Statewide Iowa — While hundreds of thousands of Iowans have been vaccinated for COVID-19, with thousands more getting the shots daily, Governor Kim Reynolds says they shouldn’t have to carry a “vaccine passport” to prove it to anyone.

(As above) “I strongly oppose vaccine passports and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them,” Reynolds says, “which I intend to do either through legislation or executive action.”

Vaccine passports have already been banned via executive orders by the governors of Texas and Florida. The statement by Reynolds, a Republican, comes after the Biden administration announced Tuesday it would -not- create a federal vaccine passport or require travelers or businesses to be inoculated. A spokesman for Reynolds said federal officials may change their minds and that’s why Reynolds is planning state action.

(As above) “While I believe in the efficacy of the vaccine enough to get it myself and encourage Iowans to do the same, I also respect that it’s a personal choice,” Reynolds says. 

The governor says a federal vaccine passport would have privacy implications and might be unconstitutional.

(As above) “What you’re doing when you move forward with something like that is you’re creating a two-tiered society,” Reynolds says. “You’re either engaged or you’re marginalized.” 

Reynolds plans to meet with lawmakers to discuss whether a bill can be passed before the 2021 legislative session ends this spring, or if she needs to take executive action.

(As above) “Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve consistently put my trust in Iowans to do the right thing rather than demand or mandate it,” Reynolds says, “and vaccination is no different.” 

A bill stalled in the Senate this year that would have prohibited Iowa businesses and health care facilities from requiring that employees get vaccinations. The bill also sought to bar health insurance companies from denying coverage based on a lack of immunizations. Reynolds announced this (Wednesday) morning that 44 percent of adult Iowans have had at least one dose and 28 percent of Iowans eligible for COVID shots are fully vaccinated. However, she said vaccination rates among middle aged Iowans are lagging and 61 percent of the people with COVID who are hospitalized in Iowa are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

(As above) “I’m asking Iowans, if you’re comfortable, please take the first vaccine that’s offered to you rather than wait for one that you believe is better than the others,” Reynolds says. “Everyone of the vaccines are safe and effective, especially at preventing serious illness that can result in hospitalization and death.”

Reynolds used a portion of her weekly news conference to highlight efforts in Storm Lake to boost vaccination rates among Latinos. A mass vaccination clinic in Storm Lake is planned for Sunday April 18th.

Des Moines, Iowa — House Republicans are proposing a 20 million dollar increase in the budget for the Iowa Department of Corrections. The president of the union that represents prison employees says it’s not enough to ensure staffing levels inside the state’s prison system are adequate.

Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake leads the subcommittee that developed the House GOP plan.

(As above) “We support those people that are guarding our institutions and taking care of the offenders and standing that if you want to call it a thin blue line or a thin brown line that stands between us and anarchy,” Worthan says. 

Republicans are not directly citing last month’s escape attempt and murders of two staff members at the state prison in Anamosa as the reason for the proposed spending increase. Worthan says it’s the culmination of a decade of examination of the budget for the Department of Corrections and other agencies in the justice system, like the Department of Public Safety.

(As above) “We’re trying to bulk them back up, improve staff numbers and so on there,” Worthan says. 

AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan says the extra money merely covers negotiated salary increases over the past couple of years and doesn’t fill nearly 250 vacant positions in the prison system.

(As above) “Republicans, it’s time to step up to the plate,” Homan says. “It’s time to fund your facilities in this state. It’s time to make it so that people feel safe.” 

Homan is calling for reopening a training program for prison staff and for an independent investigation of the murders at Anamosa.

(As above) “This attack should have never happened,” Homan says. “It happened because for a minimum of 10-12 years, the Department of Corrections has been underfunded and in the wonderful bill that the Republicans in the House are running they are again underfunding the Department of Corrections.” 

Homan says hundreds of new correctional officers are needed to provide security at the state’s nine prison and at least 34 new correctional officers and nurses need to be hired immediately at Anamosa.

(As above) “The Republicans in the Iowa House don’t really understand what happened two weeks ago,” Homan says, “…because those were two brutal deaths.” 

Homan is asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate the safety situation inside the Anamosa prison. The union leader is also calling for the warden at the Anamosa prison to be fired.

April 6, 2021 - 3:35 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — The warm, dry weather of the past several days have had some area farmers itching to get into their fields for an early start on their spring field work.

Iowa State University Extension Crops Specialist Joel DeJong says the dry conditions should make the early field work easier.

