Des Moines, Iowa — Lawmakers continue to discuss how distribution of the nickel deposits on bottles and cans of beer and carbonated beverages that are sold in Iowa might be restructured. A key senator is expressing doubts, though, that this is the year the so-called Bottle Bill will be changed. Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver points to April 30th, which is the target date for ending the 2021 legislative session.

(As above) “There is still progress being made,” Whitver says, “but it will be difficult to wrap that up in the next three weeks.”

Republican Representative Shannon Lundgren of Peosta is among the House members hoping to come up with a compromise by that deadline.

(As above) “We are probably starting to run out of time,” Lundgren says, “so I think we have to come with some language and get that out there.” 

Representative Chuck Isenhart, a Democrat from Dubuque, says something must be done to address the declining number of options for consumers who want to return the empties and get their deposits back.

(As above) “I think we need to be cognizant of consumer convenience,” Isenhart says.

But Senator Whitver says no single solution has emerged that has enough support to pass either the House or Senate.

(As above) “If there are 12 different ideas, there’s not one and you need one to make it law and I know a lot of legislators, a lot of interests on every side are working on this,” Whitver says. “We haven’t got a whole lot closer than we were in January.” 

During an appearance on Iowa PBS this weekend, Whitver agreed with an interviewer that debates about the Bottle Bill are a bit like “Groundhog Day” since they restart EVERY January when the legislature convenes.

 

Sibley, Iowa — Each Friday afternoon, Osceola Community Health Services in Sibley posts a video report on COVID-19 vaccinations for the week. We’ll be bringing you information from the previous week’s report each week at this time on KIWA.

In Friday’s report, Osceola Community Health Services Director Pam Juber reported two vaccine clinics that were held by Health Services last week.

Juber says the demand for vaccinations has decreased in recent days around the state, and as a result, Osceola Community Health Services has vaccine on hand. She urges you to call and set up an appointment for a vaccination.

She says Osceola County is seeing more positive cases of COVID-19 these days.

Juber offers important tips if you’re heading out and about.

Friday, April 9th’s entire video with Osceola Community Health Services Director Pam Juber may be viewed below.

 

Northwest Iowa — Two additional deaths were reported in the past week in the four-county area of Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux Counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

One resident of Sioux County and one from O’Brien County died due to COVID-related illness, according to the IDPH. That brings Sioux County’s total deaths since the start of the pandemic to 73, while O’Brien County’s total goes to 56. There have also been 16 deaths in Osceola County and 41 in Lyon County since the pandemic began.

In addition, there were 72 new positive COVID tests in the area in the past seven days. Sioux County had 35 positive tests, with a 6% positive rate. Lyon County reports 13 positive tests with a 4% positive rate, while O’Brien and Osceola Counties each report an additional 12 positive test results. O’Brien County reports a 3% positive rate, while Osceola County reports a 6% positive rate.

There are no COVID outbreaks in northwest Iowa long term care facilities as of early afternoon Monday, with outbreaks at only three long-term care facilities state-wide. One of those facilities is located in Polk County in central Iowa, where there are 16 cases reported at the Urbandale Healthcare Center. The other two facilities are in southeast Iowa; The Good Samaritan Society home is Ottumwa, in Wapello County, has seven cases, while Park View Manor in Washington, Iowa (Washington County) reports six cases in their facility.

Des Moines, Iowa — Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate are proposing different levels of state taxpayer support of Iowa’s three public universities. House Republicans have a budget plan that would provide no additional money to the University of Iowa, Iowa State University or the University of Northern Iowa — and they’re calling for student tuition and fees to remain the same in the next academic year.

Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver says the Senate GOP budget plan includes budget boost for the three universities of 10 million dollars.

(As above) “There is disagreement there, at least in our initial budget proposals,” Whitver says. “I think it’s difficult to give them zero new dollars and freeze tuition. They have to be able to fund their universities somehow, but…like everything in the budget, we’ll continue to talk with the House about that.”

Representative David Kerr of Morning Sun says House Republicans settled on a tuition freeze and no new state money for the three universities partly because they’ll get federal money from the American Rescue Plan.

(As above) “And then when you add the declining enrollment,” Kerr says. “…In 2016 and 2017, there was approximately 82,000 kids enrolled in the Regents universities, now we’re down to 75,000, a little over.” 

A spokesman for the board that governs the three universities says everyone has the same goal of keeping college affordable and accessible for students, but the responsibility of setting tuition rests with the Board of Regents, to avoid politicizing Iowa’s tuition rates.

