The new I-74 Bridge in downtown Bettendorf includes shade-tolerant landscaping and lighting under the elevated concrete approaches.

Lawmakers discuss reducing inspections of hotels, asbestos removal – the move led by Bettendorf's Republican State Senator Scott Webster

by Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
January 23, 2024

An Iowa Senate subcommittee advanced legislation Tuesday to cut back on the law’s requirement for hotel inspections and asbestos-related inspections at construction sites.

The three members of the Senate State Government Subcommittee expressed reservations with various elements of the bill, Senate Study Bill 3064, but the two Republican members said they intended to forward it to the full committee on the theory that there will be more discussion about the bill’s merits and any potential drawbacks.

Currently, state law requires that the Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing inspect hotels and motels at least once every two years. However, the department has not complied with that law for several years and has instead inspected hotels largely on a complaint-only basis with some inspections being performed on a prioritized, risk-based assessment.

The department now hopes to have the law changed so that it essentially legalizes DIAL’s current practice.

Nursing homes invest in lobbying, campaign contributions; reap millions in taxpayer money

by Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
December 22, 2023

Editor’s note: Shortly after this story was published, the Iowa Health Care Association removed from its website the publicly accessible audio recordings of IHCA lobbyists and members. As a result, the links in this story to those recordings may not work.

It was early on a Monday afternoon in September 2022, and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Des Moines, delivering a speech to a group of nursing home executives gathered for their annual convention.

It was a friendly and receptive audience – as evidenced by the donations the Reynolds campaign had collected in the previous four weeks from some of those in attendance.

The political action committee that represents Iowa’s nursing home industry had donated $30,000 to Reynolds’ 2022 reelection effort. David Chensvold, nursing home consultant and president of HealthCARE of Iowa, gave $20,000. Ted LeNeave, CEO of Accura Healthcare, gave $10,000, as did Lisa Toti, president of Accura Healthcare. Richard Allbee, CEO of the ABCM nursing home chain, gave $5,000, as did Douglas Johnson, CEO of Blue Stone Therapy.

In her prepared remarks, Reynolds reminded industry officials of her efforts to loosen “regulatory barriers” and shield the companies from legal liability resulting from wrongful death claims and other lawsuits. She also spoke of her successful efforts to increase Medicaid funding for the industry by $23 million in 2019, and again by $19 million in 2021.

“You’re not getting much help from the federal government, which apparently has never seen something it doesn’t like to regulate or mandate,” she said. “I can’t control Washington’s approach, but I can promise this: In Iowa, you’ll continue to get the support you’re being denied in Washington.”

The same day Reynolds spoke, a group of state lawmakers assembled on the stage at the Marriott and posed with plaques in appreciation of their efforts on behalf of the industry during the 2022 legislative session.

Standing shoulder to shoulder were seven legislators — all Republicans, like the governor: Speaker of the House Pat Grassley, Senate President Jake Chapman, House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, Rep. Joel Fry, Rep. Ann Meyer, Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, and Sen. Mark Costello.

An Iowa Capital Dispatch review of legislation, campaign contributions, federal tax returns, inspection reports and audio recordings of industry lobbyists reveals the extent to which money influences critical public policy decisions related to the protection of Iowa’s elderly and people with disabilities.

Yet another Bettendorf developer fined for violating soil retention rules; third order since September

Yet another Bettendorf developer has been fined for failing to control soil erosion while building a residential subdivision.

Tim Dolan, of Tim Dolan Development Co., agreed to pay the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) $5,500 under a consent order signed Dec. 14.

The violation stems from onsite inspections of the Stoney Creek North Third Addition last April and May.

Another Bettendorf developer fined for failing to control soil runoff; violations date back two years

Another Bettendorf developer has been fined for repeatedly failing to halt erosion of soil from a residential development into a nearby creek.

Robert Fick, vice president of Mel Foster Properties and developer of the Century Heights Phase III subdivision, agreed to a $5,000 fine under a consent agreement with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

The case dates back to two storm water runoff violations near Hess Court and Criswell Street that occurred Dec. 28, 2021 and June 23, 2022.

The order was filed November 16, nearly two years after the initial violation and nearly a year and a half after the second notice of violation was sent the developer.

Lee Enterprises reports $1.3-million 4th quarter loss; says company had 'strong fourth quarter results'

Lee Enterprises, Inc. – owner of the Quad City Times and DIspatch/Argus – Thursday (12/8) reported a $1.32-million loss for the fourth quarter stating in its earnings news release the company had achieved "strong fourth quarter results."

Lee lost $1.32 million (32 cents per share) during the three-month period ended Sept. 28, and 90 cents per share ($2.73 million) for the company's fiscal year that ended Sept. 25.

