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Wednesday Afternoon News, March 20

Senate Wants Schools To Test For Radon Gas

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Senate has approved legislation that would require schools to test for radon.
Lawmakers approved the measure 37-13 Wednesday with bipartisan support. It now heads to the House.
The bill would require public and private schools to test for the gas and install a system to expel it from buildings. It also would require residential construction companies to install pipes to mitigate the colorless and odorless gas in new homes built after Jan. 1, 2015.
The EPA says Iowa's 99 counties are in the agency's highest risk zone for gas exposure, which leaks through cracks in building foundations. The EPA says it is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.


Senate Approves Tax Breaks For Low Income

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Senate has approved a measure that would give a larger income tax break to low-income residents.
Lawmakers passed the measure 35-15 Wednesday. Iowa households that make under $45,000 a year would get about a $250 tax break because they could keep a higher refund from their federal income tax.
Democrat Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, the bill sponsor, says this is one of the best ways to reduce poverty in the state. He says the bill would help 210,000 families in Iowa.
Republican Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull says the proposed credit is too high and unrealistic. He proposed an amendment to offer a smaller tax break to more taxpayers, but it failed to garner enough
The measure now heads to the House.

Iowa DOT To Establish Rules For Traffic Cameras

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Department of Transportation is preparing rules for where traffic cameras may be installed along interstates and highways in the state.
The department decided to move ahead after a measure that would have required cities and counties to get department permits before installing new traffic cameras died for this legislative session.
Department Director Paul Trombino says the rules would help as more cities consider using the cameras. The guidelines would require that cities provide data showing that cameras are the best
tool to improve safety on the highways.
The department will hold community meetings to get reactions from Iowa drivers. It also will consider legislation as part of the process.


Investigators Examine Sex Video

KNOXVILLE, Iowa (AP) - Authorities in southern Iowa are investigating the online distribution of a video showing a sex act between a 19-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl.
The Knoxville Police Department says Jake Smith engaged in a sex act with the girl in February, and several males between 18 and 19 years old were in the room at the time.
Lt. Aaron Fuller says one male is suspected of recording the act via a webcam, and several high school students have circulated it through email. Police say the girl didn't know she was being
Authorities want to recover all copies to stop circulation.
Smith faces felony charges of sex abuse and exploitation of a minor. His attorney declined to comment Wednesday.
Fuller says additional charges are possible against Smith and others.


Belle Plaine Council To Decide On Chickens In City

BELLE PLAINE, Iowa (AP) - The Belle Plaine City Council has been asked about letting people raise some chickens inside the east-central Iowa city.
The council discussed the idea at a work session Monday. A resident had proposed a change in the 1977 ordinance that banned the birds.
City Administrator Bill Daily says the city is researching what prompted that ban as officials consider whether to change it now.
Backyard chickens have become an issue in Iowa as homegrown and organic food becomes more popular. Cedar Rapids has allowed small flocks inside city limits since 2010, and Iowa City recently
approved urban chickens.
The council took no official action on the issue Monday. Daily says the issue likely will come up again at the council's work session on April 15.  The Le Mars City Council had a similar issue come before them in recent weeks.  The Le Mars City Council voted down a request by an individual to raise chickens within the city limits.



Wednesday News, March 20

Hinton Fire Department Responds To Fire Along Railroad Tracks

(Hinton) -- The Hinton Fire Department was called to battle a blaze along the railroad tracks on Tuesday afternoon.  The alarm came in at about 2:30 p.m. and the fire stretched from just north of Hinton to near James located near the Plymouth County - Woodbury County border.  It is believed a train may have somehow ignited the fires, possibly due to faulty wheels on a rail car.  Fire officials were on the scene for a total of nearly two hours, but were called back to the scene a second time.


Floyd Valley Hospital Listed As Top 100 Rural Hospitals

(Le Mars, IA) Floyd Valley Hospital was named a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital by iVantage Health Analytics as determined by the company’s Hospital Strength Index™.  The Hospital Strength Index is a comprehensive scorecard that evaluates the market conditions, clinical and operational performance, and financial and qualitative outcomes.  The Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals are the nation’s best rural safety-net institutions.  Floyd Valley Hospital was one of nine Iowa hospitals to be recognized from 1,267 Critical Access Hospitals nationwide.


