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Iowa Democrats introduce $8.75 minimum wage bill


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Democrats have introduced a bill that would raise Iowa’s minimum wage to a level they say is lower than they’d like, but maybe one that would garner more Republican support. Democratic leaders said Thursday the bill would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75. It would increase gradually by 2016.

Some Democrats had expressed support earlier in the session for a bill that would have raised the minimum wage gradually to $10.10. Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, said the new bill will still address people who work minimum wage jobs and have families to support.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Hiawatha Republican, declined to comment on the bill’s chances. Paulsen said he wants to focus on training for higher-paying jobs.

House panel OKs bill that would increase Iowa’s fuel tax


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A House panel has approved a bill that would increase Iowa’s fuel tax, a move that mirrors action in the Senate. Members of a transportation subcommittee approved the bill Thursday. It now moves to a full committee for consideration. The bill would raise the state fuel tax by 10 cents. A Senate transportation subcommittee approved similar legislation Wednesday. A full committee can now review that bill.

Iowa’s current fuel tax is 22 cents per gallon for gasoline, including fees. Diesel fuel has a slightly higher tax and ethanol blends are a bit lower. The tax hasn’t been raised since 1989. Gov. Terry Branstad and lawmakers have been vocal about raising money to help fix the state’s network of bridges and roads, many of which are in disrepair.

2 arrests and chain-reaction accident in Atlantic


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic Police Department reports there were two arrests made and one, chain-reaction accident investigated, Wednesday. 19-year old Jacob Dvorak, of Atlantic, was arrested on a charge of Assault causing serious injury. He was booked into the Cass County Jail. And, 33-year old Jamie Smith, of Cedar Rapids, was arrested in Atlantic on a Johnson County warrant for Theft in the 3rd Degree. Smith was booked into the Cass County Jail, and later transported to Johnson County.

And, no injuries were reported following an accident Wednesday evening at 7th and Pine Streets. Officials say vehicles driven by Donna Joyce, of Marne, Stephanie Kinzie, and Keesha Bruce, both of Atlantic, collided at around 5:12-p.m., as they were westbound on 7th Street. Authorities say Joyce Failed to Stop in an assured clear distance, and ran into the back of the Kinzie vehicle. The impact caused that car to be pushed into the rear of Bruce’ vehicle, which was stopped for traffic ahead of it.

Damage from the collision amounted to $16,500.

Senate panel OKs bill that would focus on aggressive elders


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A Senate panel has approved a bill that would establish a commission to study housing of elderly people who are sexually aggressive or combative. Members of a human resources subcommittee discussed the bill Thursday (today). It now moves to a full committee for consideration.

The commission would explore different factors for housing such people. Among the issues are costs and whether a new facility should be built. The commission would be expected to present a report on its findings by the end of the year.

Several groups expressed support for the bill but also made suggestions for the study, including having a complete count of the intended population. Democratic Sen. Liz Mathis, who heads the human resources committee, says the bill will likely be amended as it moves forward.

Six Powerball tickets sold in Iowa came closer to sharing $564 million jackpot


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A half dozen tickets purchased in Iowa came within one number of having at least a share of last night’s (Wednesday) massive Powerball jackpot. The $564 million jackpot was split by three tickets purchased in North Carolina, Texas and Puerto Rico. Iowa Lottery spokesperson Mary Neubauer says six tickets in Iowa were close — matching five of the six numbers drawn. “We saw tickets purchased in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Mount Vernon, Newton, Waukee and Waukon – each of those matched four of the first five numbers and the Powerball,” Neubauer said. “Four of them won a $10,000 prize and two of them won a $30,000 prize because in addition to matching the numbers they also had the Power Play option on the ticket which multiplied the prize.”

As of late this (Thursday) morning, Iowa Lottery officials had not identified any of the people who purchased the six tickets in the state that came within one number of sharing the third largest jackpot in the history of the game. “We haven’t heard from any of those big winners yet, but because people were paying so much attention to this drawing, I anticipate we’ll see them soon,” Neubauer said.

