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Court of Appeals denies Farragut man’s appeal


February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the sexual abuse conviction of a Fremont County man who argued his victim’s diary should not have been used in his trial. Thomas Ingram, of Farragut, was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse, assault and lascivious acts with a child after being originally charged with several counts involving sexual abuse of his then 12-year-old stepdaughter in 2014. Ingram appealed, arguing the girl’s diary entries that detailed the abuse should not have been used as evidence in his trial.

He also said his lawyer was ineffective for not objecting to the prosecution’s used of an expert witness to vouch for the information in the diary. The Appeals Court Ruled the use of the girl’s diary was not prejudicial because it showed her dislike of the abuse and desire for the abuse to end, allowing the jury to conclude Ingram sexually abused her by force or against her will.

The court said the testimony of the expert witness may arguably have “walked the thin line between proper expert testimony and vouching for the credibility of the victim” but did not cross the lines.

(Radio Iowa)

House panel OKs bill cutting pay of some low-wage workers


February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Thousands of Iowans could get pay cuts if legislation discussed in the Iowa House is approved. A GOP-led subcommittee Wednesday approved a bill banning local governments from increasing the minimum wage, a move that would reverse action taken by some of Iowa’s largest population counties.

The bill, introduced by Johnston Republican Jake Highfill, will be considered Thursday by the House Local Government Committee. The legislation would require cities and counties to abide by the state minimum hourly wage of $7.25. It would mean higher wages approved in Polk, Linn, Johnson and Wapello counties would be repealed.

Supporters of the bill say Iowa shouldn’t have a patchwork of wages, but others say local governments should be able to take action since the state hasn’t raised its minimum wage since 2009.

Branstad signs Iowa education funding bill into law


February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad has signed into law a K-12 education funding bill that school officials argue is inadequate. Branstad signed the legislation Wednesday. It would add about $40 million to Iowa’s roughly $3 billion K-12 education budget for the spending year that goes into effect in July.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate voted along party lines to approve the bill. GOP lawmakers supported the bill after hours of debate in which Democrats argued the small increase would lead to bigger classroom sizes, delayed curriculum offerings and teacher layoffs.

Republicans say the amount is responsible spending as the state faces budget constraints. Branstad recommended about $78 million more for K-12 education last month, though he didn’t reference that fact in a press release announcing his decision.

Experts: Iowa bargaining bill has similarities to Wisconsin


February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A plan by Republican lawmakers to quickly pass a bill that would drastically cut collective bargaining rights for Iowa public workers has several similarities to Wisconsin’s signature 2011 law that led to massive protests in that state.

Labor experts say the 68-page bill introduced recently by Iowa GOP lawmakers has provisions that mirror Wisconsin’s law, which prohibited public sector unions from negotiating workers’ benefits such as health insurance and working conditions.

Republicans control the Iowa statehouse following the Nov. 8 election, and the GOP governor backs the measure. The Iowa bill was on track Wednesday to clear several procedural votes in the House and Senate. Full chamber debate could happen as early as Monday, less than a week after the legislation was introduced to the public.

DOC budget cuts to affect Clarinda facility


February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Jerry Bartruff today (Wednesday) announced his plan for adjusting the agency’s FY2017 budget by $5.5 million as required by law. Among the facilities being hit by the budget axe, is the Lodge Unit in Clarinda, which, along with Luster Heights Camp (at Harper’s Ferry) and the John Bennett Unit (in Fort Madison), and Residential Treatment Services (in Sheldon; community based corrections) are being forced to suspend services.

Director Bartruff commented on the adjustments by stating: “The Department of Corrections understands the fiscally challenging position that the state is in, and thanks the Governor, Lt. Governor, and legislature for enacting budget adjustments that allow the Department to strategically streamline services. The department has been studying the best way to implement these adjustments for weeks. We’ve worked collaboratively with all institutions and community based corrections districts to identify the most strategic way to implement these changes. The actions that we are taking meet the high expectation of safety in our facilities, while also ensuring that the Department does not have to close any of our institutions. While change is rarely easy, the Department of Corrections will make the necessary reallocation of resources to ensure the highest level of safety for the public, the staff, and the offenders under our supervision.”

The DOC says “In total, these adjustments in services comply with Senate File 130, result in an estimated reduction in staff positions of three percent, and ensure public safety remains the highest priority. The Department has begun to notify staff across the state that may be impacted by the consolidations, and many will have the opportunity to work in other units or institutions within the Department.”

Court: Sexual abuse victims must sue schools within 2 years


February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – An appeals court has dismissed lawsuits against two school districts filed by former students who claimed they were sexually abused by educators. In a pair of decisions Wednesday, the Iowa Court of Appeals clarified that all injury claims against government agencies must be brought within two years under the Iowa Municipal Tort Claims Act.

The court rejected arguments that other laws give abuse victims up to five years to sue school employees or longer if the harm isn’t discovered until later. It says lawsuits against offenders can be brought later but those against the school district must be filed within two years of the abuse.

The rulings uphold decisions dismissing lawsuits against the Iowa City Community School District and the Dubuque Community School District due to the statute of limitations.

