Friday News, February 20
Legislature Rushing Bills Through Committees To Beat Funnel Deadline
(Des Moines) -- Discussion of legislative bills this week at the state capital has primarily been at the committee and sub-committee levels, according to State Representative Chuck Soderberg of Le Mars. He says legislators are pushing introduced bills through the committee before the first funnel deadline.
Soderberg chairs the appropriations committee, and he is still trying to find ways to cut the Governor's budget.
Attention has been focused on the proposed 10 cent per gallon raise in the fuel tax to go to repair roads and bridges. Soderberg expects the bill will find its way to the House and Senate floors sometime next week. He says he has some concerns with how the bill is being presented.
The Le Mars Republican says if the bill passes in its current form, it would be implemented immediately.
Soderberg says many people may not realize the bill would implement a 10 cent per gallon increase all at once, without a phase-in program.
Bike Central To Offer "Do Not Freeze" Bike Runs
(Le Mars) -- This coming Saturday, Bike Central of Le Mars is hosting its annual DNF bicycle ride. DNF stands for Do Not Freeze. Mark Strub says participants have two choices, they can ride on the gravel, or take a destination ride on paved roads. Either way he suggests participants dress accordingly.
Strub reminds people both bicycle runs are designed to be destination runs, and not races. Bicyclists also have the option to ride on paved roads for a 25 mile course.
Strub says besides the cold and windy weather conditions, there are other challenges to riding a bicycle during the winter months.
Last year, the Do Not Freeze Bicycle ride attracted nearly 40 people and Strub believes this year's ride will have the same, or perhaps more participants. Strub says the vast majority of the participants are local residents, however, he says there are some coming from Omaha to ride in this year's DNF. Strub encourages people to pre-register. The rides will begin at 9:00 a.m. from the Bike Central shop but he says Bike Central will provide some refreshments to the participants beginning at 8:00 a.m.
Estherville Man Found Guilty Of Killing Woman
ESTHERVILLE, Iowa (AP) - A jury has found an Estherville man guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a 30-year-old woman.
An Emmet County jury has convicted Scott Sudbeck in the killing of Michaela Jordan last February at her Estherville home.
Sudbeck testified this week that he went against his no contact order by visiting Jordan. He says that his gun went off as he was turning to leave and didn't notice Jordan had been shot.
His defense team said that while Sudbeck did shoot Jordan, it wasn't intentional. Sudbeck's sentence hearing has been scheduled in April.
Estherville is in northwest Iowa, about 25 miles northeast of Spencer.
Fine Arts May Be Included As Part Of Iowa Core
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A House panel has approved a bill that would add fine arts to Iowa's mandated education curriculum for K-12 students.
An education subcommittee approved the bill Thursday. It now advances to a full committee for review.
The bill would add music, theater, visual art and other fine arts to the Iowa Core, the state's academic standards. The Iowa Core currently includes English, mathematics, science and social studies.
Emily Piper, of the Iowa Association of School Boards, says it's better for school districts to infuse fine arts education into the current curriculum without a state mandate. Rep. Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia and co-sponsor of the bill, says the addition would help prioritize fine arts education.
Similar legislation was introduced last session but it did not advance.
Fuel Tax Bill Being Considered In Both Legislative Chambers
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen made some key changes to a House committee to help ensure there were enough votes to pass a bill raising the state fuel tax.
Paulsen said Thursday he had replaced one member of the ways and means committee, bringing in a lawmaker who supports the bill instead of a member who opposed it. Paulsen also planned to temporarily replace another committee member so that he himself could cast a yes vote.
Paulsen said he needed to make sure that "bills the body wants to debate can get to the floor." The bill passed the House committee in a 13-12 vote Thursday.
The Senate ways and means committee also approved the bill Thursday afternoon.
House Bill Would Protect Abuse Victims From Having Address Published
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A House panel has approved a bill that would help Iowa abuse victims keep their home address confidential.
Members of a public safety subcommittee approved the bill Thursday. It now moves to a full committee for consideration.
The bill would allow a victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and other scenarios to enroll in a program through the secretary of state's office that would allow mail for a victim to be forwarded to a designated address.
Supporters say the bill would protect victims from offenders using public records.
Subcommittee members expressed concern about the program's $100 fee to individuals in Iowa who are convicted of charges including domestic abuse. Rep. Dean Fisher, a Garwin Republican and a bill co-sponsor, says he's open to changes in the legislation.
Senate Considers Bill To Stop Cell Phone Use While Driving
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has approved a bill that would ban people in Iowa from holding a cellphone and talking while driving.
A transportation subcommittee discussed the bill Thursday. It now moves to a full committee for consideration.
Current law prohibits people in Iowa from reading, writing and sending messages on an electronic device while driving, though an officer must be stopping a person for a different offense in order to enforce it. This bill would ban a person from holding a cellphone and talking while driving.
The bill would also remove the circumstances for stopping a person. The bill exempts a person using a GPS or a device in a hands-free or voice-activated mode.
The Department of Public Safety is sponsoring the bill, and it has Governor Terry Branstad's support.
West Des Moines To Construct Aquifer Storage Facility
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - West Des Moines plans to provide about $3.5 million to build an aquifer storage facility that Des Moines Water Works says will add 3 million gallons of water capacity on peak usage days.
Des Moines Water Works will own and operate the facility, which will also be used to cool Microsoft's new data center.
The aquifer will pump treated water during the colder months into a half-mile well that is drilled underground. It will be used as storage for 300 million gallons of water that can be drawn out during the summer when water use spikes.
The well will also feed the Jordan aquifer rather than draw on it. Iowa and other states have been concerned about overdrawing the Jordan stock.
Funds for the project will be sourced from a local tax increment financing incentive package.
USDA Reports Iowa Continues To Lose Farms
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in a new report that the number of farms in Iowa continues to slide.
In an annual report released Thursday the USDA says Iowa farms fell to 88,000 last year, 500 fewer than the year before. Most of the decrease came in the small farm category, those with annual sales between $1,000 and $10,000.
The number of Iowa farms has fallen 1.2 percent since 2010, while the average farm size is up 1.2 percent in the same period, a reflection of national trends.
The average farm in Iowa is 347 acres, up one acre from the year before.
Iowa had 30.5 million acres in farms last year, down 100,000 acres from the year before.