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Wednesday Afternoon News, February 25

Local Legislators Split Votes On Fuel Tax Increase (Updated)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Legislature has approved a 10-cent increase to the fuel tax to help pay for road improvements.
     Both chambers gave bipartisan support to the bill Tuesday, with the Senate voting 28-21 and the House 53-46. The plan would provide over $200 million annually for Iowa's network of bridges and roads, many of which are in disrepair.
     For years, the Legislature has considered raising the tax, which hasn't been changed since 1989. But until this year, lawmakers never took action, despite heavy lobbying by groups representing farmers and trucking companies.
    Republican State Senator Bill Anderson voted in favor of the bill and he explains the added money will help finish Highway 20.

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Anderson says the bill includes a funding formula that will benefit individual counties for their road and bridge repairs on farm to market paved roads.

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Voting "No" on the fuel tax increase bill was Le Mars State Representative Chuck Soderberg.  Soderberg believes it is too much of a jump in price all at one time.

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Soderberg further clarifies his reasons for voting against the measure.

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The Republican representative agrees Iowa roads and bridges need repairing, he would rather have seen a phase-in increase instead of all at once.

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Consumers will immediately see a price increase at the pump as the bill will take effect beginning March 1st.

 

 Branstad Signs Fuel Tax Bill

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Fuel prices will soon go up in Iowa now that Gov. Terry Branstad has signed a tax increase into law.
 
     Branstad announced Wednesday that he had signed the bill, which will raise the state fuel tax by 10 cents a gallon. The Legislature gave bipartisan support to the measure Tuesday in an effort to provide more road funding.
 
     The legislation will provide more than $200 million annually for Iowa's network of bridges and roads, many of which are considered deteriorating or deficient. The price change will go into effect March 1.
 
     Branstad says he recognized the state needs more money for infrastructure. He praised lawmakers for reaching a bipartisan consensus.
 

Legislators Schedule Legislative Forums For Saturday

(Des Moines) -- Both State Senator Bill Anderson and State Representative Chuck Soderberg will be visiting Plymouth County communities on Saturday for legislative forums.  The lawmakers will begin their day at the Hinton Elementary School at 8:30 a.m. Their next stop will be at the Le Mars Community Education Center to meet with school officials at 9:30 a.m.  At 10:30 a.m. Anderson and Soderberg will be at the American Legion Hall in Brunsville for a legislative forum.  Their last stop is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. at the Westfield Community Center.  The legislative forums are open to the public and constituents are encourged to discuss any issues relating to the Iowa Legislative Session.

 

Meis And Rand Are Finalists For National Merit Scholarships

(Le Mars) -- Two Le Mars Community High School Seniors have been selected as finalist for the National Merit Scholarship program.  Le Mars Community High School principal Mark Iverson says Ellen Meis and Dayton Rand were selected among the 1.5 million entrants.  Iverson says, "this is a credit to the hard work these students have put into their studies.  It also recognizes the work our teachers have done to prepare these students for post-secondary education."  Iverson says Le Mars Community has been fortunate to have National Merit Scholarship finalists for the past couple of years.  High school students can take a qualifying test for the program that serves as an initial screening.  Meis and Rand will find out within a month if they have been selected as scholarship recipients.  Ellen Meis is the daughter of Dave and Linda Meis.  She plans to attend Iowa State University and majoring in Engineering.  Rand is the son of Robert and Dana Rand.  He remains undecided on which college or university he will attend next year, but he is thinking about majoring in Bio-Medical Engineering or Finance.

 

State Official Says Medicaid Should Be "Privatized"

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A top state official says turning over Iowa's Medicaid program to private operators would save money and improve service, but lawmakers are questioning how the change would impact people in the program.
     Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer addressed a legislative committee Wednesday. He says the state is moving forward with a plan to shift the Medicaid program to one or more managed care organizations. That means the state would pay outside companies a fixed amount per enrollee to provide health coverage.
     About 550,000 people are enrolled in Iowa's Medicaid program, which is funded with $4.2 billion in state and federal dollars.
     Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom says lawmakers need to closely monitor the change, noting that he'll hear from constituents if there are changes to quality of care.

