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Iowa early News Headlines: Tue., Jan. 1st 2013

News

January 1st, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Capitol’s flag has been lowered to honor a former legislative page who was killed with her husband in Nebraska. KTIV-TV in Sioux City reports that the flag was lowered yesterday, on what have would have been Victoria Vargas’ 26th birthday. Vargas and her 30-year-old husband, Gabino Vargas, were found slain on December 9th in a mobile home near the northeast Nebraska town of Ewing.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa fisherman will be able to drop a third line in the water on the same fishing license beginning Tuesday. The law is among a handful taking effect today. It allows anglers to fish with three poles and a total of six hooks, up from two poles and four hooks. Another law would allow hunters and anglers to use three-year licenses. A separate law allows combined licenses for hunting and fishing.

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Police are investigating an eastern Iowa home day care center that may have been used to make methamphetamine. The Quad-City Times reports that 34-year-old Dale Blumer was arrested Sunday on a felony drug-manufacturing charge. He was still in the Scott County Jail yesterday on a $100,000 bond.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) —Alex Singleton ran for three scores and Tulsa beat Iowa State 31-17 yesterday in the Liberty Bowl, avenging a season-opening loss to the Cyclones. Iowa State rallied to beat Tulsa 38-23 on September 1st, but the Golden Hurricane put together the comeback Monday in Memphis, Tennessee.

Mortgage delinquencies in Iowa lower than in US

News

January 1st, 2013 by Ric Hanson

A representative of the Iowa Bankers Association says the latest facts and figures show Iowans, in general, are doing better than borrowers in other states. Sharon Presnall is a senior vice president for the Iowa Bankers Association. “Mortgage delinquencies have been and remain consistently lower than the rest of the nation,” she says, “and Iowa consistently has the lowest credit card debt than all of the states.” There has been “steady improvement” in Iowa banks, according to Presnall. “Total deposits in Iowa institutions increased to $57.6 billion year to date, which is an increase of $3.1 million from the third quarter of 2011,” she says.

Iowa banks have more than 42-billion dollars worth of loans on the books, a slight increase of about three billion over the third quarter last year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s third quarter report indicates less than one-point-five percent of loans in Iowa have reached the 90-days-past-due stage. The national delinquency rate is double what it is in Iowa. Presnall is the Iowa Banking Association’s chief statehouse lobbyist. About 18-thousand Iowans are employed at the 340 banking institutions that are part of the Iowa Bankers Association.

(Radio Iowa)

Debating the gas tax complicated by urban-rural fight

News

January 1st, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Statehouse leaders say changing the formula that distributes state gas taxes for road and bridge projects is just too risky, politically, and would derail any bid to raise the state gas tax. Cities say they don’t get a big enough share of the money for roads and bridges — and counties say the same thing. Governor Terry Branstad says it’s an urban-versus-rural battle. “Looking at the politics of it, you’re probably going to lose the Farm Bureau if you reduce the money going to counties and rural areas,” Branstad says. The Farm Bureau has been a backer of a plan that would raise the state gas tax. The Iowa Chamber Alliance — representing Iowa’s larger urban areas — has called for increasing the gas tax and sending a greater share of the taxes to cities. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha, the top Republican in the legislature, says changing the distribution formula would “kill” any bid to raise the gas tax.

“Too complicated, too controversial — we’ve already been through that debate,” Paulsen says. “I don’t see us going back down that road.” Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix raises melons and pumpkins on a farm near Shell Rock and he says agrees shifting the formula to send more money to cities would kill any bid to raise the gas tax.  “Iowa is a diverse and agricultural state and in order to move those farm commodities to market, to added-value markets that have been such a big part of the growing Iowa economy, we need to make sure that we’re maintaining those rural infrastructures as well,” Dix says. “Talking about changing that formula to favor urban areas moves that debate backwards as opposed to forward.” Dix sees “growing support” in the legislature for a hike in the gas tax, but only if lawmakers reduce other taxes, like commercial property taxes.

