116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In the news
Social justice bill turned into ‘back the blue’
The Iowa House unanimously approved legislation creating a study of peace officer discipline, but then split mostly along party lines when it morphed into a sweeping bill that would offer qualified immunity to law enforcement, protect drivers who run into protesters blocking a highway from civil liability, withhold state funds from communities that defund the police, and add or increase penalties for a variety of crimes. The bill covered tinted windows, blocking sidewalks, pension protection and exemption from public records for civilian employees of law enforcement agencies.
Tuition freeze: House Republicans plan to freeze funding for regents universities, but said the three schools will have “plenty of money” because of infusions from federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus programs. None of a proposed $24 million increase in the state’s higher education budget would go to the three schools.
Vaccines on campus: Although Iowa’s three public universities are planning a return to mostly in-person learning next fall — and touting widespread COVID-19 vaccine availability in making that happen — the Board of Regents promised the institutions won’t require its students, faculty or staff to get vaccinated.
Prison funding: Three weeks after two state prison employees were killed on the job, the head of a union representing Iowa’s prison workers made an impassioned plea for state lawmakers to approve more funding for staffing and safety.
They said ...
“I’m glad that I did have the opportunity to have the (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine. I would do it again.”
— Gov. Kim Reynolds, after distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused due to rare but serious side effects discovered in six young women who received that company’s vaccine
“We are setting ourselves up for a very dangerous situation if we don’t include money to upgrade the security of this facility.”
— Iowa Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, advocating for security upgrades at the Iowa Capitol
Odds and ends
COVID case: Another positive test for COVID-19 was reported by the Iowa House. At least eight positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the Capitol this session.
Students’ mental health: Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that more than $11.5 million in federal funding is available to assist public schools in providing mental health services to preschool through 12th-grade students.
Budget numbers: Republican members of the Senate budget committee approved budget bills that would boost funding to community colleges by $6.5 million, restore $8 million in past cuts to regents universities, and boost salaries for Iowa judges by 3 percent.
The water cooler
Vaccine rollout: Gov. Kim Reynolds said because the state was expecting fewer doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the coming weeks, the pause on the vaccine should not have a significant impact on the state’s rollout.
Not running: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, put to bed any presidential speculation, saying there is “zero” chance she will run for president in 2024.
Campaign investment: Emily’s List, a liberal group that supports liberal women for elected office, announced its plan to invest in Iowa’s top-of-the-ticket races in 2022: for U.S. Senate and governor.
In the news
White House localizes infrastructure funding
A White House report, issued to try to build support for President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion-plus federal infrastructure plan, says the proposal would benefit Iowans by upgrading highways and bridges in need of repair, expanding broadband to underserved areas and helping communities recover from disasters such as last summer’s derecho. According to the White House report, there are 4,571 bridges and more than 403 miles of highway in poor condition in Iowa, and each driver pays an average of $336 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair.
Bottle bill: Less than three weeks before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn, and days before the Republican Senate majority leader declared it dead, lawmakers in the Iowa House breathed new life into an attempt to change Iowa’s four-decade-old law that requires nickel deposits on pop and beer cans. The latest proposal would allow retailers to choose not to accept containers if they have a contract with a redemption center, for example, that will accept the cans and bottles.
Agriculture trespassing: Gov. Kim Reynolds signed 11 bills into law Monday, including a measure that establishes a new criminal offense for interfering with the transportation of agricultural animals.
Gambling surge: Last month’s college basketball “madness” carried over to Iowa’s sports betting apps, with wagering hitting a new monthly record of nearly $161.4 million in March.