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EndIowaDogRacing.com launched

News

February 27th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Backers of a plan to end greyhound racing at the casinos in Council Bluffs and Dubuque are amping up their public relations push, launching an on-line petition drive on their new www.EndIowaDogRacing.com website. Rick Dickinson, president of the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, spoke at a statehouse news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“Greyhound racing is the Blockbuster Video of the gaming industry,” Dickinson said. Like Blockbuster, Dickinson argues dog racing is “bankrupt” because it no longer has enough customers. Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol says the three-point-three million the Mystique casino spent on the prizes for greyhound breeders last year would be better spent as charitable contributions to Dubuque area schools, fire houses and non-profit groups.

“Greyhound racing is no longer profitable,” Buol said during the news conference. “…Together we can achieve the common sense vote to end the dead, debt-ridden venue of greyhound racing.” The Council Bluffs casino provides a 10-million dollar annual subsidy for greyhound racing at its facility, but former Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan stressed how the track occupies prime real estate that could be better used. “We’re in a situation where we need more hotels,” Hanafan says. “And one of the attractive things about this area is the opportunity to build hotels and some retail.” Bob Mundt, president and C-E-O of the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce, says the track sits near one of the Midwest’s high-traffic areas — the intersection of two Interstates.

“That creates a lot of opportunities for us and as we see the decline of dog racing and the ability to reuse that particular location for higher and better uses, we stand in favor of the elimination of dog racing,” Mundt says. Hanafan points to how Omaha redeveloped the site of the old Arsarben Horse Track. “It’s become the trendy place to live in Omaha. It has education opportunities, living opportunities. It has economic development that Omaha has never seen,” Hanafan says. “It’s taken a piece of property that may have been a track 60 or 100 years ago and made into an economic development package for today — and I believe this is the opportunity that we have in Council Bluffs.”

A bill that would end greyhound racing is eligible for debate in the Iowa House. The legislation calls for the two casinos to pay reparations to the Iowa greyhound breeders who will no longer be able to race their dogs in Dubuque or Council Bluffs. Dickinson, the Dubuque chamber executive who also sits on the Dubuque Racing Association board of directors, says that’s a “fair” settlement. “Seventy million dollars over a seven year period I think by any Iowan’s standards is an unbelievable amount of money to go away,” Dickinson says. Iowa is one of just seven states which host greyhound racing today. No other state which has closed down dog tracks has called for payments to the greyhound breeders.

(Radio Iowa)

Report details rising cost of living in Iowa

News

February 27th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

A new report from an Iowa City based research organization shows many families in Iowa cannot afford to make ends meet. Peter Fisher, lead author of the report from the Iowa Policy Project, says the cost of living in Iowa has increased significantly since the last report on the issue in 2012. “Two years ago, we were able say that because of the recession, inflation had pretty much been held in check in many areas. That’s not been the case recently,” Fisher says. “Food costs, depending on the family, have gone up between 8 and 15 percent.

The state average cost of child care for preschoolers has gone up 13 to 16 percent.” According to the report, rent has increased between 8 and 13 percent and the cost of owning a vehicle has risen by roughly 6 percent. Fisher says, for most families, the wage that’s needed from a job to cover those “basic needs” is substantially above the median wage offered in Iowa.

“In other words, you’d have to be in a job paying above and sometimes well above what over half of the jobs in Iowa pay,” Fisher says. Lily French, who helped prepare the IPP report, says after accounting for expenses like childcare, transportation, and rent, Iowans have to earn one-point-six to three times the federal poverty line to make ends meet.

“There’s a significant disconnect between the measurements the federal government uses to describe the number of people who are struggling, they also use that number to help determine policies and programs to help fill in the gap for people,” French says. The gap was even more significant for workers who do not receive health insurance through their employer.

A single parent in that scenario would have to earn nearly 21-dollars an hour to support just one child, according to the analysis. The “Cost of Living in Iowa” is available on the IPP website: www.iowapolicyproject.org.

(Radio IOwa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Thu., Feb. 27th 2014

News

February 27th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press…

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The use of drones would be strictly regulated under a bill approved by the Iowa House. The bill received overwhelming support yesterday, clearing the House on an 87-12 vote, though several lawmakers expressed concern the bill lacks clarity and might be overreaching.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate have approved legislation that will establish a task force to study breast tissue density. The bill passed unanimously yesterday and will move to the state House for review. It replaced legislation which would have required breast density data be included in mammogram reports to patients and physicians. Instead, under this plan, the state will set up a task force to review how best to educate patients and doctors on this issue.

STANHOPE, Iowa (AP) — The Department of Natural Resources has lifted a boil advisory for the small central Iowa city of Stanhope. The DNR cancelled the advisory yesterday that had been in place since Friday after two sets of water samples were tested and showed they were clear of bacteria.

LE MARS, Iowa (AP) — Two Catholic parishes in the Le Mars area will merge in response to fewer available priests and declining rural population. The Le Mars Daily Sentinel reports St. Joseph and St. James Catholic churches will merge in large part because of declining numbers of priests. At least one of three rural churches in Merrill, Struble and Ellendale also plan to close.