Sibley, Iowa — The Sibley area needs more daycare opportunities. That’s the result of a survey that was recently commissioned.

The daycare in Sibley, Bright Beginnings is operated by Osceola Regional Health Center, Avera. We talked with their CEO, Ben Davis, and he fills us in on the situation.

(as said) “Over the last couple of years we’ve identified that we have we’ve had a lot of calls from parents asking for daycare and we just weren’t able to get them in because of there’s certain ratios that we have to meet and requirements. And so we thought we you know, we got to get people together and start talking about this and figuring out a plan to meet the needs of our community.”

Davis tells us what they have done so far, to that end.

(as said) “We’ve been working with First Children’s Finance. They’ve done quite a few daycare studies in the area. And so with that, we sent out a survey last fall and as well as looked at some census data and found that about 62 percent of families in the labor force have children ages 0 to 5 while 76 percent have children ages 6 to 17. A lot of parents indicated that childcare is affecting their employment and some of them had to leave early, missed work due to the provider being closed, or not available, or had to arrive late for work. As well as employers also indicated childcare is causing challenges for them. And so we are just in the beginning phases of identifying the survey data and then the next step is to identify… okay, what can we do to put together as a community to put together plans to meet the needs of our community.”

Davis tells us there could be a number of solutions, but he thinks they are headed in a certain direction.

(as said) “Well, I think the initial indication is that we want to provide some education for community members that may be interested in starting their own in-home daycare. I think education for the community might be part of that… part of the first step. So again, this is initial information, but we’ve got a lot of work to do and we just know that we’re going to need the community to step in to help with this project because it is a fairly large project.”

According to Davis, at this time, they don’t think that expanding Bright Beginnings will be the route taken.

Davis tells us that in a month or two they may have more information.

Sheldon, Iowa — After announcing a week and a half ago that their Run, Walk, and Roll would be postponed from June to September this year, Village Northwest Unlimited in Sheldon is announcing changes to this summer’s Independence Day Celebration.

Unlike the Run, Walk, and Roll, the scheduled date for the celebration has not changed, but Village officials tell us there will be changes to the celebration. It’s still scheduled for Friday, July 2, 2021. The celebration is normally held on the VNU campus as a way for the Village to say “thank you” to the greater Sheldon community for its support of the Village and people with disabilities. However, because of the ongoing pandemic Village officials noted that some adjustments needed to be made to safeguard the residents of the Village.

Barry Whitsell, President and CEO says this year the Village will be partnering with the City of Sheldon, the Sheldon Chamber and Development Corporation (SCDC), and Rise Ministries to provide an Independence Day Celebration for the greater community of Sheldon.

Whitsell says that the health and safety of the vulnerable population served at VNU meant that hosting thousands of people on their campus would not be safe and so alternative ways were explored to host the event since everyone looks forward to the Village event and the fireworks.

Village officials say this year’s event will be held at the RiseFest festival grounds. The main event will be a concert performed by The Hepperly Band. The start time for the concert and other details for the Independence Day Celebration are still being worked out by officials from the City of Sheldon, SCDC, and Rise Ministries and will be announced at a future date.

Whitsell says, “Following the concert, the traditional Village fireworks display will be held. This will work very well because people attending the concert will just be able to turn their chairs and have a wonderful vantage point to watch one of the best firework displays in Northwest Iowa.” He continues, “We are excited to be able to have the fireworks this year as everyone missed them last year and our residents are excited to have them again this year. Partnering with Rise Ministries, SCDC, and the City of Sheldon is a great way for all of us to collaborate and come together to celebrate our nation’s independence.”

Northwest Iowa — One of Iowa’s Republican representatives in Washington is reacting negatively to President Biden’s call on Thursday to seek out ways to curb gun violence through legislation.

Fourth District Congressman Randy Feenstra of Hull says he’ll oppose the president’s call for “red flag” laws and any new federal rules to restrict gun purchases and ownership.

(As above) “We have to be very careful what we’re doing here,” Feenstra says. “Our founding fathers enshrined the Second Amendment in our Constitution. I stand up for our Constitution. Our Constitution says that we have a right to bear arms and the Biden administration is trampling on our Second Amendment rights here.”

The president wants to ban assault weapons, crack down on “ghost guns” that are self-assembled, and eliminate the exemption on lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Feenstra says they’re all troublesome.

