Wednesday News, February 11
Floyd Valley Hospital Scores High In Patient Satisfaction Survey
(Le Mars) -- Floyd Valley Hospital was recently informed of its high marks regarding patience satisfaction. It was all through the latest Press Ganey survey results. Hospital Administrator Mike Donlin says you have to go back a ways to find similar high scores.
Donlin says it is gratifying to be recognized in such a manner, and he says the entire staff should be credited for its positive efforts of caring.
The hospital administrator believes one reason for the recent high scores through the Press Ganey survey is the attention to detail the staff provides.
Donlin says it is also good news for the hospital to have high satisfaction scores from patients, considering the construction that is taking place.
Donlin says the hospital staff constantly look at ways of improving, and although the hospital achieved a lofty goal, he says the new goal will be to find ways to sustain the high marks.
State Senate Votes To Increase School Funding To $200 Million
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate has approved legislation to significantly boost school funding, but the plan will likely face opposition in the Republican-majority House.
Lawmakers on Tuesday backed bills to boost funding for the next two school years, voting largely along party lines. Under the proposal, school aid would increase by more than $200 million for the upcoming academic year, according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency. That's more than double the amount approved by the House for the same period.
The House and Senate proposals both include funding specifically dedicated to teacher leadership training.
Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, said the state's future "depends on high quality schools." But Republicans in the Senate questioned how the state could afford the plan. Voting against the four percent increase for school funding was Republican Senator Bill Anderson of Pierson. Anderson is concerned as to how the state will be able to pay for the proposed increases.
Bills Introduced To Raise Fuel Tax
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A plan to increase the state fuel tax to pay for road improvements is moving forward in the state Legislature.
Lawmakers in the state House and Senate said Tuesday that identical legislation had been introduced in both chambers to hike the tax by 10 cents. That would provide $215 million annually for the state's network of bridges and roads, many of which are in disrepair.
The hearing process is expected to start tomorrow in both chambers, with full votes coming perhaps later in the month.
Iowa's fuel tax - now 22 cents per gallon for gasoline, including fees - hasn't been raised since 1989.
Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, and Rep. Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, expressed optimism that the legislation could find support in both chambers.
Pregnant Employees May Have Better Accomodations If Bill Passes
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has approved a bill that would require Iowa businesses to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees.
Members of a labor and business relations subcommittee approved the bill Tuesday. It now heads to a full committee for consideration.
The bill would define reasonable accommodations as anything from modifying equipment that a pregnant employee must use to assisting them with their work schedule. The bill states the action cannot impose an undue hardship on the business or employer.
A few business groups oppose the bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa says the bill would affirm a decision by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which enforces the state's civil rights act. The commission said in 2013 that employers must provide such accommodations to pregnant employees.
Farmers Income Expected To Drop
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Net income for U.S. farmers is expected to fall by nearly 32 percent this year because of low crop prices and increasing expenses, placing many farmers in an unprofitable situation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released estimates on Tuesday that show 2015 is expected to be the second year in a row that farmers will see their income fall. Income was down 16 percent from 2013 to 2014.
The report estimates net farm income will be $73.6 billion in 2015, down from $108 billion in 2014. It was at a record $129 billion in 2013.
The report also anticipates that as income falls, expenses will increase by one-half percent.
Government programs that pay farmers when commodity prices are low are expected to increase 15 percent this year.
Iowa Corrections Budget
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The newly appointed acting chief of Iowa's corrections system says the department will keep employing some workers at state mental health institutions in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant that have been ordered to close.
Jerry Bartruff, who recently took over corrections, told a legislative panel Tuesday that about $2 million will be transferred from the state Department of Health and Human Services to corrections to continue administrative staffing and other jobs that had been shared between the agencies at both facilities.
The state Department of Corrections currently has operations at Clarinda and Mount Pleasant, which houses two of the state's four mental health institutions. Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed phasing out state health services at the two facilities later this year, though corrections will continue to operate.
Wisconsin Governor Rents Office Space In Iowa
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has opened an office in Iowa, the first of the potential 2016 presidential candidates to take such a step.
Walker spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski confirmed Tuesday that Walker's tax-exempt fundraising group, Our American Revival, has leased the space in a suburb of Des Moines.
Kukowski says the campaign is in the process of opening other offices, but she had no further details on where they would be or the timing.
The office has been used for numerous other political campaigns in recent years, including Mitt Romney's general election effort in 2012 and prior to that Michele Bachmann's campaign during the Iowa caucus that year.
Walker's director of Iowa operations previously worked for Bachmann in that race.
The Des Moines Register first reported on Walker securing the space.
IRS Cash Seizure
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa widow is charged with a crime and had nearly $19,000 seized from her bank after depositing her late husband's legally earned money in a way that evaded federal reporting requirements.
Janet Malone of Dubuque faced civil and criminal proceedings under a law intended to help investigators track large sums of cash tied to criminal activity such as drug trafficking and terrorism. Some members of Congress and libertarians have complained that the IRS and prosecutors are unfairly using the law to target ordinary people who deposit lawfully obtained money in increments below $10,000.
Malone allegedly made several deposits under $10,000 when transferring money left by her husband, who'd been warned against the practice.
One libertarian group is criticizing the government for prosecuting Malone since her money was legally obtained.