Home News KLEM News for Wednesday, March 29

KLEM News for Wednesday, March 29

A compromise between Iowa’s trucking industry and trial lawyers would create new liability protection from lawsuits filed over accidents involving commercial vehicles.
The Iowa House, voted 58-to-42 and approved a bill that would set a five million dollar cap on so-called pain and suffering damages in most lawsuits filed over wrecks involving commercial vehicles like semis and tow trucks.
Representative Bill Gustoff, a Republican from Des Moines. led debate on the bill.

The liability protection would limit rising insurance rates for trucking companies, according to Gustoff.

Representative Jon Dunwell, a Republican from Newton, was seriously injured 22 years ago when he was hit by a commercial truck while riding a bicycle. Dunwell says increasingly high verdicts in tort liability cases, though, are a drag on the U.S. economy and he backs the bill.

All 58 “yes” votes came from Republicans. Democrats and a few Republicans opposed it. Republican Representative Megan Jones of Sioux Rapids cried as she talked about a great aunt who was killed decades ago when the car she was in struck a truck parked, without its lights on, in the middle of a highway at night. Her family didn’t sue, but Jones says she won’t vote to limit what other families in similar circumstances can do.

Representative Sami Scheetz, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says the bill is fundamentally wrong.

Earlier this year, most Republicans in the Iowa Senate voted for a two million dollar cap on non-economic damages in lawsuits filed over trucking accidents. Governor Reynolds has previously proposed a one million dollar limit, so it’s unclear if the Senate will accept the five million dollar cap.



Members of the Plymouth County Zoning Board and the County Zoning Administrator came before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to discuss separation distances between wind generators and nearby homes.  Bill Koopman and John Ahlers of the Zoning Board, and County Zoning Commissioner Alan Lucken say the 1250 feet in the current ordinance is not enough to protect rural residents who live nearby.  Lucken told the Supervisors the Zoning Board is considering a separation distance of 2500 hundred feet.  Merlin Bartz and Nicci Ledbetter, representing Invenergy, the firm which operates the Plymouth County wind farm near Remsen, told the board that if the 2500 foot separation were in place, 60 of the current 73 generators would be eliminated.  Had an 18-hundred foot separation been approved, it would eliminate 26 of the turbines.  Meanwhile, the firm is working on a second wind farm in Plymouth County, and has already signed up 21-thousand acres.  Supervisor Craig Anderson says he doesn’t like wind turbines, but doesn’t want to stand in the way of a neighbor who wants to profit from one.  He said the 25-hundred foot separation is impractical, and suggests a shorter separation distance, along with a waiver that a neighbor can sign to allow for a shorter separation.  This would be a way to compensate a neighbor to allow a generator closer to his home.  Most of the surrounding counties have separation distances between 100 and 1250 feet.  Woodbury County’s separation distance is 25-hundred feet.  The Plymouth County Zoning Board will hold a public hearing at their April 10 meeting to consider separation distances.



The Iowa Senate has unanimously approved a bill that provides accommodations for college students who become pregnanth

State Senator Jeff Taylor sponsored the bill.

This provides aid in addition to already-established federal regulations.

Senator Taylor describes the accomodations outlined in the bill.

Taylor calls this a pro-life bill in that it reaches out to students who become pregnant.

This issue is also being addressed by the institutions themselves.

The bill goes to the House Education Committee.  They must pass it out of the committee by the next funnel, at the end of the week, in order to stay alive in this legislative session.



The suspect wanted in the death of his mother at her Sheldon home last week has been extradited from South Dakota back to Iowa.  41 year old Nathaniel Kassel is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of his mother, 62 year old Jody Lynn Duskin, at their home in Sheldon.  Kassel was returned to O’Brien County from the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office in South Dakota after being arrested Friday in Flandreau.  He is also charged with felon in possession of a firearm, operating a vehicle without the owners’ consent and two counts of fifth degree theft.  Court documents state that Kassel messaged other family members last Wednesday night stating “I’m killing Jody”.  Later that night, Kassel was overheard in a phone conversation stating he made a mistake and hurt someone.  His mother was found dead in her bedroom with a gunshot wound to her head.  When Kassel was arrested, he was in possession of his two handgun s from the residence and was also in possession of his mother’s car.  He is being held in the O’Brien County Jail on one million dollars bond.



Williams and Company released an audit report on the city of Le Mars for the fiscal year ending June, 2022  The report finds the city realized a 12.3% revenue increase, totaling 17 million dollars, in that year.  Revenues included 8.6 million dollars in taxes, 3.9 million in other intergovernmental revenues, and 1.4 million in road use taxes.  Expenditures totaled 15.4 million dollars, up 8.5% from the previous year.  3.7 million was for public safety, 3.2 million for capital projects, 2.9 million for culture and recreation, and 2.5 for public works. A copy of the audit can be found on the Auditor of State’s web site.



The number of students who took an Iowa community college course while in high school increased by around six percent in the past school year. The Department of Education’s Jen Rathje says is a return to the trend before a pandemic dip after 2020. Rathje says the growth has been 137-point-nine percent — with an average annual growth rate of four-point-nine percent since 2004.   She says the program is popular because it gives students a jump on college and they are able to complete their degrees and enter the workforce quicker, while saving money. Northeast Iowa Area Community College had the most jointly enrolled students at 52-point-one percent of overall student enrollment and Southwestern Community College with 47-point-three percent of total enrollment.