Fremont County Sheriff warns of Facebook scam


February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office has issued a warning to persons who use the social media site Facebook, with regard to “friends” and a government benefits scam. On Monday, the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by a citizen from Sidney about a possible scam that happened on Facebook. During the course of the investigation it appears that the victim received a friend request from someone she was already friends with.

The scammer posing as the friend, even with pictures and information from that friend, said that she could receive extra government benefits if she clicked a link. It appears that the link opened up her phone so it could be downloaded remotely. The victim gave some information to the scammer but became nervous and did not give any financial or vital personal information.

If you receive a friend request from someone that is already on your Friends List do not accept the request and contact the person you know to make them aware of the hacking. If you notify Facebook they can disable the fraudulent account.

Always be wary of any offers you receive from the internet. There are numerous scams going on at this time from counterfeit checks for payments of things being sold online and including individuals posing as Publishers Clearing House.

Foggy January could mean a wet spring for planting

Ag/Outdoor, News, Weather

February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

The foggy days we saw in January could be an indication of the type of weather farmers ace this spring. Iowa State University Extension Climatologist Elwynn Taylor says it may be folklore, but there is some reasonable evidence to think it will be a wet one. “The folklore message is ‘if you have fog in January, you are going to have a wet planting season.’ Or some people say, 90 or 100 days later it’s going to be awfully wet,” Taylor says. “There is some fact behind that because — why would the fog come in — we’ve started to get the flow from the Gulf of Mexico, which is what brings us our moisture.”

He says this year fits the pattern that can give us a wet spring. “It doesn’t mean we always will, but that was the first point we looked at. Be ready for it to be on the wet side of usual at planting time,” he says. While a wet spring is a possibility, Taylor says another better than average yield is also a possibility.

“That is a distinct possibility — now of course everyone who has farmed in the Midwest knows for many years knows that it’s rare to go more than two or three years with above trend-line yield,” Taylor says. “This would be the fourth year. But it does happen. IN fact, five isn’t an unheard of number of years for staying above trend before it dips back below.”

(Radio Iowa)

Snowpack is above average in many areas, spring flooding likely

News, Weather

February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

The U-S Army Corps of Engineers predicts several waterways in Iowa and elsewhere will flood this spring, based on current snowpack conditions in the Missouri River basin. Hydrologist Kevin Low, in the Corps’ Omaha office, says the upper basin snowpack varies. “The Upper Missouri above Fort Peck is below average, the Yellowstone is above average and both North and South Platte headwaters have above-average snowpack,” Low says. “By this point in the winter, we’d normally have went through a bit over 60% of the seasonal peak snow-water accumulation period, so being over halfway, we still could see significant changes with this mountain snowpack.”

Low says with the condition of the current snowpack, rivers in the region will go over their banks this spring in Iowa, Nebraska, Montana and the Dakotas, and the list includes: “The Floyd, Big Sioux and Little Sioux basins in Iowa,” he says.

There has already been some flooding of tributaries due to ice jams. “No significant impacts have been reported to date in connection with these ice jams,” Low says. “Ice jamming is not uncommon in the Missouri basin and we will continue to monitor the rivers for its continued occurrence as we move later into the winter and early spring.”

The Corps’ forecast includes above-average run-off into the Missouri River basin for February, March and April.

(Radio Iowa)

Atlantic P-D once again partakes in “I-Pledge”


February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic Police Chief Dave Erickson reports officers with the Atlantic Police Department have take a pledge to keep tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products out of the hands of youth in the community. Known as “I-Pledge,” the program is a partnership with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD), to educate local retailers and to enforce Iowa’s tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor product laws.

Due to a change in Iowa law, alternative nicotine and vapor products are now considered age-restricted products and will be part of the I-PLEDGE program’s compliance initiatives this year. Since the program’s inception in 2000, the statewide tobacco compliance rate has grown to 91%. By participating in the program, the A-PD Office has committed to do its part to increase the compliance rate even more this year.

I-PLEDGE places emphasis on retailer training. Clerks who successfully complete an online training course and then pass an exam will become I-PLEDGE certified. This allows a retail establishment to use an affirm­ative defense against a civil penalty if the certified clerk makes an illegal sale. Chief Erickson says “I-PLEDGE’s retailer training is a great way for clerks to prepare themselves to refuse illegal tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor product sales. The training also assists retailers to ensure they maintain a compliant and responsible establishment.”

Atlantic Police Officers will be conducting compliance checks on local establishments as part of the I-PLEDGE program. Underage customers, under the supervision of law enforcement officials, will enter establishments and attempt to buy tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products. Clerks who make the illegal sale will be cited on the spot.

Criminal penalties for selling tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products to a minor include a $100 fine for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and a $500 fine for third and subsequent offenses. However, handing out citations is not the intent of the I-PLEDGE program.

Erickson says “By partnering with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, we hope to educate clerks and maintain a com­pliant retail environment in our community. Moreover, we pledge to help keep tobacco, alternative nicotine and vapor products out of the hands of Iowa’s youth.” To take the I-PLEDGE training or search certification records go to www.iowaabd.com.