Iowa Overview

In the beginning of January, I was offered a temporary position with the Associated Press as a legislative relief staffer in Des Moines, Iowa. That means I’m helping out with coverage during the 2014 legislative session at the Iowa Capitol. I had hardly dabbled into political reporting prior to this opportunity, but I jumped at the chance to learn.

In the month that I’ve been here, I’ve reported on a variety of topics.

For my first story, I wrote about the Iowa Juvenile Home, a facility that housed some of Iowa’s most troubled girls before it closed on Jan. 15 per Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s order. The home has been quite the political issue this session, as four Democrats filed suit against the governor and have drafted legislation in an effort to reopen another state facility. Read another story I wrote about this here.

My first weekend story (which didn’t actually run on the weekend) was about the fate of Iowa newspapers. Budget cuts in 2009 forced the state Department of Cultural Affairs to discontinue the process of microfilming, and since then thousands of newspapers have stacked up without an official plan in place for their preservation.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate proposed legislation requiring that mammogram reports include information about breast tissue density. I reached out to a wide range of officials and lobbyists to gather the information necessary to complete this story.

A propane shortage led a Senator to bring forth legislation to assist low-income families with their energy costs, and I covered it as it cleared subcommittee and later the Senate floor.

I’ve done a bit of reporting on bills to support veterans already in Iowa and attract others to the state, an initiative Gov. Branstad has prioritized this session.

Gov. Branstad is also looking to crack down further on bullying in Iowa schools, and I reported on the initial phase of two anti-bullying bills moving through the House and Senate.

I covered a hearing about the use of drones in Iowa and another about banning telemedicine abortion across the state.

For another weekender, I was asked to take a comprehensive look at a couple animal welfare bills being considered and nail them down in one story.

Most recently, I tracked a texting while driving bill as lawmakers voted it through subcommittee and committee. I spent a full day following two bills that could effectively end greyhound racing in Iowa.

Today marks the final day that Senate and House bills can be reported out of their respective committees, and next week I’ll see plenty of debate on the floor.

It’s been an incredible experience so far, and I’m excited to see what these next few weeks have in store for me.

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