Friday News, May 17
Le Mars Rotary To Host Bike Safety Fair
(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Rotary Club along with Bike Central and the Le Mars Police Department are sponsoring a community-wide bicycle safety fair scheduled for May 22nd at the O'Toole Park in Le Mars. The event will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The Bicycle safety fair will include free bicycle safety information and safety demonstrations for cyclists of all ages. Free bicycle safety inspections will also be provided. Although everyone with a bicycle is encouraged to attend, special emphasis will be directed toward elementary-age children to help them have a safe summer of bicycling. Free safety reflectors will be given to all attendees, as well as ice cream novelties and treats courtesy of Well's Blue Bunny.
Investigators Look At Why 45 Sioux City School Children Got Ill
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Officials are investigating what may have caused 45 students at a Sioux City elementary school to get sick with a gastrointestinal illness.
Sioux City school district spokeswoman Alison Benson says the students from Bryant Elementary either called in sick Thursday or were sent home early. Three staff members also called in sick.
Symptoms included vomiting and diarrhea.
Siouxland District Health is investigating what may have caused the illness. Deputy Director Tyler Brock says officials will look at lunch menus and reports of sick employees missing work.
Legislature Close To Finishing General Session
(Des Moines) -- The Iowa Legislature hopes to end their session within the next few days. Several budget-related bills have been passed by both chambers in the recent days, and state representative Chuck Soderberg of Le Mars says business is starting to wind down.
Soderberg says the legislature was able to compromise on the state's general budget
The local representative says one item that probably will not be resolved is the debate on the Iowa's Health care plan. The House of Representatives want to adopt Governor Branstad's proposal while Senate Democrats want to see an expansion of Medicaid. Soderberg believes the legislators will come back in a special session to handle the controversial issue.
Legislators Reach An Agreement On Property Tax Relief
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa legislative leaders have reached a deal to reduce commercial property taxes in the state - a longtime priority of Republican Governor Terry Branstad.
A draft agreement of the plan was provided Thursday by Senate Democrats. The tentative plan will gradually reduce taxable assessments of commercial properties by 10 percent and provide
property tax credits geared at smaller businesses.
The plan still needs to win legislative approval.
Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht says in an email Thursday that the process was "extremely close" and that the governor's office is reviewing the plan.
Just when the 2013 session will conclude is not clear. Lawmakers are still trying to work out a deal on education policy. Discussions continue about whether to delay talks about proposals
to expand Medicaid or approve an alternate health plan.
Lawmakers Approve Public Universities Budget
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers have reached a spending compromise for Iowa's public universities and other education programs.
The state House and Senate approved the $897 million higher education budget Thursday evening. It's a compromise including enough money to freeze in-state tuition at the state universities.
Members of the Board of Regents previously promised to freeze in-state tuition if the Legislature approved the necessary budget increase. The budget plan would increase their budget by 2.6
The final budget is $66 million less than the original Senate proposal and about $3 million more than a House version.
It also includes spending for the education department, blind school, College Aid Commission, Vocational Rehabilitation and Iowa Public Television.
It will next move to the governor for his signature.
Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Is Approved By Legislators
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers have approved a $40 million compromise budget for the state departments of natural resources and agriculture.
The Senate and House both approved the spending Thursday. The total budget for the next fiscal year is about $5 million more than the current year.
It includes a $2.4 million increase for the state Department of Agriculture to study Iowa's water quality and encourage farmers to implement water quality practices.
Other budget items include spending for the Iowa State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. The plan also creates a new Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State to study
nutrient management practices in the state.
The plan now moves to the governor's office.
Farmers Given Liability Protection For Hosting Educational Tours
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers have approved a bill that provides farmers with additional liability protection for educational tours.
The state House and Senate passed the legislation Thursday night. A February ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court said that educational tours for the public are not shielded from personal injury lawsuits under a law meant to promote recreation on private lands.
This legislation revises state law so that educational activities would be included under recreational use protections. Supporters say this will give farmers confidence to continue offering tours. It will next move to the governor's office.
The court ruled that owners of a dairy farm in northeast Iowa could be sued by a woman who was injured when she fell through a hole in a hayloft while chaperoning a field trip.
State Senate Wants To Preserve Ethanol Tax Credit
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An effort to maintain a tax break for ethanol blended fuel has won state Senate approval.
The Iowa Senate on Thursday backed a bill that would extend a tax break for fuel that includes ethanol and gasoline for another year. Currently, ethanol blends are taxed at 20 cents a gallon and
pure petroleum is taxed at 22 cents a gallon. Those numbers include a 1 cent environmental fee.
Without this bill, both types of fuel would soon be taxed at 21 cents total.
The legislation has been amended, so it now moves to the House for approval.
Representative Joshua Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, filed an amendment Thursday that would gradually increase the state fuel taxby 10 cents. It's not clear the effort has enough support to pass.
Des Moines Fire Fighter Injured After Falling Through Floor
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - At least one of several Des Moines firefighters who fell through a floor while fighting an apartment building fire has been injured.
Fire officials say a building occupant also was injured by the fire, which was reported a little before 8 p.m. Thursday.
District Fire Chief Dan Burke says the severity of the injuries wasn't immediately clear.
Other apartment residents were evacuated, and no other injuries were reported.
The fire cause is being investigated.
Des Moines University To Honor Those Who Donated Their Bodies
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Des Moines University is honoring dozens of people who donated their bodies in the last year for medical education.
The school will host a memorial service Friday at the Olsen Medical Education Center on campus. More than 60 people from Iowa, Illinois and Missouri are scheduled to be honored.
The nondenominational service has been held for more than 40 years. Military honors will be performed for veteran donors, and family members will be given a lapel pin.
A school official says the donations help educate students about human anatomy. More than 2,600 bodies have been donated to the school since 1955.
Historic Preservation Tax Credits Bill Signed By Branstad
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad has signed a bill that modifies qualifying rules for tax credits that go to the restoration of historic buildings.
Branstad signed the law Thursday. The program, started in 2000, offers property owners or developers tax credits for 25 percent of qualifying rehabilitation costs in eligible historic buildings.
Several types of properties are eligible, including those on the National Register of Historic Places and buildings in historic districts. Currently the state approves up to $45 million in credits in a fiscal year.
This legislation would modify the rules to qualify for the credit. Currently, a commercial project must have costs that equal half of the property's assessed value to qualify. Under this plan,
the standard would be $50,000 or 50 percent of the property's assessed value.