As spring weather arrives, delicate purple crocuses peek through the leaves of fall.

Colorful crocuses signal the arrival of spring.

Iowa legislators aren’t doing their job; now's the time for Gov. Reynolds to do her job

One of the first things I learned when I started covering the Iowa Legislature almost 30 years ago was the only work lawmakers really have to do is pass a budget. Everything else is optional.

And yet, we are starting what should be the final week of the 2021 session without a single budget bill having passed both chambers. Worse, the bills that the Republican-majority House and Senate have moved out of their committees are far apart on both money and policy.

For example, the House has proposed a $20 million increase for state prisons, where overcrowding and understaffing is back in the public eye after last month’s fatal attack on a guard and a nurse at the Anamosa penitentiary. The Senate has proposed an increase of just over $6 million, with some lawmakers trying to argue that they have to wait for an investigation to know whether understaffing was a factor in the tragedy.

'Big Pollution' in Iowa courtesy of Big Ag

It’s always been in the best interests of the ag industry to make nutrient pollution seem mysteriously complex.

After all, complex problems rarely lend themselves well to simple solutions. Complex problems require lots and lots of time and money to solve, and the bigger the problem, the more likely the taxpayer is going to be asked to solve it with contributions from the public coffers.

And the folks that own all this expensive farmland (worth well more than $200 billion in Iowa) surely can’t be expected to own the pollution too!

Where oh where are today’s Bob Rays?

It’s hard for those of us of a certain vintage to realize it has been 39 years since Robert Ray was Iowa’s governor.

In spite of the passage of so much time, his name was on the minds of many people last week.

What triggered the Bob Ray memories was Gov. Kim Reynolds’ interview with WHO Radio on Thursday.

Reynolds was asked about the thousands of children, mostly from Central America, who are showing up this year at our border with Mexico without their parents. They arrive hoping to be allowed to live in the United States with relatives or sponsors, freeing them from the deadly violence and the grip of poverty so common where they came from.

Bettendorf subdivision developer fined $6,000 by Iowa DNR to settle storm water permit violations

Ven Green Land Development LLC – developer of the Spencer Hollow residential subdivision in north Bettendorf – has agreed to pay $6,000 to settle storm water runoff permit violations that occurred in July 2020.

According to the administrative consent order issued March 9, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) received a complaint July 15 of last year alleging water in a tributary to Spencer Creek was brown from silt that had run off from the housing subdivision.

Education department expertise loses out to political power in school voucher legislation

The Iowa Department of Education has 220 staff members and a budget of more than $10 million. But it has zero independence or political power.

That's why school legislation in Iowa is driven by the political agenda of the governor, Republican Party leaders and this year, by the Americans for Prosperity, a right wing organization funded largely by the Koch brothers, and Betsy DeVos, ex-head of the Trump administration's education department.

Iowa's ag college experts on nutrient reduction say their role is to educate, not regulate farm operations

Mandating measures to control and reduce chemical pollution from farm fields should begin, University of Iowa water quality researchers say.

But, don't expect Iowa's land-grant agricultural institution – Iowa State University – to join the call for regulation or any government measures to limit the use of fertilizer on ag land.

Researchers at the University of Iowa Hydroscience and Engineering Department have been analyzing farm field runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus for decades.

Voluntary efforts will never achieve Iowa's goal to curb nitrogen runoff, water quality researcher says

Iowa will never achieve its goal to reduce nitrate runoff from Iowa farm fields relying only on voluntary actions of farm operators, according to a hydrologist who has done extensive research on the state's waterways and water quality.

The state has not only has failed to achieve its goal to reduce nitrogen runoff by 45 percent over the past eight years, the 5-year average of nitrate flowing into the Mississippi River has increased, up more than 100 percent between 2003 and 2019, according to Larry Weber, Ph.D, a research engineer with the University of Iowa's IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering Department.

Farm bureau crows about water quality progress; nutrient reduction report stats show otherwise

The Iowa Farm Bureau unleashed its public relations machine after release of the 2018-19 Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) Report July 2, heralding what it called "clear and significant strides" on reducing nitrogen and phosphorus leaching from farms fields into state streams, rivers and lakes.

Problem is the farm bureau either failed to read the report statistics on nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, or simply chose to ignore the research results and spin the findings.

Admissions, revenues at Bettendorf casino plunge as pandemic shutters facility for more than two months

Admissions and revenues at Bettendorf's Isle of Capri Casino fell to lows not seen since the launch of its predecessor Lady Luck Riverboat Casino in 1995 after the COVID-19 virus shuttered the facility for two and half months this spring.

For the 12-months ended June 30, the Isle – now owned by Eldorado Resorts, Inc. – reported gross revenue of $51.2 million and admissions of 627,436. That would be the lowest revenue and admissions since the fiscal 1995 results when the Lady Luck Riverboat generated $10 million in revenue and attracted 325,698 gamblers in operating less than three months.

Lee Enterprises reports $5 million 2nd quarter loss

Lee Enterprises – owner of the Quad City Times and Dispatch/Argus – has reported a $5 million loss (9 cents per share) for the second quarter ended March 29. That was nearly double the loss ($2.3 million, 5 cents per share) for the same period a year ago.

Lee President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mowbray in the company's earnings news release June 18 stated he was "pleased to announce our solid second quarter financial results."

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