A roundup of state government and Capitol news items of interest for Monday:

DCA DIRECTOR STEPPING DOWN: Mary Cownie, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs since January 2011, announced plans Monday to leave the post later this month. Her last day at the department will be Thursday, Aug. 17, according to a news release issued Monday by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office. “We have all benefited from Mary’s mission to stress the significance of our quality of life in Iowa and its role as an economic driver,” Reynolds said in a statement. “She has done a wonderful job at the Department of Cultural Affairs, and while we will greatly miss her, we will continue to feel the impact of her work for years to come. I wish her all the best.” The department’s deputy director, Chris Kramer, will serve as acting director until a new director is named, according to Reynolds’ office. Appointed by former Gov. Terry Branstad, Cownie oversaw the department’s administrative functions and programs, along with the Iowa Arts Council, State Historical Society of Iowa and the Produce Iowa office.

IOWA DOES WELL: Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office Monday touted a new ranking that scored Iowa high for health care. According to the personal finance Website, Wallet.Hub.com, Iowa was ranked as second best for health care in 2017 among the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The governor’s office issued a news release noting that WalletHub used 35 measures of cost, accessibility and outcomes to determine where Americans receive the highest-quality services at the best prices. Iowa scored first for most hospital beds per capita and second for the lowest infant mortality rate. Iowa also was sixth nationally for the percentage of insured adults and 10th for the percent of insured children. 

IOWA OFFERS NEW HISTORY RESOURCE: Students, teachers and other interested Iowans now have history virtually at their fingertips. Officials with the state Department of Cultural Affairs on Monday said scores of documents from the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Library of Congress now are available via a new free online resource now available at www.iowaculture.gov. Among the offerings are a video of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s 1959 visit to Coon Rapids at the height of the Cold War and a neatly typed script President Herbert Hoover used during his 1929 inaugural address. State officials say the trove of virtual treasures is the result of more than a year of research and almost $100,000 in grant funding from the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program. The project was designed to help teachers develop lessons around first-hand accounts of major turning points in history. About 80 percent of the materials offer a national perspective, while the remaining 20 percent focus on Iowa. “We’re eager to give people a new tool to dig deeper into the past,” said State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer. “These multimedia documents bring history to life in ways that even the best textbooks simply can’t.” The direct link to all 12 new primary source sets is: https://iowaculture.gov/history/education/educator-resources/primary-source-sets.

DOT SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT: Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation will hold a meeting to gather public comments about the draft Iowa Statewide Transportation Improvement Program at its Ames headquarters later this month. The meeting will be held in the northwest wing first floor conference room at the Iowa DOT headquarters, 800 Lincoln Way, in Ames, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24. The draft STIP identifies all projects proposed to be authorized for funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration or Federal Transit Administration during federal fiscal years 2018-2021. It includes projects for state, county, city, and federal transportation systems. Development of the STIP is required by federal law. The draft STIP can be viewed on the Iowa DOT's website at: iowadot.gov/program_management/stip/20182021DraftSTIPAugust2017WebviewUpdated.pdf. Comments on the draft STIP can be provided at the meeting or by contacting Matt Chambers, of the Iowa DOT's Office of Program Management, at 515-239-1409 or Matthew.Chambers@iowadot.us.

FISH KILL INVESTIGATED: Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources said Monday a fish kill in a tributary of the Little Volga River east of Maynard in Fayette County reported Saturday has been traced to an empty hog confinement building. According to a DNR news release, state officials found dead fish and elevated ammonia levels in the unnamed creek. The fish kill was traced to an unused hog confinement building owned by Raymond Forsyth Farms Corp. of Maynard, according to the DNR. A contractor demolished the building Friday, a process that allowed manure to flow into the creek, state officials said. The building’s owner had contractors excavate contaminated soil and remove contaminated water so that by midday Monday about 350,000 gallons of contaminated water had been pumped from the stream. DNR officials say they are conducting a fish count and continue to monitor the cleanup operations. The agency may seek appropriate enforcement action and fish restitution, according to the DNR news release.

— Times Bureau

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