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Friday News, February 27

School Funding Still Being Debated In State Legislature

(Le Mars) -- State Representative Chuck Soderberg and State Senator Bill Anderson are scheduled to meet with local school officials on Saturday morning, and no doubt the topic of school funding will be discussed.  At odds over education funding, Iowa lawmakers have established a negotiating committee to attempt to reach compromise.
     A joint conference committee with lawmakers from both chambers met Thursday. The Republican-majority House and Democratic-controlled Senate must determine a funding level for K through 12 education for the upcoming academic year.
     House Republicans have advanced a plan that would provide about $100 million in additional funding, while Senate Democrats want to give schools over $200 million in additional funding. Both proposals include money dedicated to teacher leadership training.
     Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Council Bluffs Democrat, calls education a priority because it's a "ticket to a better life."
     But Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, says the House proposal is what the state can afford.

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School officials say the 1.25 percent increase is simply not enough, and they would like to see the Senate version of 4 percent, or $200 million be approved.  However, Soderberg says if that happens, many other programs will need to be cut.

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Soderberg blames the delay for the school funding decision on the Senate Democrats.

 

Iowa Exported $15.1 Billion In Merchandise And Food

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The U.S. Department of Commerce says Iowa companies exported a record $15.1 billion worth of merchandise last year which contributed to the nation's record export level exceeding $2.3 trillion.
     In the report released Thursday the government says machinery led Iowa exports totaling about $3.6 billion in value. That was followed by food and related products and agricultural products.
     Canada was the leading destination for Iowa products followed by Mexico, Japan and China.
     More than 3,300 companies - by far most of them with fewer than 500 employees - exported goods in the most recent report.
     Coinciding with the release of the data, the White House issued a statement citing it as a reason Congress should act on new trade agreements now in negotiations to expand trade with additional countries.

 

CoOportunity To Be Liquidated This Weekend

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An insurance cooperative created to provide health care in Iowa and Nebraska will be formally liquidated this weekend.
     Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Thursday that a Polk County judge has agreed to approve the liquidation plan, which will be finalized on Saturday night.
     CoOportunity is a federally funded nonprofit established to provide health care in Iowa and Nebraska. Gerhart took the cooperative over after he determined the nonprofit's claims would exceed its available cash.
     About 24,000 people still have CoOportunity plans in Iowa and Nebraska, with about 5,500 who bought coverage on the insurance exchange created as part of the Affordable Care Act.
     Gerhart said that people who received plans through the exchange must enroll in new coverage by midnight Saturday to maintain any federal tax subsidies.

 

Hackers Invade Anthem Health Insurance Company

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state insurance official says nearly 173,000 Iowans may have been affected by the recent data breach at health insurer Anthem Incorporated.
     Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Thursday that 172,727 policyholders in Iowa may have had their personal information compromised. The cyberattack into a database of more than 80 million people was discovered earlier this month. The health insurance provider says hackers gained access to names, birthdates, email addresses, Social Security numbers and other information of people who are currently covered or previously had coverage.
     Gerhart says Anthem will contact each person affected by the breach and inform them of available identity theft services and other protections. He says the Iowa Insurance Division continues to work with Anthem to monitor the situation.
 

 

 


 

   

Thursday Afternoon News, February 26

New Fuel Tax Hike Will Help Plymouth County Bridge Repairs

(Le Mars) -- The newly passed increased fuel tax bill will mean about a million dollars more that will come to Plymouth County for road and bridge repairs, according to Plymouth County Engineer Tom Rohe.  Rohe says the county gets funding from the state in two separate accounts.  The first is the Road Use Tax fund which Rohe says consists of revenue collected from fuel tax, vehicle registrations, and sales tax on new sold vehicles.  The county engineer says prior to the passage of the new fuel tax bill, Plymouth County would receive approximately $4.8 million dollars from the state.  The second account is the Farm to Market Fund, which generally receives $1.2 million dollars.

