(Washington) – U.S. Senators from Iowa have divided their votes for legislation that would recognize same-sex and interracial marriages at the federal level. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley voted against allowing the Senate to consider the bill. Grassley says he opposes the law on religious freedom grounds, but also thinks it’s unnecessary. Senator Joni Ernst was among a dozen Republicans who voted to move the law forward. It is likely that the US Senate will approve the bill within the next two weeks. The US House of Representatives passed similar legislation after US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that opinions on same-sex marriage and the right to contraception were based on the same legal bases as Roe v Wade’s 1973 abortion ruling, which court overturned this summer.
(Washington) – Iowa Senator Joni Ernst has moved up a rung on the Senate GOP ladder of leadership to the number four position. Ernst’s peers elected her to chair the Republican Policy Committee after what were described as tense Republican Senate meetings this week. Ernst promises to encourage collaboration to ensure all voices are heard in the Senate GOP conference. Ernst remains the senior woman in the Senate Republican leadership. She has been vice chair of the Republican Senate Conference for four years.
(Statewide) — Accidents and fatalities involving distracted drivers are rising rapidly in Iowa, and the head of the state’s largest bicycle organization is calling for stricter laws on cell phone use by motorists. Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, says they’ve had bipartisan committee-level support for tough legislation in the last two legislative sessions, but haven’t been able to get a measure through to a vote in either session. It’s now illegal to text and drive, but Wyatt wants drivers’ phones to be in hands-free or voice-activated mode. An Iowa DOT report states that in 2001 there was one reported fatality from distracted driving in Iowa and approximately 500 accidents. Last year there were ten fatalities from distracted driving and nearly 11-hundred accidents nationwide. To sign the petition, visit drive-safe-iowa-dot-org.
(Nationwide) – Iowa deer hunters are often asked to donate venison to feed the hungry, but they are also asked to donate deer hides for use in the Veterans Leather Program. Iowa Elks state spokeswoman Lisa Widick says the state’s Elks Lodges collected more than four thousand deer hides for the program over the past hunting season. The hides are shipped to a Missouri tannery, then the finished leather is shipped back to Iowa—and to the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. House veterans fashion the leather into moccasins, backpacks, gun cases, gloves, and many other items sold in the house gift shop. Widick says hunters interested in donating skins should contact the nearest Iowa Elks Lodge.