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Senate panel proposes limits on felon voting right restoration

News

February 20th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) — All but one member of a Senate committee have voted to require paroled felons to prove they’ve repaid restitution to victims before they’d get their voting rights restored. The bill’s requirements would kick in *IF* Iowa voters eventually approve an amendment to the state constitution that automatically restores voting rights to felons. The bill passed without debate — and with the support of every Republican on the committee and Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen. “Clearly, if Democrats were in control, we would have had a different piece of legislation coming out…because we believe in expanding voter rights,” Petersen says.

The lone “no” came from Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids. Hogg says the proposal favors wealthy criminal offenders who can pay restitution immediately over the poor who may take years to repay their debts. “Restoration of voting rights reduces the chance that somebody released from prison will offend again,” Hogg says. “If we want to keep Iowans safe, this is real easy way to help reduce the chance that people are going to commit future crimes.”

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday on a similar FLORIDA law. The three-judge panel said it’s unconstitutional to require felons to pay all court fines and victim restitution before they get their voting rights back.

Iowa early News Headlines: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

News

February 20th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press at 3:40 a.m. CST

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa woman is charged with murder after police say she bound and gagged her husband for hours, leading to his death. West Des Moines police say officers arrested 41-year-old Gowun Park on Wednesday. The charges stem from the death Saturday of her husband, 41-year-old Sung Nam. Court records say Park used zip ties to bind Nam’s feet and hands to a chair, jammed clothing into his mouth and used duct tape to attach a towel over his head. Officers were called Saturday evening and found Nam on the floor. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. Park is being held at the Dallas County Jail.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Court of Appeals has refused to let a group of lawmakers and attorneys move forward with two lawsuits challenging a law passed last year that gave the governor more power over the selection of supreme court and appeals court judges. The cases filed by a group of Democratic lawmakers and lawyers were dismissed by a divided appeals court on Wednesday in a 3-2 decision. It says the court is hesitant to interfere with legislative branch decisions. An attorney representing the plaintiffs says he will ask the Iowa Supreme Court to review the decision.

JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — Two Iowa Army National Guard units are being deployed to Africa as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Col. Michael Wunn said Wednesday that about 90 troopers from a Le Mars unit have already started training with around 40 based at Camp Dodge in Johnston. Send-off ceremonies are scheduled for June, and then the soldiers will head to Fort Bliss in Texas for six to eight weeks of training. Wunn couldn’t say where the troopers will be stationed after they leave the United States, but he expects they’ll end up somewhere in the Horn of Africa. The deployments typically last a year.

Legislature, governor ponder expanding Iowa’s medical marijuana law

News

February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) — It’s unclear how the latest debate about expanding the state’s medical marijuana law may be resolved, but bills on the subject have survived this week’s deadline for committee action in the legislature. Representative Jarad Klein of Keota and other Republicans on the House Public Safety Committee have voted to allow a small increase in the potency of cannabis products that are licensed for sale in Iowa.

“We’ll see how negotiations and developments happen between the governor, the Senate and the House,” Klein says. Republican Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale, meanwhile, is among those pressing forward with a different bill in the Senate. It would allow medical cannabis products with far higher levels of T-H-C. That’s the chemical that causes the high and is also used to combat nausea, seizures and other medical conditions.

“It’s going for the gusto. I mean I’m asking for everything because I know that we’re going to negotiate,” Zaun said, “and I like to negotiate from a high position.” Zaun’s bill would allow patients who qualify for the state program to buy up to 25 grams of T-H-C in cannabis products over a 90-day period. The HOUSE bill mirrors the recommendations of the state board that oversees the medical cannabis program.

Governor Kim Reynolds says the board has the medical expertise to guide policy decisions, but the governor is hinting she might go farther than the 90-day, four-and-a-half gram T-H-C limit the board has recommended. “We’re going to continue to work on the language and see what that looks like,” so those conversations are still taking place, so I’m not going to draw a line in the sand right now while we’re continue to work with the House and the Senate to come to some resolution.”

Representative Klein says the matter will not come up for a vote in the full House until it’s clear what the governor will approve. “What I’ve requested is a public statement of actual position rather than signals and not being 100% clear with us,” Klein says. “…That’s part of the reason we didn’t get a bill done last year was we didn’t know her position. There wasn’t clarity. We worked with the best intentions, thought we had a good piece of legislation, she disagreed, but we didn’t know that until the veto.”

