STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS
The U.S. House on Wednesday approved a resolution that would overturn President Biden’s student debt relief plan. All four members of the Iowa congressional delegation, including fourth District Representative Randy Feenstra, voted with the majority in favor of the resolution. But the White House said President Joe Biden would veto it. The president argues that the U.S. Department of Education has the legal authority to execute the one-time cancellation of up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for qualified borrowers. Two Democrats voted with Republicans to pass the resolution. The Senate will now take up the resolution. The issue is currently tied up in court. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling soon on the President’s action.
Federal lawmakers have yet to reach a deal on lifting the debt ceiling, which could impact some Iowans’ health care. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warns if lawmakers don’t come to an agreement, the U-S could be unable to pay its bills as soon as June 1st. Josephine Gittler, director of the National Health Law and Policy Resource Center at the University of Iowa College of Law, says this could impact federally-funded health programs like Medicare.
In addition to Medicare, Gittler says a federal government default could affect Iowans who rely on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act subsidized health plans.
Gittler says it’s unclear what will happen if lawmakers don’t reach an agreement because the federal government has never defaulted on its debt before.
Volunteers are needed once again this summer to drive around and track the bat population in the state. D-N-R wildlife diversity biologist, Stephanie Shepherd, says the volunteers record the noises bats make as the fly through the night.The D-N-R has teamed with Iowa State University for the last ten years to track the bat signals with they can use to identify the species of bats. Shepherd says the survey begins 30 minutes after sunset and takes roughly two-and-a-half hours to complete. They are looking for volunteers in Pocahontas County, Dubuque County, two routes in Franklin County — one in southwest Franklin and one in southeast Franklin, and then southwest Marshall County. The survey routes are run in June and July. If you might be interested in monitoring bats, go to the D-N-R web page at iowadnr.gov-back slash-vwmp to sign up.
WIND GENERATOR SETBACKS
Woodbury County Supervisors have unanimously approved changes to the county’s wind turbine regulations. The county’s ordinance originally barred wind turbines within 600 FEET of city limits, but now wind turbines may not be placed within two MILES of the city limits of any community in Woodbury County.
This comes several weeks after Plymouth County expanded their setbacks.
Woodbury County Supervisors chairman Matthew Ung says the change protects future growth around cities.
It’s possible MidAmerican Energy may file a legal challenge of the supervisors’ decision. Some Woodbury County residents, like Moville Mayor Jim Fisher, had hoped for wider no-go zones for wind turbines.
Fisher says the concern is scenic views around Moville will be ruined by the wind turbine structures. Bob Fritzmeyer of Sioux City was the only resident at the supervisors’ meeting who spoke in favor of wind turbines.
Plymouth County recently amended their wind generator ordinance to create 15-hundred foot minimum setbacks from the nearest home. By 2025, that will increase to 25-hundred feet.
Gasoline prices in Plymouth County are slightly above the statewide average. The website Gas Buddy says average prices in Plymouth County as of Wednesday were $3.46 across Plymouth County; $3.42 in Cherokee and Sioux Countys, and $3.27 in Sioux City.
Triple A says Iowa gas prices average 3.41 per gallon for regular unleaded. Prices rose 6 cents from last week, and were 76 cents lower than a year ago. The national average was $3.56, up 3 cents from last week.
Iowa’s diesel prices is 26 cents less than the national average of $3.99.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott spent his Wednesday in Sioux City — his first trip to Iowa since officially launching his campaign for the Republican nomination for president this week. Scott’s first stop was the Siouxland Christian School.
Scott touted the state-funded savings accounts that will be available this fall to cover private school expenses for some low income Iowa parents.
Scott toured the school, then met with teachers and administrators. Scott also spoke at a town hall style event Wednesday evening in Sioux City.
IOWA HEALTH RANKING
A new report ranks Iowa 20th in the nation for the overall health of older adults. The annual America’s Health Rankings by the United Health Care Foundation looks at more than 50 factors that affect adults over the age of 64. It found Iowa seniors have low rates of food insecurity and mental distress — and very few elderly Iowans avoided seeking medical care due to the cost. Archana Dubey is the Chief Medical Officer at United Healthcare. She says Iowa also ranks low for the number of doctors who specialize in treating aging adults, but that’s improving.
The report found a low rate of social isolation among elderly Iowans. However, it did find households with someone age 65 or above are slightly less likely to have a high speed connection to the internet.
The report found 79 percent of Iowa households with people age 65 plus have high speed internet. That compared to 83 percent nationally. Dubey says being able to go online to order groceries or visit with a nurse or doctor is important to the health of older adults. The United Health Care Foundation’s annual report found dental health among Iowa seniors has improved, while the rate of injuries from falls among older adults in Iowa is higher than the national average.
IOWA SUICIDE RATES FALL
Iowa appears to have bucked a national trend of rising suicide rates in recent years. While more people across the country took their own lives in 2021 compared to 2020, a report from a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization finds suicide rates dropped during that period in Iowa. Brandon Reavis (REV-iss), senior government relations manager at Trust for America’s Health, says Iowa’s overall suicide rate fell three percent, while it rose by four-percent nationally. The group’s report shows a dramatic 71-percent increase in the youth suicide rate between 2010 and 2021 nationwide, and did not offer specifics for Iowa for that timeframe. Reavis says that increase can be due to all sorts of factors, including housing instability, job losses for parents, and grief, especially during the pandemic.