Hinson touts "game-changing" projects after opposing infrastructure bill

U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson tried to pull a fast one on Iowans this week.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved funding for two lock and dam projects along the Mississippi River, Hinson took credit for the spending. “We secured $829 million in federal funding to upgrade locks & dams along the Upper Mississippi River,” she tweeted on January 19, describing the projects as “game-changing for Iowa’s agriculture industry & our Mississippi River communities!”

The trouble is, Hinson voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill that provided this “game-changing” funding.

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Will Jake Chapman's big swing at teachers play in a swing district?

Opening day speeches at the Iowa legislature are often filled with boring platitudes. But Senate President Jake Chapman dispensed with cliches about bipartisan work for the common good in his welcoming remarks on January 10.

Instead, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican called on colleagues to “take a stand” against what he described as a “sinister agenda” by the media and teachers, “who wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children.”

Chapman’s broadside made headlines across the state and quickly inspired a new RAYGUN t-shirt: “Just another SINISTER TEACHER who’s passionate about education.”

Many conservatives have applauded Chapman for his crusade to remove books he considers “obscene” from public schools and create a felony offense for teachers and librarians who disseminate such material. But Iowa’s new political map put the Senate president in a swing district for the first time. He hinted last month that he will seek re-election there, rather than moving to a solid Republican district nearby.

Conspiracy theories that play well in some GOP circles could drive suburban moderates toward Democratic State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, who is already running in Senate district 14.

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Governor resumes public events; no word on follow-up test (updated)

Governor Kim Reynolds returned to the capitol on January 18, after canceling her public events on January 13 and 14. Announcing those cancellations, staff said in a statement that the governor “is not feeling well, but has tested negative for COVID-19.” Her spokesperson Alex Murphy did not respond to subsequent messages seeking to clarify whether Reynolds was tested again over the holiday weekend.

At least five individuals associated with the Iowa House or Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, including Democratic State Senators Zach Wahls and Nate Boulton. (The legislature does not require lawmakers or staff to report coronavirus infections.) Reynolds, Wahls, and Boulton are all vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19.

The governor spent considerable time with her face uncovered around other unmasked people last week: at a crowded Iowa GOP breakfast on January 10, while delivering her Condition of the State address in the House chamber the following day, and while attending the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice’s report to lawmakers on January 12.

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Koch-backed group taking sides in Iowa House GOP primaries

Americans for Prosperity — Iowa announced its first two endorsements for Republican legislative primaries on January 13. In both Iowa House districts, the candidates backed by the influential conservative lobby group will face more experienced GOP lawmakers in the June 7 primary.

Drew Klein, state director of the Koch-funded network‘s Iowa chapter, declined to comment for the record about the reasons underlying AFP — Iowa’s 2022 primary endorsements. AFP lobbies for or against dozens of bills Iowa lawmakers consider every year. The group’s priorities include tax cuts, undermining public sector unions, reducing occupational licensing requirements, and various measures to redirect public funds away from public schools.

AFP is backing Zach Dieken in the new House district 5, where State Representative Dennis Bush is seeking re-election, and first-term State Representative Steven Bradley in the new House district 66, where six-term State Representative Lee Hein is also running. The group is already publicizing its endorsements in Facebook ads.

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Kim Reynolds gave up trying to fight COVID-19

This week, Iowa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reached levels not seen for more than a year. Even with 100 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists helping to manage the workload, the state’s major medical centers are being crushed. Hospital leaders, health care workers, and public health officials in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, and central Iowa have been begging for weeks: “We are overwhelmed.” “We’re exhausted.” “We need your help.”

Against this backdrop, Governor Kim Reynolds has not made even a token effort to encourage Iowans to slow the spread of a virus that has killed more than 8,200 of her constituents, claiming more than 100 lives each week in recent months.

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Iowa extends nurses' contract as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge

As COVID-19 hospitalizations reach levels not seen in Iowa for more than a year, the state has extended a contract for 100 out-of-state nurses and respiratory therapists to alleviate staff shortages at major medical centers.

Iowa Department of Public Health spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand confirmed to Bleeding Heartland via email that the state has twice extended the six-week contract signed with Kansas company Favorite Healthcare Staffing in early December—first to run through January 28, and more recently to run through February 11.

Ekstrand added that the state recently accepted bids “to establish a statewide hospital bed transfer line. The goal is to establish a call center to help relieve pressure on hospital staff in order for them to be able to spend more time caring for ill patients.”

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