Hunters worry Iowa has cut deer numbers too much

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Hunters in Iowa are concerned about the state’s dwindling deer population. The state has actively worked since 2003 to reduce the deer numbers which had been increasing rapidly resulting in damage to crops and contributing to millions in dollars in damage from car-deer collisions.

The Des Moines Register reports some Iowans believe the state has gone too far. Last year the number of harvested deer dropped below 100,000 for the first time since 1995. Sen. Dick Dearden, a Des Moines Democrat, says deer should be allowed to repopulate through the issuance of fewer female deer permits. He says Republican Gov. Terry Branstad bows too much to the influence of farm and insurance groups.

Branstad’s office says the governor believes in a balanced approach to maintaining the deer population.

Iowa lawmakers approve tax credit for veterans

News

February 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Veterans in Iowa would receive a larger property tax exemption under a bill approved by a legislative panel. A three-member subcommittee unanimously approved the measure Wednesday. The legislation now goes to the full House Ways and Means Committee. Under current law, a property tax credit of $1,852 is available only for certain veterans. The bill would increase the amount to $3,704 for all eligible veterans beginning July 1.

The state appropriates a set amount to local governments to offset these costs. Local governments wouldn’t pay the additional credits in full unless state funding was sufficient. Republican Rep. John Landon, who chairs the subcommittee, says discussion on the bill will continue. Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, says he’s open to any proposals designed to reduce taxes.

Cass Co. Treasurer annonces re-election bid

News

February 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Cass County Treasurer Tracey J. Marshall has announced her intention to run for re-election. Marshall is currently finishing her third term as County Treasurer. In a press release, Marshall said she “Has always believed in being involved,” and has immersed herself in the workings of the county office.

Tracey J. Marshall

Tracey J. Marshall

In her bio, Marshall says she received the “e-gov Pioneer Award” in 2003, for implementing online services. She has also completed the Certified Treasurer Program and received the Chancellor’s Certificate in Public Administration: Government Finance Professional. Marshall is on several committees in the Iowa State Treasurer’s Association and is a member of ISAC, NACTFO, and NACo.  She says her office staff is taking ongoing training to ensure the best possible service to Cass County residents.

The first day for Democratic and Republican candidates for county offices to file nomination papers in the office of the Cass County Auditor is Monday, March 3, 2014. Last day to file is Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Nomination papers may be circulated prior to first date for filing as well as during the filing period. Nomination papers and candidate information are available at the office of the county auditor and from the IOWA Secretary of State: www.sos.state.ia.us.

The county positions to appear on the Cass County ballot for the 2014 PRIMARY ELECTION are: District 2 County Supervisor; District 3 County Supervisor; County Attorney; County Recorder; County Treasurer.

Le Mars Catholic parishes plan merger

News

February 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

LE MARS, Iowa (AP) – Two Catholic parishes in the Le Mars area will merge in response to fewer available priests and declining rural population. The Le Mars Daily Sentinel reports  St. Joseph and St. James Catholic churches will merge in large part because of declining numbers of priests. The Rev. Kevin Richter says the dwindling number of priests is an issue around the country as priests retire and others leave the priesthood only years after being ordinated.

Richter says some smaller communities continue to lose population, while larger cities such as Le Mars remain more stable. He notes that in the Sioux City diocese, 22 of 24 counties have decreasing populations. At least one of three rural churches in Merrill, Struble and Ellendale eventually will close.

Senate Oks plan to study breast density education

News

February 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate have approved legislation that will establish a task force to study breast tissue density. The bill passed unanimously Wednesday and will move to the state House for review. It replaced legislation which would have required breast density data be included in mammogram reports to patients and physicians. Instead, under this plan, the state will set up a task force to review how best to educate patients and doctors on this issue.

Experts say dense breast tissue can make it harder for a mammogram to catch a possible tumor and may increase the risk of breast cancer. But some doctors say this kind of notification could needlessly worry women and the state should leave such matters to physicians.

Review backs top Iowa insurer’s $1.3B reserve fund

News

February 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – A review by an independent consultant says the $1.3 billion in reserves held by Iowa’s dominant health insurer is “reasonable and prudent” for now.  Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart hired Risk and Regulatory Consulting, LLC, to review whether Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield had the right amount of customers’ money in reserves.

Its report released Wednesday says Wellmark is holding an appropriate amount given the risks the company faces. The report says a smaller future surplus might be needed if the insurance market stabilizes following full implementation of federal health reform.

Some Democratic lawmakers, including gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch, demanded an investigation into Wellmark’s reserves, contending much of that money should be returned to policyholders. Wellmark provides coverage for more than 2 million people in Iowa and South Dakota.

Stuffed bears help Sioux City woman honor husband

News

February 26th, 2014 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) – A Sioux City woman says she’ll think of her husband this weekend as she drives to Omaha in a car stuffed with hundreds of stuffed bears and other animals. Kerry Ruehl and her children will take more than 500 bears to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where her husband Mike “Bear” Ruehl was treated for cancer at times over a dozen years. He died Feb. 6 in Omaha at age 60. For his funeral, the family asked that people bring a stuffed animal.

Kerry Ruehl tells the Sioux City Journal that during her husband’s treatment, they watched sick children in strollers or pulling their IVs. They didn’t think it was fair.  She thought this was a way her husband, who loved working with children, could continue spreading cheer.