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Rohe says the additional $870,000 dollars will be beneficial to Plymouth County as it will help start construction on projects that had been pushed back in priority due to lack of needed funding.

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He says the added money may mean an additional 2 to 3 more bridges can be repaired, or 8 to 10 culverts can be installed.  Rohe says the added money will be beneficial, but he faces an uphill battle in terms of catching up with needed bridge and road repairs.

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Rohe explains the funding formula that determines how much money is allocated to counties, cities, and to the state.

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The Plymouth County engineer explains what the original budgets were set at for the upcoming fiscal year in terms of road and bridge construction and repair.

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Woodbury County Attorney Drops Charges Of Stabbing

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - The case against a Sioux City man charged in a stabbing earlier this month has been dismissed.  
     Assistant Woodbury County Attorney Terry Ganzel wrote in a motion to dismiss the case against 51-year-old Harvey Johnson, saying there was insufficient evidence. Johnson had been charged with willful injury in connection to the stabbing of Karl Lyons.
     Ganzel says a witness has supported Johnson's claim that he acted in self-defense and that other evidence shows Lyons had started the Feb. 13 confrontation.
     A judge dismissed the case Monday.
     According to court documents, Lyons was stabbed in the stomach, chest and under his left armpit. He also had a 4-inch cut to his neck. He was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and later released.
     ---

 

House Panel Approves Expanded Sale Of Fireworks In Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A House panel has approved a bill that would legalize the sale of more fireworks in Iowa, a move that echoes action in the Senate.
     Members of a ways and means subcommittee approved the bill Thursday. It now heads to a full committee for consideration.
     The bill would require retailers to obtain a license to legally sell firecrackers, roman candles and other fireworks. Currently, state law allows only sales of sparklers or certain "novelty fireworks."
     Several groups spoke in opposition to the bill and argued it would lead to more injuries. Rep. Matt Windschitl, a Republican from Missouri Valley and chairman of the subcommittee, says it's important to give consumers the right to buy fireworks. 
     A similar bill is advancing in the Senate.

 

Broadband Expansion

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has abandoned Gov. Terry Branstad's broadband bill and instead approved different legislation aimed at expanding high-speed Internet in Iowa.
     Members of an economic growth subcommittee approved a bill Thursday that focuses more heavily on the infrastructure of building out broadband, also known as high-speed Internet. The bill has no grant program for service providers but expands a property tax offer.
     The bill now heads to a full committee for consideration.
     Sen. Steven Sodders, a Democrat from State Center, says Branstad's bill needed stronger language on expanding a fiber-optic network, which experts say is the best system for robust service.
     Sodders is sponsor of the remaining bill and says it incorporates aspects of Branstad's legislation. He plans to meet with House leaders to ensure there is cohesive legislation.

 

School District To Close A School Building To Save On Costs

 GLADBROOK, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa school district has decided to close one if its three schools in an effort to cut costs.
     The Board of Education at Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District voted 5-2 Wednesday to close the district's elementary and middle school building located in Gladbrook. Students will now attend two remaining schools in Reinbeck beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.
     The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that the move is expected to save the district $402,000. Other options considered by the board would have saved between $100,000 and $150,000 less.
     Board member Doug Rowe, who voted against the motion, says he thinks the closure is a mistake. But Josh Hemann, another board member who voted in favor of the proposal, says maintaining an elementary school in every town isn't a reality.

 

Parishioners Save Church Bells

 MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) - Parishioners in Muscatine have saved three bells that chimed for more than a century in a church now slated for demolition.
     The Muscatine Journal reports a crane was used Wednesday to remove the bells from St. Mary's Catholic Church.
     St. Mary's was built in 1876, and the bells were added 13 years later.
     Parishioners pooled together their money to buy the bells, windows, lights and other material that could be salvaged from the church.
     Concerns about the strength of the church's floor led to the decision to close the brick building and consolidate the parish with St. Mathias Catholic Church.


 
 

 

 

 

   

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