Thursday News, February 26
Farm Groups Praise Legislature For Gas Tax Hike
(Des Moines) -- Now that the legislature has passed the ten cent per gallon increase in fuel tax, and Governor Branstad has signed the measure into law, consumers will see an immediate increase at the pump, starting Sunday, March 1st. State officials pushed up the start date of the bill to take advantage of additional funding generated between March and July. Several farm organizations are praising the legislature for passing the fuel tax increase. Most notably is the Iowa Farm Bureau. Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Hill.
Others include the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the Iowa Biodiesel Board, and the Iowa Soybean Association. Tom Oswald of Cleghorn serves as the president of the Iowa Soybean Association.
Lawmakers To Hold Legislative Forums
(Des Moines) -- Both State Senator Bill Anderson and State Representative Chuck Soderberg will be visiting Plymouth County communities on Saturday for legislative forums. The lawmakers will begin their day at the Hinton Elementary School at 8:30 a.m. Their next stop will be at the Le Mars Community Education Center to meet with school officials at 9:30 a.m. At 10:30 a.m. Anderson and Soderberg will be at the American Legion Hall in Brunsville for a legislative forum. Their last stop is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. at the Westfield Community Center. The legislative forums are open to the public and constituents are encourged to discuss any issues relating to the Iowa Legislative Session.
Meis And Rand Are Finalists For National Merit Scholarships
(Le Mars) -- Two Le Mars Community High School Seniors have been selected as finalist for the National Merit Scholarship program. Le Mars Community High School principal Mark Iverson says Ellen Meis and Dayton Rand were selected among the 1.5 million entrants. Iverson says, "this is a credit to the hard work these students have put into their studies. It also recognizes the work our teachers have done to prepare these students for post-secondary education." Iverson says Le Mars Community has been fortunate to have National Merit Scholarship finalists for the past couple of years. High school students can take a qualifying test for the program that serves as an initial screening. Meis and Rand will find out within a month if they have been selected as scholarship recipients. Ellen Meis is the daughter of Dave and Linda Meis. She plans to attend Iowa State University and majoring in Engineering. Rand is the son of Robert and Dana Rand. He remains undecided on which college or university he will attend next year, but he is thinking about majoring in Bio-Medical Engineering or Finance.
Plymouth County Pork Producers Schedule Banquet
(Le Mars) – The Plymouth County Pork Producers Association will hold its 2015 banquet on Saturday, March 14, at the Le Mars Municipal Willow Creek Golf Course.
The banquet is open to all pork producers who are members of the Plymouth County Pork Producers and/or the Iowa Pork Producers Association, as well as the general public. The banquet is free to all paid members and the cost is $12.50 a person for non-members and the general public. Tickets can be purchased from any county board member.
The evening’s activities will begin with the popular Pork Appetizer Cookoff Contest and social hour at 6 p.m. Anyone can enter for a chance to win $250 in pork certificates. Each contestant will receive $50 in pork certificates. Participation is limited to the first 15 entries and each contestant must provide appetizers for 200 people. If you are interested in entering the contest, contact Dan Sheehan at (712) 540-2974 or Matt Schnepf at (712) 253-3770.
Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. with smoked pork loin the featured entrée. The banquet program will follow with the crowning of the 2015 County Pork Queen and Little Miss Pigtails ambassadors. Entertainment will be provided by comedian C. Willi Myles!
Promise Health Center Hires Behavorial Health Consultant
(Sioux Center) -- Sioux Center's Promise Health Center has recently hired Mike Inman as their new Behavioral Health Consultant. Inman believes there is a strong connection between a person's mental health and physical health. Thus he believes it's important to bridge the gap between them to bring together. Promise Health Center was awarded a $250,000 grant for mental health treatment and service expansion in November from the Health and Human Services Administration. Inman will be a key cog in the implementation of that grant by working directly with Promise's health providers to increase patient's access to behavioral health services in an effort to better integrate primary care and behavioral health services.
Senate Panel Looks At Increasing Speed Limits To 75 mph
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has approved a bill that could increase the speed limit on some Iowa highways to 75 mph.
Members of a transportation subcommittee approved the bill Wednesday. It now heads to a full committee for consideration.
The bill would allow the state Department of Transportation to increase the speed limit on interstate highways to 75 miles per hour. The current limit is 70. The state's interstate highway speed limit was last increased in 2005, when it was 65 mph.
Senator Chris Brase, a Muscatine Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee, expressed opposition, saying data shows there's a correlation between higher speed limits and more car crashes.
Senator Randy Feenstra, a Hull Republican and bill co-sponsor, says road infrastructure in Iowa allows for higher speeds.
State Official Says Medicaid Program Should Be Privatized
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A top state official says turning over Iowa's Medicaid program to private operators would save money and improve service, but lawmakers are questioning how the change would impact people in the program.
Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer addressed a legislative committee Wednesday. He says the state is moving forward with a plan to shift the Medicaid program to one or more managed care organizations. That means the state would pay outside companies a fixed amount per enrollee to provide health coverage.
About 550,000 people are enrolled in Iowa's Medicaid program, which is funded with $4.2 billion in state and federal dollars.
Democratic Sen. Joe Bolkcom says lawmakers need to closely monitor the change, noting that he'll hear from constituents if there are changes to quality of care.
Bully Bill Advances In Legislature
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation aimed at reducing school bullying in Iowa has advanced in the Legislature, though it remains unclear if it will have enough support to get to Gov. Terry Branstad's desk.
A three-member House education subcommittee gave unanimous approval Wednesday for a version of the bill. It now heads to a full committee for consideration.
On the Senate side, the education committee voted 9 to 6 Wednesday along party lines to approve the bill with some changes. The full Senate can now debate it.
The legislation would add language that supporters say will give educators more clarification on how to respond to bullying cases.
Representative Quentin Stanerson, a Center Point Republican, was on the subcommittee Wednesday. He says he's still figuring out whether the legislation has enough support in the House.
Regents Name Committee To Search For New U of I President
URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Board of Regents has identified 21 members who will serve on the committee tasked with finding the next University of Iowa president.
The regents on Wednesday said those selected for the University of Iowa Presidential Search and Screen Committee have been charged with seeking out candidates to serve as UI's next president for consideration by the board. Current UI President Sally Mason in January announced her plans to retire July 31st.
UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard has been named committee chair. Eight additional UI faculty members were chosen, along with representatives from the regents, the UI Alumni Association, UI Student Government and other organizations.
Robillard says he's looking forward to working with all members as they conduct the search.
Iowa State University Professor Pleads Guilty To False Research Results
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A former Iowa State University researcher who admitted to faking laboratory results while studying a potential HIV vaccine has pleaded guilty in federal court to two counts of making false statements in research reports.
A judge on Wednesday accepted the terms of a plea agreement Dong-Pyou Han signed with prosecutors. He had been charged with four counts of making false statements. He faces up to 10 years in prison and could be ordered to pay restitution to the federal government which has paid grants exceeding $12 million.
A June 2014 indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Des Moines alleges Han, who is 57, spiked tests using rabbit blood with human antibodies to make it look as if rabbits were developing antibodies against HIV.
Sentencing is set for May 29th.