In Iowa, nearly $4.7 million in Powerball tickets were purchased for Wednesday’s drawing. “The day of the drawing is always the day with the highest sales for that particular drawing and yesterday in Iowa, players bought about $3 million in tickets alone,” Neubauer said.

A total of 67,320 plays purchased by Iowa Lottery players won prizes ranging from $4 up to $30,000.

Here is a closer look at Wednesday’s drawing and the Iowa results:

·A total of 67,320 plays purchased by Iowa Lottery players won prizes ranging from $4 up to $30,000. Four tickets matched four of the first five numbers and the Powerball to win a $10,000 prize each. They were purchased at: Hy-Vee Gas, 1025 E. Hickman Road in Waukee; Hy-Vee Gas, 4701 Fleur Drive in Des Moines; Casey’s, 20 Miller Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids; and Casey’s, 323 Iowa Highway 30 W. in Mount Vernon.
·Two more tickets also matched four of the first five numbers and the Powerball, but also had the Power Play® option added to them, which multiplied their prize to $30,000. They were purchased at: Casey’s, 1018 First Ave. E. in Newton; and Huba Huba, 9 Ninth St. SW in Waukon.
·The winning numbers in Wednesday’s $564.1 million Powerball jackpot drawing were: 11-13-25-39-54 and Powerball 19. The Power Play number was 3. The final jackpot amount surged well above the $500 million annuity estimate heading into the drawing. The Powerball jackpot returns to its starting amount of $40 million annuity ($22.8 million cash option) for Saturday’s drawing.
·Iowa Lottery players bought nearly $4.7 million in Powerball tickets for Wednesday’s drawing, including about $3 million in tickets on Wednesday alone. During Wednesday’s busiest stretch from about 5-6 p.m., Powerball tickets were selling at more than $6,100 per minute in Iowa. However, the average Iowa Powerball purchase on Wednesday remained just $6, or three plays per ticket. Lottery officials were pleased that Iowans enjoyed playing at a fun level and didn’t go overboard.
·The odds of winning the jackpot in Powerball are about 1 in 175.2 million because there are about 175.2 million ways you can combine the numbers in the game to make a play. By tracking sales, lottery officials can estimate how many of the possible combinations have been purchased for a particular drawing. About 66 percent of all the possible combinations were purchased in Wednesday’s drawing.

(Radio Iowa)

Cost for empty Iowa prison has risen to $166M, agency says


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Department of Corrections officials say they weren’t trying to mislead the public when they refused to acknowledge for months that the price tag for the state’s faulty new prison had risen to $166 million. The department confirmed Wednesday that an often-cited $132 million cost for the empty Iowa State Penitentiary is inaccurate.

Deputy department director Brad Hier had stood by that figure during an October interview – even though talking points prepared for Gov. Terry Branstad months earlier put the cost at $165.5 million.

Hier blamed “miscommunication” and “semantics” Wednesday for confusion over the cost and apologized for a months-long delay in clearing up questions. He says $132 million reflected construction costs at one point, but the price rises when project management, design, equipment and other costs are included.

Man convicted of murdering a Cass County woman appeals his sentence


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A Pottawattamie County man convicted of murdering a Cass County woman last year, has appealed his January life in prison sentence, to the Iowa Supreme Court. According to online court records, 64-year old Robert A. Reynolds, of Oakland, filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court, on Monday.

On November 21st, a jury found Reynolds guilty of first degree murder in connection with the April 8th, 2014 shooting death at his home, of 64-year-old Patricia Kinkade-Dorsey, from rural Atlantic.

Reynolds was transferred from the Pottawattamie County Jail to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale, where he remains held without bond, pending the outcome of his appeal.

