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(Statewide) -- A study finds the average rate of family premiums for health insurance offered by private employers in Iowa has risen significantly. The report from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota found the average premium rate for Iowa families jumped about nine percent from 2020 to 2021, while the national average is only three percent. Robert Hest, a research fellow at the center, says Iowa’s relatively small population may be a factor. Iowa has nearly three-point-two million residents, ranking it the 31st most populous state in the U-S. The report found about 87-percent, or one-point-two million Iowans, who work in the private sector were offered employer-sponsored insurance last year.

(Washington) -- As some of her fellow Republicans call for deep cuts or an end to U-S aid for Ukraine, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst suggests that would be a dangerous step. Ernst says it would give authoritarians like Russia's Putin and China's Xi the impression they can invade other countries without facing repercussions. The top Republican in the U.S. House says the Biden Administration shouldn't get a blank check for the war in Ukraine -- and the G-O-P shouldl insist on a plan for ending the conflict. While Ernst agrees unlimited spending on the war effort is unwise, she says the U.S. needs to keep supporting Ukraine as long as Ukraine is willing to fight Putin's aggression.

(Des Moines) -- Staff in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have drafted tougher rules for manure storage at any new livestock confinements or cattle feedlots in parts of northeast Iowa. The regulations would apply in areas where the bedrock is closer to the surface and it can be porous. If the changes are adopted, the distance from the concrete bottom of any NEW manure pit and down to the bedrock would have to triple. An attorney for the Iowa Pork Producers and the Iowa Cattlemen's Association says that could prevent northeast Iowa farmers from expanding their livestock operations. More than a dozen environmental groups say the proposed changes don't go far enough to improve water quality and it's time to regulate all the manure being applied to farmland.

(Ottosen) -- A northern Iowa woman who served in the Iowa House of Representatives for 22 years before two recent terms as a state gambling regulator has died. Dolores Mertz, a farmer from Ottosen, passed away this week at a health center in West Bend. She was 94. Mertz, a Democrat who was a precinct leader in Kossuth County for 25 years, is being praised by leaders of both political parties. Iowa Republican Party co-chair Linda Upmeyer says Mertz was a tiny powerhouse and Upmeyer says no one had a deeper love of where she was from and who she served than Mertz. Iowa Democratic Party chairman Ross Wilburn says Mertz was a powerful voice for rural Iowans and her ability to work across the aisle is what made her such a tremendous public servant.

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