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Saturday News, February 7

House Passes Spending Measure For Schools

(Le Mars) -- Education bills was the focus of attention for the Iowa General Assembly during this past week.  The House of Representatives passed a spending bill that would allocate $50 million to the Iowa school districts, which represents a 1.25 percent increase over last year's education spending.  Many school officials, however, are saying  the approved amount of educational funding is simply not enough. State Representative Chuck Soderberg says there is no more available money in the state's budget to increase education funding, unless more cuts are made.

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The State Senate wants to allocate up to $200 million, or a four percent increase for education funding.  Soderberg says, if the Senate bill passes, more cuts in other programs will be needed.

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The other issue involving education was what should be the start date for schools?  Soderberg says most of the state's schools have requested, and been granted a waiver for the start date. However, Governor Branstad wants the state to follow the law which says schools can't start school until the week of September 1st.

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Ag Secretary To Visit

(Des Moines)--Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has announced that he will be visiting Sac, Cherokee and O’Brien Counties on Tuesday, February 10.
Northey will speak at a Crop Production Services meeting in Wall Lake and at the Cherokee County Ag Show and then visit the Paullina Locker Plant.


Pipeline Project Gets More Feberal Money

TEA, S.D. (AP) - A pipeline that will deliver Missouri River water to towns and rural water systems in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota has picked up more funding from Washington.
     The Lewis and Clark Regional Water System will receive an extra $6.6 million from Bureau of Reclamation, in addition to the original $2.4 million budgeted for this year.
     Executive director Troy Larson says that $9 million will help the project award another contract.
     He says senators and representatives from the three states helped secure the extra funding.
     Larson says the water system is 65 percent done and is delivering water to 11 of its 20 members.


Vice President Biden To Visit Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Des Moines next week.
     The White House announced Friday that Biden would visit Drake University in Des Moines on Thursday. Biden will give remarks about President Barack Obama's economic policies.
     Biden will also take part in a discussion at Des Moines Area Community College about attending college and preparing people for the workforce. 
     Biden is considered a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2016. He has said he will make a decision about running later in the spring or summer but has done little to set up a campaign.


Clean-Up Efforts Underway After Train Derailment


DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials say they're trying to decide the best way to remove ethanol that leaked into the Mississippi River and pooled around the area where several train cars derailed. 
     The Telegraph Herald reports about a half-acre of fuel froze at the site as of Friday, with more covering about an acre of ice on the Mississippi. Fourteen of the cars that derailed Wednesday morning contained ethanol, and eight appeared to be leaking.
     DNR spokesman Kevin Baskins says one ethanol removal option is to use a steam hose to collect and pump it into a storage tank. He says this won't be possible if the ice can't support the necessary equipment.
     Baskins says the ice also limits efforts to evaluate the effect on aquatic life.

Invwstigation Underway Into Affects Of Data Breach    

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state insurance official says officials continue to investigate the number of Iowans affected by a data breach at health insurer Anthem Inc. 
     Iowa Assistant Insurance Commissioner Tom O'Meara says Friday the company discovered a cyberattack into a database containing the personal information for 80 million people. The health insurance provider says hackers gained access to names, birthdates, email addresses, Social Security numbers and other information of people who are currently covered or previously had coverage. 
     O'Meara says the number of Iowans whose information has been compromised is unknown but that Anthem has two companies doing business in Iowa, one of which provides policies for more than 1 million people. 
     Anthem is notifying each person affected by the breach. O'Meara says instances of identity theft haven't yet been reported. 


Inmate Accussed In Death Of Other Inmate

 CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say an Iowa man imprisoned for killing two store clerks has been accused of trying to kill another inmate. 
     According to the Globe Gazette, a criminal complaint states that 21-year-old Michael Richard Swanson slashed a fellow inmate in the neck at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville on Nov. 13. The victim required stiches for 15 cuts. 
      Swanson is charged with felony attempted murder. 
      Swanson was convicted of killing 47-year-old Vicky Bowman-Hall while she worked at a convenience store in Algona in 2010. He was convicted of killing 61-year-old Sheila Myers on the same night while she worked at a convenience store in Humboldt. Swanson was 17 at the time.
      He was serving two life terms, but his sentence was commuted by Gov. Terry Branstad, which allows him to seek parole after 60 years.


