: U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he will not be swayed by recent polling that shows a majority of Iowans, including a third of Iowa Republicans, hope he decides not to seek another term in 2022.
A Marion couple started a social media campaign encouraging Democrat Mike Franken to run for the U.S. Senate. Franken ran in the Democratic primary in Iowa's 2020 U.S. Senate race.