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Capitol Digest: Reynolds says state will appeal mask mandate ruling
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Capitol Digest: Reynolds says state will appeal mask mandate ruling

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A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest:

MASK MANDATE RULING: Gov. Kim Reynolds told a radio audience Thursday that plans are proceeding to appeal a federal judge’s order that restrains the state from enforcing a state law that bars local school districts from enacting mask mandates for students.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt this week extended his initial Sept. 13 restraining order to Oct. 11, which means school districts may impose mask mandates and the state cannot stop them.

Pratt concluded that enforcement of the state law continues to pose a threat to the health of children.

“Well, let's remember, he's an activist judge,” the governor said during a “People’s Press Conference” segment with iHeart radio host, Jeff Angelo, a former GOP state senator from southwest Iowa.

“We weren't that surprised with the ruling that we got,” she said. “It's arbitrary and it's a double standard, but we'll fight that battle in the court.”

The governor, who made a campaign promise to have weekly news conferences, last held a news conference with Statehouse reporters Sept. 2.

BEST-LOOKING CRUISER: The results have been tabulated in the 8th annual American Association of State Troopers Best-Looking Cruiser contest, in which Iowa placed 22nd.

Kentucky topped this year’s balloting with 77,944 of the 392,789 votes cast during a two-week period that ended in August.

Other top finishers were Ohio, Georgia, Texas, Nebraska, Indiana, California, Tennessee, New York, Mississippi, West Virginia, Michigan and New Hampshire.

Those top 12 states will have their cruisers included in the association’s 2022 calendar, which will be available to purchase at statetroopers.org beginning Friday, Oct. 1.

The Iowa State Patrol cruiser had 4,227 votes after a 10th-place showing last year that earned Iowa a spot in the association’s 2021 cruiser calendar.

Proceeds of calendar sales benefit the association’s foundation, which provides scholarships to dependents of member troopers.

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The back of the calendar will feature a collage of all submitted photos.

TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT ACTION: Road troopers from the Iowa State Patrol are leading a statewide Traffic Fatality Reduction Task Force effort to reduce deaths on Iowa roadways this weekend.

Troopers will be conducting a special enforcement initiative geared toward reduction of distracted driving beginning Saturday and continuing into Monday — a time period that state Department of Public Safety officials say is one of the most deadly, according to the past 10 years of crash data.

“Any activity that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road or your mind off the task of driving can be dangerous,” according to a DPS news release. “Combining these behaviors (and) doing things like texting while driving compounds the risk.”

The number of traffic crashes in Iowa due to drivers distracted by the use of phones or other devices has been on the rise, topping out at 1,101 in 2019 and on pace to exceed that total in 2021.

DPS officials say younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes and, not surprisingly, young drivers text more than any other age group and the number of those who text is increasing.

Also, public-safety officials say drivers who use hand-held devices while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves or others.

Also, they said, sending or reading a text for five seconds in a vehicle traveling at 55 mph is comparable to driving the length of a football field while the operator’s eyes are closed.

DEMOCRATS FAVOR MAPS: Iowa Democrats said they will be focused on approving fair maps when the Legislature meets Tuesday to consider congressional and legislative redistricting.

“I’m hoping for a very boring day,” House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, told reporters Thursday.

She and Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, called on the Republican majorities to approve the redistricting plan prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

Iowans don’t want the majority party to “rig” the maps in their favor, Wahls said. Doing that would erode democracy and create a “breeding ground for corruption.”

“There’s no legitimate reason for Republicans to reject this map,” he said, promising Democrats will fight any attempt at gerrymandering “every step of the way.”

Wahls and Konfrst said they are unaware if Republicans plan to reject the Legislative Services Agency’s redistricting map.

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Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she’s having “great conversations” with state legislative leaders about the potential for considering a bill during the upcoming special session that would prohibit workplace COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

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