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Monday News, January 13

Anderson And Soderberg Listen To Constituent Issues At Forum

(Le Mars) -- Lawmakers return to Des Moines today for the start of the legislative session.  On Saturday, State Senator Bill Anderson and State Representative Chuck Soderberg held a series of three forums around the county.  In Le Mars, the two lawmakers were asked about a variety of topics ranging from school funding, to a request to allow non-profit organizations, such as Eagles Club, the American Legion, and etc. the opportunity to conduct gaming.  The legislators discussed estate taxes, income taxes, and whether or not a gasoline tax will be introduced in the general session.  The group of nearly 20 people that had gathered at the Habitue Coffeehouse and Bakery to hear the legislators also asked about "red-light" cameras, the Environmental Protection Agency and its recent announcement to lower the RFS gallons of ethanol.  Anderson and Soderberg also addressed the question regarding the state's surplus of budget funding, tort reform, and the condition of the mental health funding for Iowa. 


Soderberg Concerned About Medicaid Funding

(Le Mars) -- During the legislative forum held in Le Mars on Saturday, State Representative Chuck Soderberg spelled out why every Iowan should be concerned about the growth of medicaid.  Soderberg made a comparison between the state's medicaid expenses in Fiscal Year 2000 and what it will be during Fiscal Year 2014.  Soderberg says in FY 2000, Medicaid consisted of $445.2 milion dollars and represented approximately 9.34 percent of the state's general fund budget.  This fiscal year, that figure is estimated at $1.135 billion and represents nearly 17.5 percent of the states general fund budget.  In 2000, just under 200,000 Iowans received Medicaid, or about 6.82 percent of the state's population.  Today, that number has more than doubled to 405,261 Iowans receiving Medicaid and it represents more than 13 percent of the state's population.  The numbers are just as startling with the HAWK-I or low income healthcare for underpriviledged children.  In 2000, 114,151 Iowa children received state assistance for health care, which represented nearly 19 percent of the state's children population.  Today, the number of Iowa children receiving assistance is 324,719 or about 45 percent of the state's children.  Soderberg informed the gathering that between FY2000 and FY2014, Medicaid consumed 40 cents of every new general fund dollar.


School Board To Meet This Evening

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community Board of Education will meet this evening and are expected to discuss the request from the Le Mars Community Education Association.  The teachers association, for the next year's master contract would like to see an increase in the base pay of nearly $3,000 along with an increase of $100 per month in the insurance coverage.  All told, the teachers association is requesting an increase of 7.5 percent in salary and benefits.  The school board will present their initial bargaining position to the teachers association on January 20th at 5:00 p.m.  The school board will discuss its upcoming board and administrator retreat scheduled for January 27th.  The school board is expected to complete the superintendent's evaluation.  Other items on the agenda include a review and possible approval of a rental agreement with Gehlen Catholic school for the use of the football stadium for the next three years, and School Superintendent Dr. Todd Wendt will recommend to the board to consider making a full payment of $680,000 to complete the Dogwood Property exchange within the fiscal year. 


Sioux City To Install Radio Controlled Water Meters

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP)-- Sioux City is nearing a deal with a contractor to install radio transmitters on all residential water meters. 
     The city has already budgeted $1.5 million for the project.
     Sioux City spent $5.9 million in 2002 to install landline water meter readers, but then people started dropping home landlines to rely solely on cellphones. Residents who dropped landlines and don't have radio transmitters on their meters have to submit their water usage to the city each month.
     Sioux City has about 28,000 residential customers. About 1,000 already have radio meter readers.  The city of Le Mars is nearing completion of its installation of radio monitored water meters.


Lawmaker Wants Police To Take Stun Gun Training

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - One state senator wants to make sure Iowa law enforcement officers are getting adequate training on using stun guns.
     Sen. Tom Courtney of Burlington plans to investigate the rules for stun gun use during the legislative session that begins Monday.
     Courtney says he will ask Iowa's public safety commissioner to come answer lawmakers' questions.
     More than 265 Iowa law enforcement agencies currently use stun guns, but they rely on the device's manufacturer to provide instructions on its use. That training doesn't address when it's ethical or appropriate to use a stun gun.
     The Iowa Department of Public Safety is nearing a decision on whether state patrol officers should carry the devices.


New Regulations Causing Problems For Airlines That Serve Small Cities

 NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) - The airlines serving small markets in Nebraska and Iowa have had a hard time finding enough pilots since new rules took effect last year, so numerous flights have been cancelled.
     The cancelled flights create hassles for passengers, and they could make it harder for small airports to qualify for federal subsidies. Airports must serve at least 10,000 passengers a year to qualify for the subsidies.
     U.S. Senator Mike Johanns says he thinks the Senate Commerce Committee should hold a hearing on these unintended consequences of the new pilot-qualification rules.
     The new rules that took effect in August require co-pilots to log 1,500 flight hours and pass the Air Transport Pilot exam before they can work for commercial airlines. Previously, co-pilots were only required to have 250 hours experience.


Law Students May Practice Law Before Passing Bar Exam

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa may allow graduates of the state's two law schools to start practicing law in the state without taking the bar exam.
     The  Iowa State Bar Association is considering the idea to help young lawyers get started quickly without accumulating more debt.
     Typically, graduates of the University of Iowa and Drake University's law schools must wait 4 1/2 months after graduation before learning whether they passed the bar exam. During that time, many student take out more loans for living expenses.
     Drake law school dean Allan Vestal says that time is a waste for most students. 
     The proposal would still require graduated to pass an ethics exam and background check. Graduates would also have to take a class on Iowa laws and court procedure.




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