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Friday News, March 29

Sioux City Couple Sentenced To Prison For Distributing Meth

(Sioux City) -- A Sioux City couple who conspired to distribute methamphetamine were sentenced on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Mavis Juarez, 56, and William Sun, 50, both from Sioux City, Iowa, received the prison terms after November 26, 2012, guilty pleas to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and one count of distributing methamphetamine.
At the guilty pleas, Juarez and Sun each admitted their involvement in a conspiracy from 2011 through April 2012 that distributed more than 50 grams of actual (pure) methamphetamine in Sioux City, Iowa, area.  Each also admitted to distributing more than 15 grams of actual (pure) methamphetamine over the course of four separate transactions.  These distributions occurred within 1000 feet of Dale Street Park in Sioux City.  Juarez was sentenced to 90 months’ imprisonment and Sun was sentenced to 120 months’ imprisonment.


Branstad Halts State Employees To Contribute To Health Care Insurance

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad's administration has agreed to stop allowing workers in state employee unions to voluntarily contribute to their health insurance costs.
Branstad halted the option in exchange for unions dropping a complaint about the voluntary plan filed with the Public Employment Relations Board.
Branstad has argued the option was a good way to reduce health care costs, but the unions claimed it was illegal to allow a benefit change outside the normal process for contract negotiations.
Only 13 state union employees have attempted to contribute to their health care costs. The agreement is expected to cost the state about $26,300.

Democratic Senators Want To Extend Tax Credits For Historic Building Restoration

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Democrats in the state Senate want to increase funding to a program that offers tax credits for the restoration of historic buildings.
Lawmakers on Thursday say the plan would help create jobs and housing in communities with older buildings. Democratic Senator Bill Dotzler of Waterloo says historic preservation credits help
create downtown housing opportunities.
The program offers property owners or developers tax credits for 25 percent of rehabilitation costs for a qualifying historic building. Several types of properties are eligible, including those on the National Register of Historic Places. Currently the state approves up to $45 million in credits in a fiscal year. Under the Democratic plan, that number would gradually rise to $60 million.
A spokesman for Republican Governor Terry Branstad did not take a position on the proposal.


Exira School District Looks To Consolidate

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A June consolidation vote has been scheduled for a tiny school district in western Iowa that hasn't operated in the black since 2006-07.
The Exira district has received nearly $600,000 in extra state aid since the 2007-08 school year. The district in Audubon County has about 220 students.
The neighboring Elk Horn-Kimballton district also will vote in June on consolidating more operations with Exira. The districts share grade instruction. Exira sends students in first through third grades and ninth through 12th grades to Elk Horn-Kimballton schools. Elk Horn-Kimballton buses students in fourth through eighth grades to Exira.
Exira's district accreditation is in jeopardy. A state review last year cited 40 instances of noncompliance with state standards.


16 Year Old Girl Issues Bomb Threat To School

PELLA, Iowa (AP) - A 16-year-old girl has been charged with threatening to set off a bomb or incendiary device at a south-central Iowa high school.
Pella Police Lt. Shane Cox says the girl's Facebook post talked about planting the device and targeting a certain staff member at Pella Community High School.
Police took the threats seriously and have charged the girl with threat of arson, a felony.
No device has been reported found.
Principal Eric Nelson says the school has to take the threats seriously. But he also says the threats were not considered viable.
The girl is being held at the Central Iowa Juvenile Detention Facility in Eldora.
The Associated Press generally doesn't name juveniles accused of crimes.

Waterloo Man To Remain In Prison After Appeal Turned Down

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - A Waterloo man convicted of killing his girlfriend in front of their children will remain in prison after the Iowa Court of Appeals rejected his argument that his attorney didn't properly explain his plea deal.
The court on Wednesday upheld the second-degree murder conviction of 32-year-old Dewayne Craft.
He argued his plea wasn't proper because his attorney led him to believe future legislators would lower mandatory minimum sentences.
The court ruled Craft understood the mandatory minimum rules.
Under those rules, second-degree murder is punishable by up to 50 years in prison, and defendants must serve at least 70 percent of the sentence before being eligible for parole.
Authorities say Craft beat and strangled 26-year-old Shayla Todd in front of their sons in 2007.


Vilsack To Announce Agreement With DuPont-Pioneer

JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Iowa to announce a new agreement with DuPont that the USDA says will promote renewable energy and conservation.
Vilsack will tour a DuPont crop sciences laboratory Friday before announcing an agreement with the company that the Agriculture Department says will "strengthen conservation
practices, while promoting the sustainable production of renewable feedstocks for biobased energy."
DuPont is building a $200 million ethanol plant in Nevada. It's designed to break down cornstalks and other crop residue to produce ethanol.
The cellulosic ethanol plant is scheduled to begin production in 2014 and will be the nation's largest plant of its kind, making 30 million gallons annually.
DuPont is working with 500 farmers to collect more than 375,000 tons of corn waste annually to feed the plant.


Farmland Values Continue To Rise

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A survey report says Iowa farmland prices continued their boom in the past year and have more than doubled since 2008.
The survey by the Realtors Land Institute says prices have risen nearly 18 percent since March 2012, to nearly $8,700 an acre. The institute figure was a little more than $4,200 in 2008.
The March figure of nearly $8,700 compares with the Iowa State University farmland price survey through November that showed an average of nearly $8,300 an acre.
Kyle Hansen, of Hertz Farm Management, says the growth is being fed by high corn and soybean prices and the strong worldwide demand for grains.

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