Iowa OSHA visits two more meatpackers; other plants cleared with no inspection

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) staff conducted on-site inspections of two more Iowa meatpacking plants this week, the Iowa Division of Labor confirmed to Bleeding Heartland on June 2.

Documents provided the following day show regulators closed at least four coronavirus-related complaints against Iowa pork processors with no inspection.

Inspectors toured the Tyson Foods turkey plant in Storm Lake and the Perdue Premium pork facility in Sioux Center on June 1. Both site visits stemmed from “media referrals” rather than complaints, meaning officials acted on unspecified news reports or information relayed to OSHA by a journalistic source.

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Axne, Finkenauer vote against latest Democratic COVID-19 relief bill

Iowa’s two first-term members of the U.S. House were among fourteen Democrats to oppose the latest bill drafted to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The so-called HEROES Act cleared the lower chamber on May 15 by 208 votes to 199 (roll call). It called for an estimated $3 trillion in spending, including “nearly $1 trillion in aid to battered states, cities and Native American tribes, and another round of bolstered jobless benefits and direct government payments to Americans.”

Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate oppose the bill, so its passage in the House serves primarily to communicate preferred Democratic policy.

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Iowa governor ensuring buck stops with her on shelter-in-place

Governor Kim Reynolds continues to resist calls from local government leaders to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order. She confirmed on March 30 she doesn’t plan to give cities or counties the authority to restrict public movements in their own jurisdictions.

Her stance ensures Reynolds will be held responsible if novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections spiral out of control in any part of Iowa.

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Ernst, Grassley sought lower payments for unemployed in new COVID-19 bill

Congress “expanded unemployment insurance by 250 billion dollars” to support laid-off workers, Senator Joni Ernst said during a news conference organized by Governor Kim Reynolds on March 29.

She didn’t mention that she and fellow Republican Senator Chuck Grassley had voted to reduce the amount millions of jobless people will receive over the next four months.

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Steve King votes against coronavirus response bill (updated)

The U.S. House has fast-tracked a bill responding to the economic challenges created by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. All 223 Democrats present–including Iowa’s Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Cindy Axne (IA-03)–voted for the bill shortly before 1:00 am on March 14, joined by 140 Republicans (roll call). U.S. Representative Steve King (IA-04) was one of 40 House Republicans to vote no.

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The 19 Bleeding Heartland posts that were most fun to write in 2019

Before the new political year kicks off with the Iowa legislature convening and Governor Kim Reynolds laying out her agenda, I need to take care of some unfinished business from 2019.

When I reflect on my work at the end of each year, I like to take stock of not only the most popular posts published on this website and the ones I worked hardest on, but also the projects that brought me the most joy. I’ve found this exercise helps guide my editorial decisions on the many days when I have time to write up only one of several newsworthy stories.

Among the 348 posts I wrote last year, these were some of my favorites:

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