Chamber Ag Committee To Host Agri Luncheon

(Le Mars) -- Today marks the start of spring.  This week is also the time the nation pays tribute to America's Agriculture.  For 19 years, the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce Agri Committee has recognized local agriculture by hosting a luncheon.  This year's luncheon to be held at the Le Mars Convention Center is slated for tomorrow (Thursday) starting with a chamber coffee at 9:30 a.m. sponsored by the Plymouth county Farm Bureau organization.  The key-note speaker for Thursday's event is Aaron Putze of the Iowa Soybean Association.  Putze has had a long career associated with various agricultural organizations including the Coalition To Support Iowa Farmers and the Iowa Farm Bureau.  Putze says too many times the general public takes agriculture for granted and those people involved in agriculture need to tell its story.
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Putze says agriculture is a story worth telling, although he admits it may be a slow process before people have a better understanding of agriculture.
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The Soybean Association representative says those in agriculture should utilize the opportunity, not just during National Agriculture Week, but every week, to engage in conversations about the importance of agriculture and how it delivers food, fiber, and fuel to the consuming public everyday.
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Tickets sell for $10 and can be purchased from the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce offices.


Senate Ed Committee Questions Regents Nominee

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa Senate panel has grilled a Board of Regents nominee about his views on social issues like stem cell research, gay rights and academic freedom.
Lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee interviewed Tuesday Robert Cramer, a businessman from Grimes. Cramer is one of two nominees selected by Gov. Terry Branstad to replace retiring members.
Some committee members say Cramer's conservative views on social issues could compromise the academic values of the public universities and schools that the board oversees.
Candidate Subhash Sahai, a physician from Webster City, also appeared before the panel.
The 15-member committee will decide Wednesday which of the nominees to move to the full Senate for a vote. Two-thirds of the
Senate must approve.


Senate Approves Bill To Allow Iowa Businesses Preference

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Senate has approved legislation that would give preference to Iowa businesses when the state is purchasing certain supplies and services.
Lawmakers passed the measure 34-16 Tuesday with bipartisan support. It would give Iowa-based businesses a second chance to match the lowest bid by an out-of-state business for goods and
services that cost the state under $500,000.
Bill sponsor Sen. Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Des Moines, says the measure levels the playing field.
Iowa law already says state departments must give preference to Iowa businesses during a competitive bidding process. But Mathis says her bill is more precise and fair.
Data from the state Department of Administrative Services shows almost half of Iowa's last 100 purchases were from out-of-state businesses.
The measure now heads to the House.


Branstad's Property Tax Bill Passes House Committee

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad's plan to cut commercial property taxes in Iowa has won committee approval in the Republican-controlled House, but the bill faces an uncertain future
as the Democratic-majority Senate favors an alternate proposal.
The House Ways and Means committee approved Branstad's plan Tuesday. The bill would gradually reduce taxable assessments for commercial property owners by 20 percent. House Republicans amended the plan to include a provision that the state would gradually start paying a larger portion of general school funding.
Senate Democrats have given committee-level approval to a plan that would gradually provide commercial property owners with a tax credit equivalent to a roughly 40 percent tax cut to their first
$324,000 in assessed property value.
The bill will now go to the full House for a vote.

Altoona Man Sentenced To Four Years For Mortgage Fraud Scheme

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A 38-year-old Altoona man has been given four years in prison for his role in a fraudulent mortgage scheme.
Lane Anderson also most serve five years of supervised release after he leaves prison. He was sentenced on Monday.
Federal prosecutors say Anderson and two co-defendants submitted fraudulent documents to obtain mortgages on 13 properties they had acquired and renovated. Prosecutors say a third co-defendant, Paul Kramer, knew the transactions were fraudulent when he closed them
at his closing company.
The scheme collapsed when the mortgage payments lagged and lenders foreclosed. The lenders lost more than $600,000.
Prosecutors say co-defendants Dave Mable and Shannon Flickinger already have been sentenced. Co-defendant Kramer is scheduled to be sentenced on April 12.






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