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Bill to legalize fireworks sails through senate committee

News

February 9th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

A bill to legalize the limited sale and use of fireworks in Iowa has easily cleared a senate committee. Fireworks would be legal in June and just after the 4th of July as well as in early December through the beginning of January. Republican Senator Jake Chapman of Adel says many Iowans want to celebrate New Years and Independence Day with fireworks. “It’s about freedom,” Chapman says. “Look, we’re one of just a handful of states that prohibit the use of consumer-grade fireworks.”

The bill easily cleared the Senate State Government Committee on an 11-to-four vote. Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan, an independent, attended the committee meeting and argued the bill would give Iowans undesirable new freedoms. “Freedom to blow their fingers off, freedom to take an eye out, to harm a kid, to overload our ERs,” Johnson said.

The bill would let Iowa cities and counties “opt out” and establish ordinances banning fireworks during the two holiday periods. The measure includes new fees for retailers that want to sell fireworks, so the bill has to clear another senate committee that reviews tax policy before the proposal is eligible for debate in the full senate. Nearly all fireworks are illegal to sell and set off today in Iowa. There have been several attempts to legalize fireworks in Iowa over the past few years, but they’ve all fallen short.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Thursday, Feb. 9th 2017

News

February 9th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press at 2:40 a.m. CST

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.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s large utility companies want state lawmakers to pass a law that critics say would muscle out smaller competitors from the emerging solar energy market. Solar power provides only about 1 percent of the country’s energy, but employment is growing rapidly. Indiana legislators will debate Thursday a proposed law that would eventually eliminate much of the financial benefit Indiana homeowners, businesses and some churches reap from harvesting the sun’s rays.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The head of Iowa’s prison system has ordered a temporary shutdown of several satellite prison units to deal with a $5.5 million budget cut to the agency. The Des Moines Register reports that Iowa Corrections Director Jerry Bartruff said Wednesday that units at Harpers Ferry, Clarinda and Fort Madison, which currently hold nearly 400 prisoners, will be shut down. Bartruff says services also will be suspended at the Sheldon Residential Treatment Facility, which houses 26 offenders.

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. Democrats say the amount would lead to bigger classroom sizes, delayed curriculum offerings and teacher layoffs. Republicans say the amount is responsible spending as the state faces some budget constraints.

Atlantic School Board approves day off Feb 15th for State Wrestling Tournament

News

February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic School Board Wednesday night approved a request from Superintendent Dr. Michael Amstein for No School next Wednesday, Feb. 15th, so that students, parents and district patrons can attend the State Team Wrestling Tournament in Des Moines. Amstein congratulated Athletic Director Matt Alexander for pulling off a very special night Tuesday, with two Varsity basketball games and a hosting a Regional Wrestling Dual, that involved the use of a spotlight on the local wrestlers. Amstein also congratulated Wrestling Coach Tim Duff on putting together a great season and moving the team onto the State Tournament.

In other business, the Atlantic School Board discussed an amended Board Policy pertaining to Student Conduct, with regard to what is a “Dangerous Object.” Superintendent Mike Amstein said the discussion with the District’s Board Attorney followed an incident at one of the District’s facilities.  The Board also discussed a Negative Balance Policy, with regard to the District School Lunch Program. The Policy addresses lunch accounts when a student owes $10 or more. Amstein said the District is fortunate that for the past couple of years, the District has been operated in the black and didn’t have to dip into their General Fund to make up the difference. He said donations have helped to cut the cost and cover students who are behind in their payments, and the Policy simply ensures the District meet Federal and State mandates. Both times the Board waived the second reading of those policies, and approved the changes.

The Board also tabled action on approving the purchase of a 2017 Chevy Suburban from Karl Chevrolet in Ankeny, for $31,938. Transportation Director Dave Eckles said he went out for a quote through a State bid contract. Eckles said even though the vehicle would be purchased through another dealership other than Deter Motor Company, Deter’s could have their nameplate affixed to the vehicle. The School Board, though, was strongly in favor of giving the local dealership a chance to try and match the bid price. If the Board eventually elects to go with the State bid, it will take three-to five weeks for the vehicle to arrive.

The District’s 2005 Suburban was totaled during an accident in Dubuque on January 10th. The 2005 vehicle will be repurchased by the District for the salvage value of $1,050, and repaired. Eckles said he thinks it can be made road worthy again. The old Suburban would only be used as a staff vehicle, however, and not to transport students.

Atlantic Girls Golf Team honored at School Board meeting

News, Sports

February 8th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

Members of the Atlantic Girls Golf Team were honored Wednesday evening, during a regular session of the Atlantic School Board. Trojan Head Girls Golf Coach Kathy Hobson said “Our season year-after-year consists of 12 playing dates, plus whatever State competition is involved, two rounds of Regionals and then hopefully the State Tournament,” which she says is always their goal.

The Varsity team consists of six players and four scorers. Hobson said “We’ve been very fortunate in Atlantic to have girls that love the sport and love to put in the time and strive for that success.

Coach Kathy Hobson (Left) and members of the Trojan Girls Golf Team.

During the past three seasons these girls have been involved with, the Seniors have compiled a 182-15 record that includes two State Championships, a second-place Runner-up finish, two-years ago. The two Sophomores last year, their record was 64-and 2, and they now have a State Championship under their belt as well.” She said “We hope that success continues.”

Hobson said as whole, for a Golf program, “We’re one of seven schools in the State that have five or more titles in the books.” She said also, “As an educator, I’ve very proud of the fact they are very successful in the classroom,” as well. Over the last three years, the Seniors have earned a distinguished academic achievement award from the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union that’s given for a team GPA of 3.25 or better.

Court of Appeals denies Farragut man’s appeal

News

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

News

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

News

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

News

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

News

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

News

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.