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Week in Iowa: Recap of news from across the state

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1669551437 120 Week in Iowa Recap of news from across the state

A boy runs behind a building to find a hiding spot before the start of a game Wednesday during Nerf camp at Ushers Ferry Historic Village in Cedar Rapids. The camp has been going on for several years and occurs quarterly, including the day before Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

National Democrats to decide caucuses’ future: An Iowan on the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, which will decide the calendar for the party’s presidential nominating contest next month, said the party is giving Iowa’s caucuses a “fair hearing.” Iowa Democrats and Republicans have been the first to lodge their preferences for president in their caucuses since 1972, but the national Democratic Party plans to rework the calendar and may knock the state off that prized spot.

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The party is seeking to prioritize states that hold primaries, have diverse populations and are competitive in presidential elections — all measures that Iowa does not score highly on. Scott Brennan, who sits on the committee, said on “Iowa Press” this past week he hopes Iowa will remain in the early window, and that the state has “a shot at remaining first.”

Private school voucher bill likely to reappear: A push to shift millions in taxpayer dollars from public schools to private school tuition assistance is likely to be back in the next legislative session.

Earlier this year, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds floated a $55 million proposal that would fund 10,000 private school scholarships using public school dollars, but the measure failed to pass. Advocates are hoping the measure will be expanded this year, as several Republican legislators who opposed the measure were voted out in primaries. Opponents and Democrats said they would continue fighting against any proposal that diverts public money to private schools.

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Researchers equip plows with visibility tech: Iowa State researchers are developing systems for the Iowa Department of Transportation that would allow snowplow drivers to better navigate bad weather conditions. The system involves attaching sensors to snowplows to allow the drivers to “see” better on the road.

ISU researchers have been developing the technology for the last year, and earlier this month, they installed the first version of the equipment on a DOT snowplow for testing. Using LIDAR technology, the sensors will allow drivers to see where the plow is in the lane and show potential obstacles that may be hard to see or hidden behind snow drifts.

Davenport seeks federal grant for “quiet zones”: As the Quad Cities brace for a potential rail merger that will increase train traffic in the area, Davenport plans to apply for a U.S. Department of Transportation grant that would pay for safety improvements and quiet zones at Davenport railroad intersections.

The city is asking for $2.7 million for the $3.4 million project. The controversial merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern is expected to triple train traffic on Davenport’s tracks. Davenport was one of several Mississippi River cities to accept millions in settlements from Canadian Pacific last summer to offset potential costs incurred by the merger.

They said …

“Iowa’s turkey pardoning event is something I look forward to every year, but with a statewide order currently in place to protect flocks from the threat of avian influenza, we’re honoring the tradition a little differently this year.” — Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in a virtual address pardoning two Iowa turkeys

“Spending vital taxpayer money on private school vouchers, when our public schools need resources to address the needs of the nearly half a million students attending them, is harmful to Iowans in every community across the state.” — Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek on private school tuition assistance proposal

Odds and ends

Opioid settlement nets Iowa millions: Iowa will receive $42.6 million from opioid manufacturers Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan in two multistate settlements. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller joined the case, which accused the drugmakers of deceptively marketing opioids and not doing enough to prevent diversion.

Turkeys pardoned virtually: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds kept up the annual tradition of pardoning two Iowa turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving, but the ceremony was done virtually this year because of the threat of bird flu. The ceremony usually is conducted at the governor’s mansion in Des Moines, but state orders have prohibited live bird exhibitions as bird flu has been infecting flocks across the country. Iowa officials have identified 21 cases of the virus this year.

Water cooler

COVID cases rise: Iowa’s number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the week ending Wednesday was the highest in two months, with 2,302 new cases reported compared to 1,980 the previous week. Hospitalizations increased as well, with 172 people hospitalized, compared to 137 the previous week.

Cybersecurity breach cancels pledge drive: Iowa PBS’s annual fall pledge drive was canceled this past week after an apparent cybersecurity breach. The breach did not affect the station’s ability to broadcast. No other information about the issue, including whether any personal information was compromised, was immediately available. The cancellation of the pledge drive likely will lead to large reductions in donations to the station.

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