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Monday Afternoon News, April 7

Donated Trees

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - A group of University of Northern Iowa students is helping bring thousands of free saplings to Cedar Falls to help the city replace trees lost to disease or flooding.
     UNI Hardwoods recently transported 6,500 oak tree saplings from a nursery in East Moline, Ill.  More than 100 student volunteers will plant some of them on April 12 at a new nursery in the North Cedar neighborhood.
     The saplings will replace trees infected by the emerald ash borer or destroyed by historic flooding in 2008. City officials say funding for tree removals and replacements has dwindled.
     The saplings will mature for several years before they're either moved or kept in place to reforest the area.


Lawmaker Returns Home Before Session Adjourns

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A southwest Iowa lawmaker has stopped participating in the legislative session, saying he's too busy working on his farm.
     Sen. Hubert Houser hasn't cast a vote on the Senate floor since March 4.
     Houser, a Republican who has served 22 years in the House and Senate, says he asked GOP leaders for a light load this session, which will be his last. They obliged, and Houser says he now doesn't have much to do at the Legislature, other than vote on bills making it to the Senate floor.
     Because Democrats are in the majority, Houser says his vote makes little difference.
     Houser says he's busy on his farm, where his family is building new livestock facilities.
     Houser says he's "more than ready to move on."


Branstad Stands Behind IDAS Director

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad is standing firm in support of the director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, who says no money was offered to former workers for silence about their dismissals.
     Branstad, at his weekly news conference Monday, says he believes Mike Carroll when he says no money was offered to keep settlement agreements confidential.
     At least two state workers have testified they were offered additional cash to remain silent about their dismissals in 2011. Carroll told a joint legislative Government Oversight Committee last week that no money was offered.
     Branstad says he believes Carroll that no state agencies offered money for silence. He says the workers are disgruntled former state employees.
     Branstad in an executive order signed last month prohibited future confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements.


Inmate Gets Work Release Parole After 30 Years In Prison

 IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa inmate who has spent most of his life in prison for playing a minor role in a 1984 slaying has been granted work-release privileges.
     Todd Hoffer has left the minimum-security prison in Rockwell City and transferred to a halfway house in West Union in northeastern Iowa.
     The Iowa Board of Parole ordered work-release for the 53-year-old Hoffer after interviewing him last month. If he's successful in that facility, he could be released on parole.
     Hoffer was one of three men convicted in the 1984 killing of Juanita Weaver, who was shot during a Des Moines home invasion. 
     Gov. Tom Vilsack commuted Hoffer's life sentence in 2007, noting that Hoffer wasn't the shooter and never intended for Weaver's death. Even the man who prosecuted Hoffer supported his clemency application.




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