(As above) “Since it’s dry, it’s been easier so far to get some of that work done. But I hope we continue to get some rain into the mix. We had some nice precipitation so far this spring, (but) we could use another half-dozen days where we get an inch-and-a-half every day just to try to build…because our soil moisture supply is really quite short, so if we don’t get some build-back of that moisture this spring it’s going to be a little bit tougher to get timely rains this summer that we’re really going to need. So we’re hoping that we get rained out of the field a few times, and it kind of looks like we will this week and I certainly hope that’s going to be true.”

While some area farmers are getting an early start on field work, there’s one thing DeJong says he hope’s they’re NOT doing right now.

(As above) “Well, I’m hoping that nobody decides to start planting yet, although the old rumor mill says maybe one or two have planted a few acres. Field conditions for doing tillage seem to be pretty decent, so some of them have been out there to get that work started. If they’ve got a lot of acres to do, maybe they’re trying to manage some time.”

He says it’s still early to start planting, especially considering the fact there’s still a pretty good chance for damaging frost yet this spring.

(As above) “In reality, it’s still very, very early. At this stage I don’t encourage anybody to start planting yet. We still have a decent shot to have some damaging frost to happen at the end of the month. We aren’t going to accumulate growing degree days very fast through the month of April, so you’re not going to see a lot of progress with movement of the seed in the soil. And it’s still really early, we’ve got a big window of opportunity for a lot of people, so I’m hoping that they hold off a little bit. But, some are going to get going and just keep the system moving. I know that’s going to happen.”

DeJong is a Crops Specialist for Iowa State University Extension serving a large part of northwest Iowa, including O’Brien, Osceola, Lyon, Sioux and Plymouth Counties.

April 5, 2021 - 4:17 pm - Posted in News

Ashton, Iowa — A pickup was destroyed in a fire on Saturday, April 3, 2021, near Ashton.

According to Ashton Fire Chief Andy Gacke, at about 6:00 p.m, the Ashton Fire Department was called to the report of a fire out of control at 2280 Nuthatch Avenue, just north of Ashton.

The chief says the fire department saw control had been lost of a burn pile as they approached the scene. He says they used water and foam to fight the fire.

Gacke says no injuries were reported.

Chief Gacke reports that a late model Ford Ranger pickup was destroyed in the blaze.

He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene for about a half-hour.

Northwest Iowa — Five area residents lost their lives to COVID-related illnesses in the past seven days, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The deaths were reported in three of the counties in our four-county area of Lyon, Sioux, O’Brien and Osceola Counties. Three deaths reported in Sioux County, with one death each in O’Brien and Osceola Counties. These deaths bring the death toll to 184; 72 in Sioux County, 55 in O’Brien County, 41 in Lyon County and 15 in Osceola County since the pandemic began.

In addition, 72 new positive tests were reported in the four-county area in the past week. Sioux County reported 34 new positive tests with a 6%positive rate. O’Brien and Lyon Counties each report 15 positive test results with a 5% positive rate in Lyon County and 4% in O’Brien. In Osceola County, there were 8 new positive test results, with a positive rate of 6%.

The state coronavirus website reports current long-term care centers with positive COVID outbreaks at two in Iowa. They are the Urbandale Healthcare Center in Polk County, where they report 10 positives in residents and staff, along with the Good Samaritan Center at Ottumwa in Wapello County, where there were 7 positive test results reported.

April 3, 2021 - 9:21 pm - Posted in News

Sibley, Iowa — Fire destroyed an outbuilding on a farm southwest of Sibley late Thursday night.

Sibley Fire Chief Ken Huls says his department was paged for a fire in a shed behind a house at an address on Oak Hill Avenue about 10:35 Thursday night. Chief Huls says when fire crews arrived on scene they discovered an approximately 70-foot long lean-to shed with its roof fully engulfed in flames.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze fairly quickly, Huls says, but since the building contained several round bales of hay, fire crews spent a significant amount of time making sure all of the hot spots were extinguished.

In addition to the hay bales, the building also contained a 1980’s vintage Ford pickup and other items. Huls says the building and its contents were a total loss in the blaze.

According to Huls, the farm’s resident had been conducting a controlled burn earlier and left when he thought the fire was completely out. Huls says apparently the winds caused a flare-up, with embers blown onto the roof of the shed, igniting the fire.

No injuries were reported and the Chief says firefighters were on scene for about an hour and a half.