“Myself personally and I think Senate Republicans generally came here, though, primarily focused on reducing the overall tax burden on Iowans and creating more growth,” Dix says. “That needs to be our number one priority and needs to happen first.” Just over a year ago a task force appointed by the governor called for a 10-cent-per-gallon increase in the state gas tax, to boost the flagging budget for road and bridge construction. Governor Terry Branstad would sign a gas tax increase into law, but he’s not asking legislators to pass one.

“I don’t intend to make a recommendation,” Branstad says. “I have indicated that I’m open to considering things, but my focus is on reducing taxes — and specifically the property tax — and I think anything that’s done has got to be a net tax reduction for the citizens of Iowa.” Earlier this month a representative of the state’s road builders publicly urged Branstad to become a more ardent advocate for boosting the gas tax. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs agrees Branstad’s public backing is key if the gas tax increase has a chance in the legislature.

I think, pretty obviously, as the leader of the Republican Party of Iowa, for his own members it probably takes a little more encouraging words than he’s given it so far,” Gronstal says. Paulsen — the House speaker — says he doesn’t know whether the gas tax increase could get 51 votes in the House. “It came up in a pretty significant fashion in three different legislative races in the state,” Paulsen says. “Two out of the three people who were advocating for a gas tax or user fee increase lost, so I don’t think anybody knows.” Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, the House Democratic Leader, last week said if lawmakers raise the gas tax, they need to lower other vehicle fees which were raised a few years ago to try to fill part of the 215-million dollar hole in the state’s road construction fund.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa Capitol flag lowered for slain former page

News

January 1st, 2013 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Capitol’s flag has been lowered to honor a former legislative page who was killed with her husband in Nebraska. KTIV-TV in Sioux City reports that the flag was lowered Monday, on what have would have been Victoria Vargas’ 26th birthday. Vargas and her 30-year-old husband, Gabino Vargas, were found dead on Dec. 9 in a mobile home near the northeast Nebraska town of Ewing.

Police say they had been shot, and the home was set on fire. Police have charged Victoria’s ex-boyfriend, Matthew Hinrichsen, with arson and two counts of first-degree murder. Victoria Vargas, whose maiden name was Victoria Lee, served as a page in the Iowa Senate eight years ago. She also was elected to the Missouri Valley city council at age 19.

New Iowa laws include hunting, fishing changes

Ag/Outdoor, News, Sports

December 31st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa fisherman will be able to drop a third line in the water on the same fishing license beginning Tuesday. The law is among a handful taking effect Jan. 1. It allows anglers to fish with three poles and a total of six hooks, up from two poles and four hooks.

Another law would allow hunters and anglers to use three-year licenses. A separate law allows combined licenses for hunting and fishing. Most laws approved by legislators in 2012 take effect July 1, 2013, but a few start with the new year. Other laws include one making Iowa’s volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians eligible for a $50 income tax credit. Also, childcare providers who serve children eligible for the state’s assistance program will receive a rate increase.

MidAmerican complete 3 Iowa wind projects

News

December 31st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — MidAmerican Energy says it has completed three Iowa wind projects generating 407 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 100,000 homes. CEO Bill Fehrman says wind power now makes up about a third of the electricity generated by the company, which provides power to 732,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota.

In January 2012 the company announced it had acquired three wind projects in west central, central, and southwest Iowa that would include construction of 176 wind turbines. They included a 106-megawatt Vienna wind project, located in Marshall and Tama counties; a 200-megawatt Eclipse wind project, located in Guthrie and Audubon counties; and a 101-megawatt Morning Light wind projects, located in Adair County.

MidAmerican Energy also owns Iowa wind projects in Buena Vista, Carroll, Crawford, Floyd, Hamilton, Polk, Pottawattamie, Sac and Wright counties totaling 1,284 megawatts of wind generation.