 

Bullying Bill Advances In Legislature

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation aimed at reducing school bullying in Iowa has advanced in the Legislature, though it remains unclear if it will have enough support to get to Gov. Terry Branstad's desk.
     A three-member House education subcommittee gave unanimous approval Wednesday for a version of the bill. It now heads to a full committee for consideration.
     On the Senate side, the education committee voted 9 to 6 Wednesday along party lines to approve the bill with some changes. The full Senate can now debate it.
     The legislation would add language that supporters say will give educators more clarification on how to respond to bullying cases.
     Rep. Quentin Stanerson, a Center Point Republican, was on the subcommittee Wednesday. He says he's still figuring out whether the legislation has enough support in the House.

 

Regents Announce Selection Committee For U-I President

URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Board of Regents has identified 21 members who will serve on the committee tasked with finding the next University of Iowa president.
     The regents on Wednesday said those selected for the University of Iowa Presidential Search and Screen Committee have been charged with seeking out candidates to serve as UI's next president for consideration by the board. Current UI President Sally Mason in January announced her plans to retire July 31.
     UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard has been named committee chair. Eight additional UI faculty members were chosen, along with representatives from the regents, the UI Alumni Association, UI Student Government and other organizations.
     Robillard says he's looking forward to working with all members as they conduct the search.

 

Vinton City Administrator Charged With Misconduct

 VINTON, Iowa (AP) - The city administrator in Vinton, Iowa, has been charged with office misconduct at his former job.
     The Muscatine County Sheriff's Office says Chris Ward is accused of felonious misconduct based on a 2014 audit of West Liberty, where Ward previously served as city administrator but was fired in October 2013.
     The audit revealed that West Liberty overbilled utility customers by $259,000 over an eight-month period in 2013 and 2014.  The audit doesn't cite Ward, but that it identified his former administrative assistant Maribel Person for not properly adjusting the city's utility rates. Prosecutors now say Ward told Pearson not to alter the rates.
     Vinton hired Ward as city administrator in May. 

     ---

 

Contracrtor Ordered To Pay $100,000 To Customers

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa contractor has been ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution after former customers complained that he collected money without finishing construction or renovation projects.
     A Polk County judge on Wednesday said 39-year-old Jeremey Lawson, of Moulton, must pay $102,000 to 25 customers. The judge also set conditions for any future contracting or home repair Lawson conducts.
     The ruling comes after the Consumer Protection Division reviewed 40 complaints against Lawson and his Moulton and Bloomfield-based company. In the majority of complaints, customers say Lawson requested substantial or partial payment and then didn't finish repair tasks.
     Attorney General Tom Miller says Lawson's violations include misuse of customer money and failure to perform within industry standards or project specifications.
     Lawson has denied the allegations but agreed to the judge's terms.
 

 

 




 

 

   

Wednesday News, February 25

School Board Approves Plan For New Concession Stand

(Le Mars) -- During Monday evening's Le Mars Community School Board meeting, board members approved an estimated $600,000 cost to build a new concession stand near the football stadium, and the renovation of the middle school restrooms.  Architect Rick Dean of the Cannon, Moss, and Brygger firm explained the details to the school board. The proposed new concession stand will feature a new ticket sales area, new restrooms, an area designated for tailgate serving, as well as a covered picnic area next to the tail gate preparation and serving area.  The proposed facility will feature a larger concession prep and sales area than the existing concession stand. School officials have set March 30th as the date for contractor bids to be opened and for a public hearing on the proposed project. Construction for the new facility is hoped to begin in early May with completion done before the first home football game in the fall. 

 

Floyd Valley Hospital Offers Medical Services That Are Unique To Local Hospital

(Le Mars) -- Floyd Valley Hospital was the focus during the recent "Lunch and Learn" session.  The gathering of nearly 35 community and business leaders were able to gain some insight regarding services offered at Floyd Valley Hospital.  Hospital administrator Mike Donlin says Floyd Valley is the only hospital within the region to conduct stem-cell research.

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Another area in which Floyd Valley Hospital is making medical advancements involves orthropedics.

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Still, another area that Donlin is proud to share with others is the physical therapy center's work with Parkinson's patients.

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The hospital administrator also informed the group of the good work being done with the home health care services.

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During Donlin's address he updated the group on the latest trends occuring at Floyd Valley, as well as offered a construction update relating to the new north addition.  Donlin also reminded the "Lunch and Learn" attendees that Floyd Valley serves as a major employer within the community by having a staff of 350 people and generating nearly $50 million in business trade. Next month, the focus will be on Western Iowa Technical Community College.