(As above) “I’m really concerned and there’s going to be a lot of discussion starting next week, Monday, on this issue,” Feenstra says. “It seems like what Biden wants to do is blatantly step on our Constitutional rights, on the right to carry, and to have law-abiding citizens have guns.” 

Feenstra has spent the last two weeks of Easter Recess traveling in the district, meeting with residents and touring industries. He will return to Washington on Monday.

April 7, 2021 - 4:27 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Iowa US Senator Chuck Grassley was in northwest Iowa on Wednesday and met with people in several locations.

Grassley started his day at Diamond Vogel Paint in Orange City. He was also at Weld North Education (formerly AOP/Glynlyon) in Rock Rapids, the CFE mill in Ocheyedan, the Community Services Center in Sheldon, and finished his day in Spencer. Grassley staff told us there were 12 stops this week on Grassley’s schedule.

We asked Grassley what the top issues have been that he’s heard from Iowans about on his visit this time. One of the big ones has been his trip to the Mexican border. He says the Congressional delegation went there because the media was not allowed to publicize the conditions there. He says if the Biden administration had listened to the Border Patrol, they wouldn’t be having the issues that they are. He says the open border is causing national security, humanitarian, and drug issues. He says more Border Patrol officers are needed, and the “fence” or wall has been working, but we need more of it.

Grassley tells us what other issues have been on the minds of Iowans.

(as said) “From farmers… the inability some days not to get a livestock market or if you do, taking a penalty for being a residual supplier because there’s not enough competition because four companies have the major part of it; the rationale for spending another one and nine-tenths trillion of which probably only 10% of it was related the pandemic and doing that on a party-line vote, which obviously you know, how I voted; and let’s see… we’ve had questions on health insurance; almost every factory you go to we can’t hire help and so why is the federal government paying people more unemployment not to work than work; the federalization of all election laws; after 240 years… doing away with the state election laws. Another one we hear a lot about is a big bill that deals with a lot of labor issues, but the one thing it does that’ll affect Iowans… it does away with Iowa’s and 26 other states’ right-to-work laws.”

We asked the Senator if he had any solutions to the issues.

(as said) “I can tell you I’m not for federalization of state election laws. That wasn’t intended by the Constitution writers. I can tell you that I don’t want to do away with Iowa’s right-to-work law. I can tell you that I want to get farmers a market for their livestock and that’s my own bill and I want to cut down on the price of prescription drugs with a bipartisan bill that I’m writing and have written already with Senator Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.”

Other issues that Grassley heard about on Wednesday included how can agricultural producers get the labor they need legally, the risks to peoples’ lives during a polar vortex when too much attention is paid to environmental issues, and nursing home regulations that prevent people from seeing and being an advocate for their loved ones during a pandemic when they can’t help themselves.

Grassley says Congress’s Easter break gave him the opportunity to meet with people. He says normally he holds public meetings, but with the pandemic, he has switched to going where he is invited. He says it helps him know what’s happening in his state and gives people who work in these facilities the opportunity to meet with Grassley.

Photo caption: Grassley talks with Weld North/AOP’s Vice President of Operations, Tami Murray at Weld North’s Rock Rapids facility

Statewide Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has ordered all flags in Iowa to remain at half-staff until midnight April 7th, in honor and remembrance of Representative Alcee Hastings, a congressman from Florida and a prominent champion for civil rights.

Representative Hastings passed away on Tuesday (April 6th). The governor’s order is issued in conjunction with President Joe Biden’s Proclamation to lower all United States flags to half-staff for the same length of time.

Flags will be at half-staff on the State Capitol Building and on flag displays in the Capitol Complex. Flags will also be half-staff on all public buildings, grounds and facilities throughout the state. Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flags at half-staff for the same length of time.

Statewide Iowa — Four wardens within Iowa’s prison system have been reassigned, including the warden who was in charge at the Anamosa State Penitentiary when two staff members were murdered by two inmates last month.

Randy Gibbs, the warden of the state’s maximum-security prison in Fort Madison, has been temporarily reassigned to serve as warden at Anamosa.

Jeremy Larson, who had been Anamosa’s warden since late 2019, was named interim warden of the prison in Newton today. A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections says having a different leader in place will help ensure “a thorough and impartial investigation” of the murders of a correctional officer and nurse at the Anamosa prison.

Since Fort Madison’s warden has been reassigned today, the deputy warden is now in charge there. And finally, the warden who’s been in charge of the prisons in Fort Dodge and Rockwell City retired today. The warden of the Newton prison is now interim warden of the two facilities while the search is on to replace the warden who retired.