April 3, 2021 - 8:36 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has ordered all flags in Iowa to be lowered to half-staff  immediately until sunset on Tuesday (April 6th) in honor of the service and sacrifice of the victims of the attack at the United States Capitol on on Friday (April 2nd).

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.  

Governor Reynolds said, “We mourn the loss of Capitol Police Officer William ‘Billy’ Evans and I send my prayers and deepest condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones who are left to grieve following this horrific act of violence.” She went on to say, “The state of Iowa will never forget the sacrifices made by the brave men and women of law enforcement who willingly put themselves on the line to protect the innocent and uphold the rule of law.” 

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 — Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and attorneys general from seven other states are siding with the biofuels industry in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

On April 27th, the court will hear arguments over how the EPA has granted waivers from the ethanol mandate to the oil industry. Monte Shaw with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says his takeaway from the brief is the attorneys general are simply asking the Supreme Court to uphold the Renewable Fuel Standard.

(As above) “The process is laid out. These exemptions were supposed to be for a short period of time to help people transition into the RFS,” Shaw says, “and that was 13 years ago.” 

The attorneys general argue in their brief that overturning an appellate court’s decision would be a devastating financial hit to many rural communities. At the Capitol in Des Moines, an Iowa House committee has made changes to the governor’s proposed biofuels mandate. A coalition of gas stations and convenience stores argued the initial plan would have cost their industry as much as a billion dollars to install new fuel pumps. The House Ways and Means Committee would let retailers have multiple pumps offering “no alcohol” gasoline — the governor’s plan would have allowed just one — but the committee’s bill still calls for all stations to start selling gas with 15 percent ethanol by 2028 and includes provisions to boost use of soybean-based biodiesel as well.

April 2, 2021 - 3:27 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has signed a bill into law that gets rid of the requirement that Iowans get state permits to purchase and carry pistols and revolvers.

The state permits for buying AND carrying a concealed handgun are now voluntary. The law went into effect just as soon as the governor put her signature on the document Friday.

Critics say the bill creates a loophole on private gun sales, since the state permit process for buying handguns that is now optional requires a background check. Supporters of the law say it gets rid of the state permission slip for a constitutional right under the 2nd amendment.

Governor Reynolds issued a written statement Friday afternoon, emphasizing a section of the law that makes it a felony to knowingly sell a handgun to someone who cannot legally own a gun. Reynolds says state officials will never be able to outlaw or prevent every single bad actor from getting a gun, but this new law ensures law-abiding citizens have full access to their constitutional rights while keeping Iowans safe.

Iowa becomes the 19th state to allow a person to carry a handgun without a permit, or what proponents refer to as “Constitutional Carry.” The other states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota (for residents, concealed carry only), Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming (for Wyoming residents only).

April 2, 2021 - 2:42 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has declared April to be Safe Digging Month in Iowa.

Iowa One Call’s Ben Booth says there are still people who start digging before calling 8-1-1 to located underground utilities, despite all the warnings.

(As above) “In a lot of cases it’s because people are not aware of the requirement. Or maybe they don’t realize what they are doing in their yard entails excavation and requires a notice,” he says.

Booth says some people also get in a big hurry to do a project and dig without a call. He says calling is not optional.

(As above) “It is a requirement by law that everyone notifies Iowa One Call at least 48 hours prior to beginning any digging or excavating. And that does not include Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays,” according to Booth.  

Booth says the underground utility location service is free — but it can cost you in damage and fines if you hit something because you didn’t know it was there. He says there are a lot of utilities buried underground — including key links to the internet during the pandemic.

(As above) “People rely on their internet connectivity. It’s almost an essential service now like your gas or electric,” Booth says. ” And cutting into a fiber service line or worse yet — a main that brings the fiber communications into a community — that can be devastating to people who relay on that to get their jobs done.” 

You can call 8-1-1 or Booth says there is now an online option available.

(As above) “We like to say click before you dig. If you go to IowaOneCall.com, you can complete your online notices, and it’s much easier. There’s a very robust mapping system, it’s very detailed and allows the user to really pinpoint where that area in their their planned excavation work.” 

He says those who come out to mark the utilities like the detail of the online system.

(As above) “You can use these mapping tools that are very, very precise to pinpoint where it is you’re going to be doing the work. And the locators really appreciate that when they can come out and see, by the ticket, where it is you’re doing your planned excavation. That helps to expedite the entire process.”

He says Iowa One Call representatives handle more than 700-thousand notices and coordinate more than three-point-five million locate requests annually.