Friday Afternoon News, February 6

Soderberg Says Budget Still Main Priority For Legislators

(Le Mars) -- The state legislature has been at work for a month, and according to State Representative Chuck Soderberg of Le Mars several bills are moving their way from the sub-committee level to full committee, and to the House floor for debate.  Soderberg says the budget still is the priority for the state lawmakers.

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Medicaid funding is also creating some headaches for the legislators.

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The Le Mars legislator says education was given considerable attention, both with the school funding, as well as with the school start date.

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Soderberg believes the House will allow local school districts the option as to when should be the start date for the school academic year.


Sioux City Man Convicted Of Murder Of South Sioux City Woman

    DAKOTA CITY, Neb. (AP) - A 23-year-old Iowa man has been given life in prison for killing a northeast Nebraska woman.
     Raymond Gonzales Jr. had been convicted of first-degree murder and a weapons crime. He was sentenced on Thursday in Dakota County District Court.
     Police say Gonzales shot 28-year-old Bonnie Baker 16 times in her South Sioux City home on Dec. 15, 2013. His attorney, Todd Lancaster, of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, says he will appeal the verdict. 
     Lancaster had argued during the trial that police focused only on evidence that pointed toward Gonzales.


Sioux City Looking At Apps For Parking Meters

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - People might be able to plug Sioux City parking meters with their smartphones instead of coins by summertime.
     Assistant City Manager Mike Collett told the City Council on Thursday that he hopes the system will be installed by June 30. He says the system will pay for itself through credit and debit card fees to use the app.
     Collett says that, ideally, the user would receive a text alert when the meter was near expiration.
     The city is waiting for proposals from software companies.


Farmers Continue To Sign Up For Lawsuit Against Syngenta

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Farmers and farm businesses in 20 states have filed more than 360 lawsuits against agricultural chemicals-maker Syngenta, and hundreds more may be coming as a federal judge in Kansas City coordinates the cases so they can proceed.
     The dispute centers around Syngenta's Agrisure Viptera, a corn seed genetically modified to contain a protein that kills corn-eating bugs. China hadn't approved it for import, and boycotted U.S. corn once Viptera was detected in its grain shipments in 2013.
     Farmers who did not plant the seed, grain handlers and exporters claim the boycott cost them money.
     Syngenta says it plans to seek dismissal because there's no legal authority barring the introduction of a U.S. government-approved product simply because it wasn't approved for sale in a foreign country. 
     China approved Viptera in December.


Supreme Court Throws Out Kidnapping Conviction

 IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court is dismissing the first-degree kidnapping conviction of a man who sexually assaulted a woman in his Dubuque apartment.
     The court ruled Friday that the crime committed by Scott Robinson didn't meet the elements of kidnapping.
     The ruling is a victory for the 37-year-old Robinson, who'd been serving life without the possibility for parole in the 2011 assault.
     The court says prosecutors now have two options. They can try Robinson for second-degree sexual abuse, which would carry a maximum sentence of 25 years.
     Or they can ask a judge to sentence Robinson for third-degree sexual abuse, which carries up to 10 years. The jury's verdict means he's guilty of that charge.
     Prosecutors say Robinson locked the woman in his apartment against her will, and sexually assaulted her.


Man Uses Gaming App For Nude Photos Of Minor Girls

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Police say a Des Moines man used a gaming app to persuade a 12-year-old girl into sending nude photos of herself.
     47-year-old Luther Gerald St. Clair has been arrested and charged with enticing away a child.
     Officers say the child's mother found multiple texts from him on her daughter's cellphone. They say St. Clair and the girl met through a random game on the app Words With Friends. St. Clair asked the girl for her number and the two began texting.
     The girl told police she met St. Clair only once while taking her dog for a walk, and that they made no physical contact.
     St. Clair is being held in jail on a $10,000 bond.





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