Sunday, January 25, 2015
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Thursday News, January 22

Le Mars New Housing Drops Slightly 

(Le Mars) -- New housing for Le Mars has remained fairly steady during the last few years, that according to City Code Enforcement officer, Jason Vacera. Vacera appeared before the Le Mars City Council on Tuesday to deliver the code enforcement and building annual report.  He says Le Mars saw 21 new homes being built in 2014, which compares to the 23 new homes that were constructed in 2013. Construction value of the 21 homes amounts to $5,420,600.  Commercial construction was higher in 2014 than in 2013 with four new buildings compared to just two in 2013.  Vacera reports there were a total of 356 nuisance notices issued in 2014, up from 171 reported in the previous year.  The city had 64 nuisance abatements which more than doubled from the 31 reported in 2013, 49 were a result of mowing infractions, and 15 for snow removal.  The city performed 105 building inspections and had 27 urban revitalization tax exemptions.


Reservations For Chamber Banquet Due By Monday

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce wants to remind you to make your reservations for the annual dinner and awards program.  The annual dinner will take place on Saturday, January 31st at the uper level of the Le Mars Convention Center beginning with social hour at 6:00 p.m. with the dinner to follow at 7:00 p.m.  The evening will have hilarious skits, musical entertainment, and the presentation and recognition of community awards.  Reservations need to be made by Monday, January 26th.  Tickets are $45 each. 


Sioux City Police Apprehend Wanted Subject

(Sioux City) -- Sioux City police officers were wanting to locate a wanted party, proceeded to the 1800 block of West 6th Street on Wednesday.  Upon arriving, officers made contact with individuals at the residence to determine if the suspect was present.  While speaking to occupants, a male subject fled out the rear of the residence where he encountered officers.  He then went back into the residence, and announced to officers that he was suicidal and wanted officers to leave.  Crisis negotiators at the scene negotiated with the subject who was barricaded on the second floor.  Officers made multiple attempts to get the subject to volunatry surrender with no success.  Officers then fired a sponge round through and upstairs window as a distraction and moved to take the subject into custody.  Officers located the subject in a second floor room and took him into custody without incident.  The 30 year old male was not injured during his contact with officers, but he had ingested an unknown substance.  He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment.  Criminal charges against the individual are pending.


Governor Branstad Addresses State's Mental Health Issues

(Des Moines) -- Governor Terry Branstad says the state will look to other facilities to provide care if his proposal to close the state-run Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant moves forward. The governor's budget sent to legislators does not include any money to keep the institutions open past June 30. 

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 The governor says they want to use facilities that have the proper staffing to help patients.

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 The idea is not favored by everyone, including Representative Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant. Heaton is chairman of the subcommittee that writes the budget for the Iowa Department of Human Services, the agency in charge of the Mental Health Institutes, and he’s arranged for the agency’s director to go to Mount Pleasant Saturday (January 24th) to explain the proposed closure to the community. Five years ago a consulting firm hired by then-Governor Chet Culver recommended that the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant close, but Heaton and others worked to keep the institutions open. The Mental Health Institutes are routinely the treatment option of last resort for acute care of mentally ill patients. The governor’s budget indicates the state will save 15-and-a-half million dollars by closing the two facilities. The M-H-I at Clarinda opened in 1888 while the Mount Pleasant facility opened the year the Civil War broke out, in 1861.


Iowa Department Of Education Tells Schools To Justify Early Starts 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Department of Education says school districts seeking permission to start classes earlier in the summer must prove that academic achievement is at risk. 
     The department sent the new guidelines to school districts. The guidelines say districts must show students would be affected in a "negative and significant manner" if classes start during the week of Sept. 1. Districts must provide research backing up the claim.
     Last month, department Director Brad Buck told districts the state would stop granting automatic waivers to school districts seeking to start classes earlier in the summer. 
     State law requires districts to start school no earlier than the calendar week including Sept. 1 but in the past, most have obtained waivers allowing them to begin classes earlier.


Legislators Disagree Over Education Funding Levels

(Des Moines) -- Republicans and school groups are staking out widely different positions over how much state aid should be forwarded to Iowa's public school districts. Governor Terry Branstad and many of his fellow Republicans favor a one-and-a-quarter percent increase for the next academic year, while all the state's major school groups are seeking a six percent hike. Representative Cecil Dolecheck (DOHL-uh-check), a Republican from Mount Ayr, scoffs at that.

