Friday News, March 8
Soderberg and Anderson Hold Legislative Forums
(Le Mars) -- State Representative Chuck Soderberg and State Senator Bill Anderson, both republicans, will conduct legislative forums scheduled for Saturday. The two lawmakers will meet with the public to discuss legislative issues. Their legislative forum will start at the Hinton Community Center at 9:00 a.m. Next, will be a stop at Le Mars at the Habitue Coffeehouse and Creperie scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and a final stop will occur at the Akron Public Library at 12:00 noon. The public is welcomed and encouraged to attend the legislative forums.
King Says President Obama is Posturing On Sequestration Budget Cuts
(Washington) -- Republican Iowa Congressman Steve King believes the Obama Administration is posturing when it comes to the sequestration of federal budget cuts. King spoke with KLEM news and says the budget cuts represent only a three-percent cut. He blames the president and the administration for not acknowledging that the government is spending too much, and for not looking at ways to reduce some unnecessary spending, and instead has chosen to make it a political issue.
King says an example, is how Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack responded to questions by Congressional members when he appeared before the House Ag Committee this week.
King says the Obama Administration had options before them, but chose to ignore those options.
State Supreme Court To Visit Students In NW Iowa
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Members of the Iowa Supreme Court will meet with students with stops at five high schools and a college in the Sioux City area.
The justices will split up for visits Wednesday at Sioux City North, Sioux City West, Maple Valley in Mapleton, Westwood in Sloan, OABCIG High in Ida Grove and Morningside College in Sioux
They will talk with students about the role of the courts.
The Judicial Branch says the justices also will hold a special session at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Morningside's Epply Auditorium, where they will hear arguments in two cases.
Northwestern College Places High In National Rankings
(Orange City) -- Northwestern College of Orange City continues to place high in national rankings acknowledging the college's reputation. This time around, Northwestern placed 21st of 191 nation-wide colleges in the Faith On View Christian College rankings. The rankings are based on reputation, student success and satisfaction, faculty resources, and student selectivity of colleges that seek to be Christ-centered.
Northwestern was also ranked by Faith on View as eighth among 46 Midwestern colleges and tied for eighth among 78 small colleges with enrollment between 750 and 1,999. Other institutions in the rankings include Dordt College of Sioux Center which tied for 36th nationally and 11th in the Midwest. The Faith On View Christian College ranking follows a seventh-place ranking among Midwestern colleges by U.S. News & World Report; a ranking as the nation’s sixth-best baccalaureate college by Washington Monthly; a ranking as Iowa’s fifth-best college by Forbes.com; and a fifth-place rating on the CBS MoneyWatch list of the colleges with the best professors.
Iowa Universities Falling Short On Graduation Goals
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new report says Iowa's three public universities are still missing target rates for graduation in four years.
Fewer than half of the students at the three schools finish in four years, although the rates have been rising in recent years.
The annual report for the Iowa Board of Regents says Iowa's universities have graduation rates above the national average.
Iowa State University has a 39.5 percent rate, nearly 2 points shy of its goal. The University of Northern Iowa, at 37.8 percent, is less than a point away from its goal of 38.4 percent.
The University of Iowa's current rate is just short of its goal of 48.3 percent.
The regents want each university to achieve its goal by 2016.
Senate Education Committee Approves Education Reform Bill
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel approved a beefed-up version of the governor's education reform plan that requires increased teacher pay and institutes leadership programs.
The Senate Education Committee approved the measure Thursday by a 9 to 6 vote, with all Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.
Bill sponsor Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames says the Senate's version would cost $190 million. That's more expensive than Republican Governor Terry Branstad's plan.
The measure increases minimum teacher salaries to $35,000 and offers options to school districts for leadership programs.
The Senate plan includes a 4 percent funding increase to school districts in coming two fiscal years.
Republicans opposed the bill, saying it removes experienced teachers from the classroom to mentor other educators.
The House has approved a bill limiting raises and making reforms voluntary.
Arbitrator Rules In Favor of AFSCME Union
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad says a new two-year contract for state workers marks the first time since collective bargaining began in Iowa that no overall pay increases
The contract for 20,000 members of Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was announced Thursday. Under the deal, workers won't have to pay
toward health care premiums.
The contract was reached through neutral arbitration after the two sides could not resolve their differences on health care through negotiation. The union wanted to maintain current terms,
while Branstad had wanted employees to pay 20 percent of health care costs.
Still, Branstad said this contract is less expensive than a deal with raises. The contract will add $107 million to the state's costs over two years.
Union Doesn't Have To Pay Health Care Insurance
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Workers in Iowa's largest public sector union won't have to pay a contribution to their health insurance under a new two-year contract issued by an arbitrator.
The award for the 20,000 members of Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was announced Thursday. The contract includes no raises, except for
step increases for workers who haven't reached top pay scale.
Union President Danny Homan says the union and Governor Terry Branstad agreed on wages during negotiations, but the process went to arbitration because the two sides couldn't resolve health care.
Branstad called for union members to start paying a portion of health care costs, while the union sought to maintain current benefits.
In a statement, Branstad says he's disappointed by the health care decision.
Bills Failed To Get Through Committees Will Die On Friday
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Some of the hundreds of bills introduced in the Legislature will die this week as lawmakers run up against a self-imposed deadline.
Most high-profile measures dealing with issues like property tax changes and education reform are moving through the process, but others dealing with gay marriage, abortion and gun control won't
survive the Friday deadline.
Under the Legislature's rules, bills die if they haven't been approved by a committee by Friday, though they can be eligible in the session next year. Lawmakers won't return to work until Monday.
The Legislative Services Agency says 478 bills were introduced in the House this year and 354 in the Senate. Last year, 640 House and 478 Senate bills were introduced.
State Casinos Spend More Than $1 Billion
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new state report says expenditures by Iowa's 18 state-regulated casinos hit $1.14 billion last year. It was the first year since 2008 that the casinos spent more than $1
The 14 percent growth over 2011 came in large part from the 2011 opening of a casino in northwest Iowa and improvements at other casinos.
Industry leaders also say the increased spending and revenue show the industry has stabilized after three years of lower returns.
The report says the 18 casinos last year spent about $286 million on payroll and benefits; $363 million on equipment, supplies, and services; $405 million on federal, state and local
taxes; and $87 million on charitable donations and other nonprofit contributions.
Des Moines Wastewater Reaches Stream
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state Department of Natural Resources says about 7,200 gallons of untreated wastewater flowed from a sewer in southeast Des Moines and into a small stream.
The city of Des Moines reported the spill Thursday afternoon, and a crew stopped the problem by removing a blockage from the sewer line.
The estimated 7,200 gallons flowed from a manhole into an unnamed stream that flows into the Des Moines River.
The DNR says people should keep children and pets away from the area until at least Friday afternoon.
State officials say they will monitor the area Friday.