Science Standards Could Prove Controversial

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — The new set of standards for what is taught in Iowa science classrooms could prove divisive because of the sections on evolution and climate change. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports  several members of the State Board of Education and some members of the public expressed concerns about those subjects. Board members Michael Knedler and Mike May said at a meeting last week that they worry that including evolution and climate change could make it difficult to implement the standards statewide. A team of experts is reviewing a set of model science standards. They will make a recommendation to the state board later. Continue Reading

Bipartisanship?: Parties Collaborate to Produce ‘Timely, Accurate’ Iowa Caucus Results

The leaders of Iowa’s two major political parties will soon announce a plan for releasing timely, accurate electronic results of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. The precinct caucuses are not elections, but are run by the two major parties. The 2012 results from Iowa Republicans were jumbled. Mitt Romney was declared the winner on Caucus Night, by a margin of eight votes, then a few days later when official results were tallied, Rick Santorum was declared the victor by 34 votes. Jeff Kaufmann was elected chairman of the Iowa G-O-P this past June and he’s in charge of organizing for the 2016 Caucuses. Continue Reading

IL Gov Rauner Signs into Law Compromise Plan to Fix Budget Hole

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a compromise plan to plug a $1.6 billion hole in this year’s budget and avert shutdowns of state programs and services. Rauner signed the legislation Thursday evening, hours after the Democratic-led Senate approved it 32-26, with all 20 Republicans voting for it. Two days earlier, the House also approved the bills with full GOP support. Following weeks of negotiation, Rauner reached the deal with Democratic legislative leaders, even though the majority of Democrats in both chambers voted against the compromise. Continue Reading

Medical Marijuana Bill Moves Ahead in Iowa Senate

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An effort to expand access to medical marijuana in Iowa is moving forward in the Democratic-majority Iowa Senate, though it is unlikely the bill will find favor in the Republican-controlled House. The Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would make medical marijuana available to people with a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Those approved by a doctor could then purchase marijuana products produced in Iowa at state-run dispensaries. Last year, the Legislature approved a law that allows some residents with epilepsy to use oil with an ingredient derived from marijuana for treatment. But the law did not establish an in-state program for the production and distribution of the oil. Continue Reading

Iowa House Approves Rules for Ridesharing Services

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa House has approved rules for ridesharing services such as Uber, saying a statewide approach is better than different regulations in many cities. The legislation outlining the state regulations advanced Tuesday on a 95-5 vote. It now goes to the Senate for review. The Des Moines Register reports that the legislation prevents cities from implementing stricter ordinances in most cases. Rep. Chris Hagenow, a Windsor Height Republican who managed the bill on the House floor, says this ensures consistency across the state. Continue Reading

Senate to Decide DHS Director Palmer’s Confirmation

A state senate committee has voted to release the nomination of Iowa Department of Human Services director Chuck Palmer to the full senate for a confirmation vote. Governor Branstad has nominated Palmer to serve another four years as director of state government’s largest agency. Senator Rich Taylor, a Democrat from Mount Pleasant, will vote no — because of Palmer’s decision to close the Mental Health Institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. “I just think that director Palmer’s lost his way,” Taylor says. “He used to have the best interests of the most vulnerable citizens of Iowa at heart and I think he’s lost that.” Continue Reading

Proposal to Ban Teen Tanning Advances

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A proposal to bar minors from using tanning beds at salons has won approval in the Iowa Senate. The bill passed the Senate in a 26-23 vote Tuesday. Under the plan, those under the age of 18 would not be allowed to use a tanning device at a commercial establishment. Sen. William Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says restricting tanning was a safety precaution for young people. But Sen. Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, argues it was safer for teens to tan in licensed establishments. Continue Reading

Neither Side Budging on Public School Funding

There was another meeting of key leaders late Tuesday afternoon, but still no end to the statehouse stalemate over state aid to public schools. A 10-member conference committee assembled weeks ago to try to break the impasse met, but both parties kept to their respective bargaining positions. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha, the top Republican in the legislature, says Republicans are not going to budge from their proposal to boost general state aid to schools by about 100-million dollars. “That is a very real commitment” Paulsen says. “It’s a significant amount of money and we’re very concerned about going any higher.” Continue Reading

Democrats Decry ‘Partisan Persuasion’ of Board of Regents

Senate Democrats say Iowa’s Republican governor has followed the letter, but not the spirit of the law when it comes to appointing new people to the board that governs the three state-supported universities. Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, says the three women Governor Branstad has asked to serve on the Board of Regents have “great resumes” and are likely to be confirmed by senators to serve on the panel. “Having said that, I’m truly disappointed in the governor not actually the following the spirit of the law in the way he’s divided up the people by political persuasion on the Board of Regents,” Dvorsky says. If, as expected, senators vote to confirm the new members of the Board of Regents, five of the board’s nine members will be registered Republicans, three will be independents and one will be a Democrat. “That doesn’t necessarily reflect the electorate in Iowa,” Dvorsky says. Continue Reading