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A bill that would provide the one-and-a-quarter percent increase in general state aid to schools cleared the House Education Committee with just the votes of Republicans. Dolecheck says that level of spending is more than what many House Republicans really wanted. Margaret Buckton lobbies for the Urban Education Network AND the Rural School Association of Iowa. She says state funding for schools has lagged behind actual costs for several years.

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Brad Hudson of the Iowa State Education Association says the one-and-a-quarter percent hike that Republicans propose won't even cover teacher salaries, which are expected to go up an average of three percent.

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But Republicans like Representative Ron Jorgenson of Sioux City say the increase in general state aid to schools that Republicans propose is in line with state budget reality.

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Jorgensen, who is chairman of the House Education Committee, is a former school board member. Senate Democrats have been critical of the level of state aid for schools Republicans propose, but they have yet to offer their own target level for school spending.


Wednesday Afternoon News, January 21

Branstad Wants To Hire Private Company To Oversee Medicaid Programs

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad's administration says he wants to hire a privately managed care company or set of companies to help run Iowa's Medicaid program.
     Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers says more coordinated care would better serve patients and lower costs. The system could be implemented by the start of 2016.
     Branstad's office projects the state would save more than $50 million in the first six months of the program. Additional information is not available about how those savings would be reached.
     Rep. Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, is co-chairman of the main legislative committee overseeing health care programs. He says Branstad has the authority to make the change without a vote in the Legislature.
     More than 560,000 Iowans are covered under Medicaid.


Public Safety Director Tells Employees To Behave Appropriately During Off Duty

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The acting commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety is telling employees they must behave professionally while off-duty or face consequences.
     Roxann Ryan told troopers and agents in an email Tuesday that missteps in their private lives can reflect poorly on their credibility and undermine the public's trust.
     The note comes after two high-profile incidents involving supervisors who showed poor judgment while off-duty.
     Capt. Ken Clary was caught speeding in November outside of Des Moines while driving a vehicle for a nonprofit. A trooper let him go, but he was ticketed this month for driving 92 in a 70-mph zone after the incident became public.
     Lt. Kelly Hindman is facing a review after writing on Facebook that he wished a sniper would shoot an ESPN announcer in the head.


Legislator's Trial Is Delayed

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Trial has been delayed for a former Iowa lawmaker accused of sexually abusing his wife at a care center.
     Court records show the jury trial of former state Rep. Henry Rayhons is set to start on April 8. A pre-trial conference is scheduled at the end of March.
     Rayhons' trial on a third-degree sexual abuse charge was scheduled to start Jan. 28. He has pleaded not guilty.
     Rayhons, of Garner, is accused of having sexual contact with his wife, Donna Rayhons, while she was living at a care center and not able to give consent. Donna Rayhons died in August. 
     Messages left for Rayhons' attorney, Joel Yunek, were not immediately returned Wednesday.


Pope Removes Iowa Priest Due To Sex Abuse

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Pope Francis has defrocked an Iowa priest who was accused of abusing a minor years ago.
     Howard Fitzgerald, who worked at parishes in central and western Iowa over the last 35 years, received notice of the pope's decision Monday.
     Fitzgerald had been placed on indefinite leave in June from his most recent position serving at two Indianola parishes and Simpson College.
     A Des Moines Archdiocese review committee found credible evidence that Fitzgerald sexually abused a minor in a "decades-old incident." 
     At the victim's request, church officials have not released information about when and where the abuse occurred.
     Bishop Richard Pates wrote in a memo to employees that he's informed Fitzgerald that the pope "had personally granted dispensations in his case from the obligations of the priesthood and sacred celibacy."


Iowa Racial Impact Law

  IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Back in 2007, Iowa lawmakers learned that their state had the nation's highest disparity for sending blacks to prison. So they took a novel step.
     They passed a law requiring analysts to draft "racial impact statements" on any proposals to create new crimes or tougher penalties. The statements were intended to help project how the measures might affect minority communities before any votes were cast.
     A review by The Associated Press shows that the first-in-the-nation law appears to be having a modest effect. The statements have helped defeat some legislation that could have exacerbated disparities and provided a smoother path to passage for measures deemed neutral or beneficial to minorities.
     Similar proposals have been adopted in Connecticut and Oregon. And more are likely to surface this year in other states.






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