 

Five Arrested On Marijuana Possession Charges

(Le Mars) -- In an effort to deliver an arrest warrant to a subject, Plymouth County authorities came across five people, some who are minors, with possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and alcohol. The incident occured Friday evening at a rural farmstead.  Arrested were 19 year old Blake Beitelspacher, 18 year old Tyler Ahlrich, 19 year old Derek Newman, 17 year old John Magnussen, and 17 year old Quinton Boddie, all of Le Mars.  The subject sought for the arrest warrant was not located. 

 

Sioux City Woman Given Probation For Child Endangerment 

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Sioux City mother has been sentenced to three years of probation for leaving her 10-month-old son alone in a bathtub while she smoked marijuana in another room. 
     Twenty-one-year-old Maricela Vasquez pleaded guilty earlier this month in Woodbury County District Court to child endangerment resulting in bodily injury and possession of a controlled substance.
     Vasquez agreed to a 10-day jail sentence on the drug charge as part of her plea agreement. She was given credit for the 10 days she already served in jail.
     She was arrested in August after Sioux City officers responded to a 911 call, found evidence of marijuana in the apartment and discovered the baby had nearly drowned. The boy has been removed from Vasquez's custody. 

 

Library Delivers Annual Report

(Le Mars) -- Last week, Shirley Taylor, the librarian for the Le Mars Public Library delivered the library's annual report to the city council. Taylor says the local library is being utilized by a lot of people.

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Taylor reports there were more than 60,000 visits from June of 2013 to July of 2014.  This past year, the library initiated a two-tier system having to ask $40 from county residents living outside Le Mars.  She says the system has been working, but she admits there has been some confusion.

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The Le Mars Librarian says the majority of funding is still used for printed material. 

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Legislators Approve 10 Cent Per Gallon Fuel Tax

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Legislature has approved a 10-cent increase to the fuel tax to help pay for road improvements.
     Both chambers gave bipartisan support to the bill Tuesday, with the Senate voting 28-21 and the House 53-46. The plan would provide over $200 million annually for Iowa's network of bridges and roads, many of which are in disrepair.
     For years, the Legislature has considered raising the tax, which hasn't been changed since 1989. But until this year, lawmakers never took action, despite heavy lobbying by groups representing farmers and trucking companies.
     This session, Republican Governor Terry Branstad voiced his backing for increased infrastructure funding, sparking a more serious conversation.
     Branstad told the Associated Press he wants to review the bill, but indicated he was "very likely" to sign it into law.  Republican State Senator Bill Anderson says he voted in favor of the bill and he explains the added money will help finish Highway 20.

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 Senate Approves Minimum Wage Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Senate has approved bills that would raise Iowa's minimum wage and try to curtail cases of wage theft.
     The Democratic-majority Senate voted 27 to 22 Tuesday to increase the state's minimum wage level to $8.75. The Senate also voted 26-23 to establish more rules to curtail alleged wage theft by employers in Iowa.
     The bills now head to the Republican-led House for consideration, but it's unlikely there's enough support there to get them to Governor Terry Branstad's desk.
     Lawmakers in the House have said they would rather focus on skilled worker training opportunities instead of a minimum wage bill that raises it above its current level of $7.25. Lawmakers have also said there are other ways to prevent wage theft.

 

School Funding Still Unresolved

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers in the Democratic-majority Senate and the Republican-controlled House have not yet found consensus on a school funding level for the coming academic year.
     Both sides stuck firm to their original funding proposals Tuesday. Senate Democrats are standing by a plan that would provide more than $200 million in new funding for K-12 education, which is more than double the increase sought by House Republicans. The House and Senate proposals both include funding specifically dedicated to teacher leadership training.
     Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames who chairs the Senate education committee, said he expected the issue to move to a negotiating committee to try and find a compromise solution.

 

Senate Sub-committee Passes Anti-bullying Bill

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has approved a bill aimed at reducing school bullying in Iowa, a key legislative issue for Governor Terry Branstad this session.
     Members of an education subcommittee approved the bill Tuesday. It now heads to a full committee for consideration.
     The bill would expand guidelines for Iowa school districts responding to cases of bullying. It would allow school officials to address bullying outside of school grounds and expand the definition of cyberbullying.
     The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is opposing the bill, saying the legislation has overly broad language about parental notification and how much teachers should be monitoring for bullying off school grounds.
     Other groups have expressed support for the bill. Similar legislation failed to garner enough support last session.
 
 
 

 

 


   

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