Over the past two years Des Moines-based MidAmerican has added more than 430 wind turbines to its generation network. The company began building wind farms in 2004 and has invested about $3.9 billion in Iowa wind generation.

Sentencing set in bribery case for ex-egg official

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 31st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Sentencing has been scheduled for a former manager at Iowa egg farms who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a federal inspector. U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett this week ordered Tony Wasmund to appear Feb. 12 in his courtroom in Sioux City. Wasmund has been free pending sentencing, where he will face a maximum of five years in prison. Wasmund was a supervisor at the network of companies owned by Jack DeCoster, whose operations in northern Iowa were blamed for a 2010 salmonella outbreak that caused the recall of 550 million eggs.

Months before the outbreak, Wasmund authorized giving $300 in petty cash to another employee to bribe a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector to allow sales of shell eggs that had been withheld for failing to meet federal standards.

Lenox woman arrested on an assault charge

News

December 31st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A Lenox woman was arrested early Sunday morning, on an assault charge.

Dulce Pantoja (Photo courtesy Lenox P-D)

According to the Police Department, officers were called to a domestic disturbance in the 200 block of West Michigan at around 5:30-a.m. Following an investigation into the incident, 26-year old Dulce E. Pantoja, of Lenox,  was arrested on a charge of domestic assault. Pantoja was transported to the Ringgold County Jail.

Finding land to farm is still top chore for wanna-be Iowa farmers

Ag/Outdoor, News

December 31st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A recent report from Iowa State University found the average price for an acre of Iowa farmland hit a new record high in 2012. The price was just short of 83-hundred dollars, an increase of 24-percent from the year before. Doug Stark, president of Farm Credit Services of America, says obtaining farmland is the single biggest issue facing new farmers. “It’s that they need to find access to land to be able to farm,” Stark says. “It’s so competitive out there right now, with people buying land and with successful producers that are bidding up the price of rented land, it’s very challenging for young producers just to get the base of operation through land to get their operations started.”

Stark says with advances in technology, farmers today have a bit more down time for family and other activities, something relatively new in the world of agriculture. That’s making it more appealing for young people to pick farming as a career path.  “I think we’re seeing more young people wanting to come back to farming now than we’ve seen in a long, long time,” Stark says. “They know they can come back to the farm and not only have it be a way of life, but that they can they can have a life.”

The challenge of finding land to farm remains, it part due to record corn and bean prices as well as low interest rates.

(Radio Iowa)

Officials asked to do more to help Iowans with epilepsy

News

December 31st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Advocates for Iowans who suffer from epilepsy say state support for a private group that helps epileptics has declined by 70 percent in the past five years. Courtney Strutt Todd is a member of the Iowa Advisory Council for the Epilepsy Foundation of North and Central Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. “There are currently 30,000 persons living in Iowa that have or are effected by epilepsy,” Strutt Todd says. Strutt Todd and other advocates are asking state officials to provide the Epilepsy Foundation with 100-thousand dollars worth of state taxpayer support next year.

“We are the only sustainable service in the state and the only resource available for individuals and families suffering from epilepsy,” Strutt Todd says. “This program specifically saves the state thousands of dollars by preventing emergency room visits billable to Medicaid, by preventing unemployment or underemployment with persons with epilepsy and by saving lives in persons with uncontrolled seizures.”

The Epilepsy Foundation has an office in Des Moines that coordinates the work of support groups in Des Moines, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. The foundation offers counseling, education and referrals to Iowans who have been diagnosed with epilepsy. “This year alone 200,000 people in the United States will develop epilepsy and 50,000 will die of seizures,” Strutt Todd says. “The Epilepsy Foundation is working to lower this statistic.”

A state task force formed in 2011 is currently studying whether generic drugs are an appropriate substitute for brand-name drugs prescribed to treat epileptic seizures. One estimate indicates the state could save 11-million dollars if generics were used instead of brand-name drugs. That task force is to submit a report to legislators by the end of January.

(Radio Iowa)