Governor Reynolds says she expects some sort of resolution will be hammered out before lawmakers adjourn the 2020 legislative session. “Now, is everybody going to be happy with it? Probably not, but it’s like everything else, if it’s progress I think we should take a look at that, consider that as somewhat of a win and then continue to look at it down the road,” Reynolds says. “But we have a process in place. We have a board in place. We asked them to weigh in. They’ve done that and now the legislature and my office — I — will take a look at that and make a recommendation going forward.”

Webster City woman charged with misspending Chamber of Commerce funds

News

February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) — A 40-year-old woman from Webster City has been arrested and faces four felony charges for 263-thousand dollars worth of alleged misspending at the Webster City Chamber of Commerce. Leah Mulholland was a financial and administrative assistant for the Webster City Chamber of Commerce. A special investigation by the state auditor’s office was released last July.

Leah Mulholland

It concluded Mulholland overpaid herself by about 190-thousand dollars over a four-and-a-half year period. Auditors believe Mulholland used the Chamber of Commerce’s money to pay her personal cell phone bill and cover 27-hundred-dollars worth of hotel bills in Webster City.

Mulholland was arrested Wednesday. She’s charged with ongoing criminal conduct, first-degree theft, unauthorized use of a credit card and forgery.

Atlantic Mayor institutes the Pledge of Allegiance at Council meetings; FY 2021 budget discussed

News

February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic Mayor Dave Jones, Wednesday evening, announced that because the Disabled American Veterans group he belongs to, requested the Pledge of Allegiance be established as a regular part of City Council meetings, he decided to institute it, effective with Wednesday night’s meeting. Prior to leading the Council and those in attendance in reciting the Pledge, a video of Red Skelton’s recital and meaning of each word, was played (You often hear that version of the Pledge weekday mornings at around 6:50-a.m., on KJAN).

In other business, the Council, following a required public hearing, passed a Resolution Adopting Fiscal Year 2021 Maximum Property Tax Dollars (as required by the State). A Public Hearing was also held on a proposal to enter into a General Obligation (G.O.) Solid Waste Management (SWM) Loan Agreement, prior to the vote to approve.  And, they passed a Resolution  “Setting March 4th, as the date for a Public Hearing on a Proposal to Enter into a G.O. Refunding Loan Agreement, and to Borrow Money Thereunder, in a principal amounts not to exceed $2.25-million.” Essentially, this would allow the City of refinance the remaining debt with a new, short-term bond, resulting in an interest savings over the term of nearly $53,000.

The Council discussed, and at the recommendation of the Mayor, punted to the Community Protection Committee for discussion next month, the issue of parking on north side of East 12th Street, which is a dead-end located just east of the Heritage House. Parking is allowed on both sides of the street, which one property owner says obstructs the passage of standard vehicles through the street. There have also been concerns from the Police Chief and Street Superintendent with getting police, fire and street department vehicles through the area.

Atlantic City Admin. John Lund

And finally, City Administrator John Lund presented an overview of the FY 2021 Budget proposal. In his report, Lund said “Not a whole lot is changing with this budget.” Expenses are expected to be around $15.5-million. Over the next 10-years, he’s expecting about $170-million in expenditures and $181-million in revenues, along with about $27-million in Capital Improvement Projects ($11.3-million will be financed through debt).

The good news is that the Tax Levy is going down from $16.86 per thousand dollars valuation, to $16.56 in the next Fiscal year. Debt service and the Emergency Levy are also going down, because valuations were up enough and the actual debt obligations are unchanged. On the flip side, employee benefits will be on the rise, which nets out to around $100,000 in new property taxes. How much you pay, he says, will depend on your individual assessments, and  the type of property you own.

Lund said utility rates will be unchanged, but the sewer system will require a more than $2-million in Capital Improvement eventually, and for that to happen, Lund says we’ll have to raise the wastewater rates. How much will be determined by the Personnel and Finance Committee, down the road. No specific timetable for the increases will be made until the Iowa DNR announces when improvements to the treatment plant have to be made to handle phosphorus and nitrate reductions.

Lund said he expects the City’s labor costs to increase 4%, the next fiscal year. Health insurance premiums will increase $40,000 per year, including an increase in IPERS and FICA. Inevitably, Lund says the Health Insurance Levy will increase from $3.66 to $4.80…by the end of the DECADE. But by the end of the next decade, there is expected to be property tax relief, from the current $16.86, to $16.29/per $1,000 valuation.