Impact of closing MHIs in Clarinda, Mount Pleasant ‘terrifying’


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Mental health professionals from Cedar Rapids are telling lawmakers that the governor’s plan to close two of the four state-run Mental Health Institutes is “terrifying.” Kent Jackson, the administrative director for behavioral services at UnityPoint in Cedar Rapids, says he doesn’t know where patients who would otherwise be sent to the M-H-Is in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant will go. “If there is a plan, I have not found it. I’ve searched for it,” Jackson says. “The day that I heard this, I started calling colleagues and saying: ‘Have you heard this?”

Jackson says the psychiatric units at most Iowa hospitals are nearly always full and the governor’s plan means mentally ill patients will wind up “boarding” in emergency rooms for “days” while administrators search for a space for them. “To say what the impact is — it’s terrifying to think about,” Jackson says. Jackson is asking legislators and the governor to think about how they’d want a member of their own family treated if they’re diagnosed with a mental illness.

“I just think that a lot of times payers, government entities make decisions about these people and they don’t really understand them at all,” Jackson says. “They don’t know what they’re doing.” Jackson’s comments provided courtesy of The Cedar Rapids Gazette. And Dr. Al Whitters, the medical director at Mercy Center Behavioral Services in Cedar Rapids, says a residential program at the M-H-I in Mount Pleasant that caters to people with both psychiatric AND substance abuse issues is crucial.

“People with serious mental illness have a tendency to try to treat themselves with alcohol,” Whitters says, “and then once they start drinking it develops into a life of its own where the first thing that needs to be done is to put out the fire of substance abuse before you can even start reaching into some of the primary psychiatric disorders.”

Whitters and Kennedy testified Wednesday before the Iowa Senate Human Resources Committee. While the governor’s budget outline for the next state fiscal year includes no money for the Mental Health Institutes at Clarinda and Mount Pleasant, lawmakers say the shut-down is already underway because patients are no longer being accepted at the facilities.

(Cedar Rapids Gazette/Radio Iowa)

Neola man injured in a crash Thu. morning


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

An accident this morning in Pottawattamie County resulted in one-person being flown by helicopter to a hospital in Omaha. The Pott. County Sheriff’s Office says 59-year old Roger Schneckloth, of Neola, was injured after the 2003 Chevy Silverado pickup he was driving left southbound Railroad Highway at around 7:20-a.m., entered the east ditch, and hit a bridge support. The accident took place on the east edge of Neola.

Schneckloth was trapped in the pickup and extricated by Neola and Minden Rescue personnel. His pickup was totaled in the crash, which remains under investigation.

Atlantic property tax levy to decrease in FY 2016


February 12th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic City Council held a budget work session Wednesday evening to review and make any changes to the proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which amounts to a little more than $9-million. That’s about one-half million more dollars than last year, but according to City Administrator John Lund, while the budget has increased, the property tax asking, or levy, has actually gone down. He says the levy will decrease from 18-dollars per thousand dollars valuation last year, to $16.79/1,000 in the coming fiscal year, or a reduction of $1.21/per thousand dollars taxable valuation.

The reasons for the decrease include the elimination of Police and Fireman’s pension, for which he says a levy is no longer needed, and there are surpluses in the employee benefits and debt service funds, which the Department of Management wants the City to draw-down on. In addition, with the new bond, Lund says there shouldn’t be any increases in the debt service, and final payments are being made on other bonds that will give the City greater bonding capacity next year, if needed.

He said they will also be able to renew bonds, as necessary. Lund says he hopes the tax asking can remain stable now, since it’s been “all over the place,” for more than a dozen years.  The current 18-dollar levy is the highest assessed by the City in the last 14-years.  Lund says based on the rollback, a person with a $100,000 home will see a $50 dip in their property taxes from the City. He says with the City’s reserve funds “doing just fine,” there shouldn’t be a need for tax increases anytime soon.

The City Council will act on approving the Preliminary Budget during the meeting on Feb. 18th, and the Final Budget March 4th. The certified budget must be submitted to the State by no later than March 15. Lund says they should have no problem getting it in before that date.