Controversial Pleasant Valley school board election could be decided by a drawing

For additional details of the recount and mishandling of election report, see this article in the Pleasant Valley High School newspaper

by Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch
December 1, 2023

A hotly contested race for school board in a small eastern Iowa community may be decided by a drawing on Monday.

The Scott County Auditor’s Office recently presided over a recount for one of the races involving a seat on the school board for the Pleasant Valley Community School District.

Initially, the results of the Nov. 7 election indicated challenger Jameson Smith had beaten incumbent Tracey Rivera on a vote of 256 to 250. Rivera then requested a recount which led to a new controversy involving Iowa’s own version of a hanging-chad dispute.

An assistant Scott County attorney had allegedly explained to the three parties handling the recount that because the Nov. 7 election involved the use of optical scanners, any write-in votes could only be counted if the oval alongside the line for the name of a write-in candidates was filled in by the voter.

One of the individuals involved in the recount objected to a ballot in which the oval was not filled in, while the other two individuals argued such ballots should be counted since the intent of the voter was clear. Rivera allegedly benefitted from the majority decision to count two such ballots as valid, and that led to a determination that the candidates were tied at 255 votes each.

With the process headed toward a randomized outcome, with the election to be decided by a drawing, attorney Alan Ostergren wrote to the county auditor and lodged a protest on behalf of Smith.

Is it open season for Medicare enrollment or for snagging seniors with incessant advertising?

by Cheryl Tevis, Iowa Capital Dispatch
November 25, 2023

Martha, Martha, are you listening? Martha? Can you hear me?

Is it Dec. 7 yet? No? Two more weeks? I can’t be the only person who has this date highlighted on my calendar. But my motivation might be different than you’d expect.

For those readers who are Gen Xers or Millennials, Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 is the annual Medicare open enrollment period. With a total of 65 million Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S., it’s a big marketing opportunity. It’s also annoying the hell out of everyone under age 65 – and that’s 83 percent of the American public.

In these incessant TV commercials, Martha, a white-haired lady wearing  super-sized glasses, is described by the narrator as a “cranky” 75-year-old. Apparently, she’s been living under a rock for the past 10 years: she has no idea what the narrator is trying to “man-splain” to her. The commercials are condescending and demeaning.

A 2022 Commonwealth Fund survey indicates that three quarters of individuals aged 65 and older reported receiving daily unsolicited calls or ads: “Hello, this is your senior advisor.” Calls are supposed to be federally prohibited unless individuals agree to be called.

Endorsing DeSantis is a risky move for Reynolds

by Iowa Capital Dispatch
November 6, 2023

I said on national television back in August that I would be very surprised if Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds endorsed a presidential candidate ahead of the 2024 caucuses.

Color me surprised. Reynolds is reportedly set to endorse Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a campaign event Monday evening in Des Moines and then take the show on the road, with stops in Davenport and Florida ahead of the third GOP presidential debate.

Reynolds first said over the summer she wouldn’t rule out a pre-caucus endorsement. The reasons I was skeptical then are the same ones that seem puzzling now: It’s a huge political risk for Reynolds and an even bigger hazard to the future of the Iowa GOP caucuses.

DeSantis was 29 percentage points behind former President Donald Trump in the Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll of likely GOP caucusgoers published a week ago. The Florida governor lost his lead over former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who’s now tied with him at 16%. While Reynolds’ backing is certainly a boon at a crucial time for DeSantis, it seems like a stretch that it would push him over the top to defeat Trump in January and launch him to the nomination.

Bettendorf firm fined $6,000 for failing to control erosion on Forest Grove/Middle Road development

The developer of the commercial property northeast of Middle and Forest Grove Roads in Bettendorf has been fined $6,000 by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) for failing to control erosion on the construction site.

FG80 Holdings, LLC, owned by developer Kevin Koellner, agreed to the fine in September for violations of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit that occurred in 2022 and 2023.

According to the IDNR, a routine inspection of the property in July 2022 found soil had flowed out of the sediment basin and that the sediment traps that had been installed did not provide adequate control of the soil runoff.

"Silt fencing in low lying areas had been overwhelmed," according to the inspection report, which was sent to the developer along with recommended corrective actions.

This old House has been torn down

by Dave Nagle, Iowa Capital Dispatch
October 25, 2023

I remember clearly the first day I went to the Capital to become a member of Congress.  I purposely walked up the front steps and was greeted by a guard, who opened the door and said, “Good morning, Congressman.” What a sense of satisfaction to have finally arrived.

But then I walked across the hall and opened the door to the chamber.  I had a second thought, and it was simply, “I hope I don’t screw this up.”


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