Moving forward, Lund says, he’s concerned about retail trends, and the decline of retailers in Atlantic, and a reduced amount of contribution from the State to the Local Option Sales Tax through online sales. That could affect future Capital Improvement Projects. And, in his report, Mayor Dave Jones urged citizens of the community to fill out your Census survey in April, because an accurate count helps determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year. It also determines how many seats in Congress each state gets. When you respond to the census, your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics.

Challenges to Iowa judge selection law fail in appeals court

News

February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Court of Appeals has refused to let a group of lawmakers and attorneys move forward with two lawsuits challenging a law passed last year that gave the governor more power over the selection of supreme court and appeals court judges.

The cases filed by a group of Democratic lawmakers and lawyers were dismissed by a divided appeals court on Wednesday in a 3-2 decision. It says the court is hesitant to interfere with legislative branch decisions. An attorney representing the plaintiffs says he will ask the Iowa Supreme Court to review the decision.

Trial for motorcycle crash death scheduled for Dubuque man

News

February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — An April 14 trial start has been scheduled for a Dubuque man charged with the crash death of his motorcycle passenger. Dubuque County court records say Shannon Katka pleaded not guilty Monday to vehicular homicide while under the influence. Investigators have said Katka was driving the motorcycle the night of Aug. 29 in Dubuque when he lost control on a highway entrance ramp and crashed.

His passenger was thrown from the bike and died at the scene. She’s been identified as 43-year-old Shelly Brenke. Police say a blood sample taken at a hospital showed Katka’s blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit to drive.

Iowa man dies after being bound, gagged; wife arrested

News

February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa woman is charged with murder after police say she bound and gagged her husband for hours, leading to his death. West Des Moines police say officers arrested 41-year-old Gowun Park on Wednesday. The charges stem from the death Saturday of her husband, 41-year-old Sung Nam.

Court records say Park used zip ties to bind Nam’s feet and hands to a chair, jammed clothing into his mouth and used duct tape to attach a towel over his head. Officers were called Saturday evening and found Nam on the floor. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. Park is being held at the Dallas County Jail.

Cass County Memorial Hospital Recognized by The Chartis Center for Rural Health as a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital

News

February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic, IA — Officials with the Cass County Memorial Hospital in Atlantic, announced today (Wednesday), CCMH has been named a 2020 Top 100 Critical Access Hospital by The Chartis Center for Rural Health. The annual award honoring rural hospital performance is determined by the results of iVantage Health Analytics’ Hospital Strength INDEX®, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2020.

Brett Altman, CEO of Cass County Health System, says “Our vision is to be the best rural hospital in America for patients to receive care, employees to work, and physicians to practice. We don’t just say that because it sounds good – we say that because we truly mean it. It’s ingrained in all of us to dedicate ourselves to the care that we provide to every patient, every time. We’re honored to once again receive this award, which validates that we’re moving in the right direction for everyone that we’re blessed to serve.”

Based entirely on publicly available data, the INDEX is the industry’s most comprehensive and objective assessment of rural hospital performance. Utilizing 50 independent indicators, the INDEX assesses performance across eight pillars of performance that span market-, value- and finance-based categories. Hospitals recognized as a Top 100 facility had one of the 100 highest overall scores among all Critical Access Hospitals nationally.

Michael Topchik, National Leader, The Chartis Center for Rural Health, says “The Top 100 Critical Access Hospital award program reminds us that rural providers haven’t lost touch with their mission and are committed to delivering better quality, better outcomes and better patient satisfaction. It’s a pleasure to be able to not only recognize this year’s recipients, but our larger group of top 100 alumni as we celebrate 10 years of The Hospital Strength INDEX.”

Forecasters say snowfall poses hazard in much of Nebraska

News, Weather

February 19th, 2020 by Ric Hanson

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Forecasters say up to 6 inches of snow could make travel treacherous in much of Nebraska and northwest Iowa on Wednesday and overnight. The highest totals are expected along the U.S. Highway 20 corridor, with lesser amounts to the south. A National Weather Service advisory says the snowfall is expected to end overnight, and sunny skies with temperatures hovering around 30 are expected Thursday.