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

LAWSUIT HEARING SET: A Polk County judge has scheduled a June 1 court date in Des Moines to hear arguments over a request by three petitioners seeking a temporary injunction that would prohibit Iowa’s “fetal heartbeat” abortion law from taking effect July 1 as planned. District Judge Michael D. Huppert has set the 9 a.m. hearing to receive initial information in the lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the Iowa City-based Emma Goldman Clinic and Dr. Jill Meadows against Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Board of Medicine to permanently strike down as unconstitutional the law the governor signed May 4 that would ban most abortions with a few exceptions once a fetal heartbeat is detected – usually about six weeks into a pregnancy. Opponents say the law is among the most restrictive in the country and they are seeking to enjoin it from taking effect. Both sides have acknowledged the outcome in state court likely will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

NEW IOWA HOUSE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, has named Rep. Peter Cownie, a West Des Moines Republican, to serve as the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Cownie has been a member of the tax-writing committee since 2011. He replaces Rep. Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa, who is not seeking re-election this fall. During the recently completed 2018 session, Cownie was the floor manager of a major tax reduction and reform package that revamped the state’s income tax code. He most recently served as chairman of the Commerce Committee, a position he had held since 2013.

RESCUING WILDLIFE BABIES NOT ADVISED: Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources are advising Iowans who find baby animals, birds or other newborn critters not to attempt to “rescue” them from their mothers in the wild. While the “rescuer” may have had the best intentions, say DNR wildlife experts, they likely have doomed the animal they aimed to save. Many wildlife babies die soon after “rescue” from the stress of being handled, talked to, and placed into the unfamiliar surroundings, according to an agency press release. Should it survive this trauma, they often succumb more slowly to starvation from improper nourishment, pneumonia or other human caused sicknesses. “All species of wildlife have highly specific needs for survival,” said Karen Kinkead, DNR Wildlife Diversity Program coordinator. Rescuing a baby from its mother not only shows bad judgement, it’s illegal, she noted. “Most mammals are nocturnal. Mother will hide her young during the day so she can sleep or look for food so it’s perfectly normal for the young to be alone or unattended during the day,” she said. “Don’t assume a fawn or a nest full of baby cottontails or raccoons are orphaned.” The transition to independence varies by species from as little as four or five days to weeks or even months, Kinkead added.

PUBLIC MEETINGS SET ON ALLIANT RATE HIKE: The Iowa Utilities Board will conduct six public comment meetings starting Thursday regarding an application filed by Alliant Energy-Interstate Power and Light Company for an increase in its Iowa retail natural gas rates. IUB officials say the meetings are intended to provide an opportunity for Alliant customers to express their views about the proposed natural gas rate increase. Iowans also can provide comments regarding Alliant’s proposed tariffs for installing advance meter infrastructure smart meters, as well as discuss the overall quality of Alliant’s service. Representatives from the state regulatory board, Alliant and the Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) – which represents the general interests of customers -- will be present at the meetings to hear public comments and answer questions. Additionally, the board has arranged for remote participation via an online webinar at two of the customer comment meeting venues with details at the IUB website, https://iub.iowa.gov. Meetings and webinars are scheduled throughout Alliant’s Iowa service territory as follows: Clinton on Thursday; Mason City on Wednesday, June 13; Storm Lake on Monday, June 18; Fairfield on Thursday, June 21; Marshalltown on Tuesday, June 26; and Ames on Tuesday, June 26. All comments provided at the public meetings, or submitted in writing to the board, will become part of the permanent record in the gas rate case, or in the proposed AMI tariff dockets. Written comments can be filed by completing and submitting this electronic comment form, or send by email to customer@iub.iowa.gov, or through a letter by postal mail and addressed to the Iowa Utilities Board, Chief Operating Officer, Docket No. RPU-2018-0002, or TF-2018-0029 or TF-2018-0030, 1375 E. Court Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0069.

HEAVY HOLIDAY CAMPING DEMAND: Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources are advising that campsites will be hard to come by for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend. Most electrical and full hookup sites were reserved months ago, according to the DNR, and of the 370 campsites still available, most are non-electric. There are around 1,200 non-reservable sites available on a first-come basis, but not likely for much longer. To reserve a campsite, visit: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go/State-Parks/Make-a-Reservation. The Memorial Day weekend camping is traditionally the start of Iowa’s busy outdoor summer recreation season and the second busiest weekend of the year next to July 4 for Iowa’s state parks, according to state officials. For an up-to-date list of park and trail closures due to renovations and construction projects or weather related, visit: http://www.iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go/State-Parks/Alerts-and-Closures.

--Times Bureau

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