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Friday News, March 8

Soderberg and Anderson Hold Legislative Forums

(Le Mars) -- State Representative Chuck Soderberg and State Senator Bill Anderson, both republicans, will conduct legislative forums scheduled for Saturday. The two lawmakers will meet with the public to discuss legislative issues.  Their legislative forum will start at the Hinton Community Center at 9:00 a.m.  Next, will be a stop at Le Mars at the Habitue Coffeehouse and Creperie scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and a final stop will occur at the Akron Public Library at 12:00 noon.  The public is welcomed and encouraged to attend the legislative forums.


King Says President Obama is Posturing On Sequestration Budget Cuts

(Washington) -- Republican Iowa Congressman Steve King believes the Obama Administration is posturing when it comes to the sequestration of federal budget cuts.  King spoke with KLEM news and says the budget cuts represent only a three-percent cut.  He blames the president and the administration for not acknowledging that the government is spending too much, and for not looking at ways to reduce some unnecessary spending, and instead has chosen to make it a political issue.
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King says an example, is how Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack responded to questions by Congressional members when he appeared before the House Ag Committee this week.
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King says the Obama Administration had options before them, but chose to ignore those options.
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State Supreme Court To Visit Students In NW Iowa

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Members of the Iowa Supreme Court will meet with students with stops at five high schools and a college in the Sioux City area.
The justices will split up for visits Wednesday at Sioux City North, Sioux City West, Maple Valley in Mapleton, Westwood in Sloan, OABCIG High in Ida Grove and Morningside College in Sioux
They will talk with students about the role of the courts.
The Judicial Branch says the justices also will hold a special session at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Morningside's Epply Auditorium, where they will hear arguments in two cases.


Northwestern College Places High In National Rankings

(Orange City) -- Northwestern College of Orange City continues to place high in national rankings acknowledging the college's reputation.  This time around, Northwestern placed 21st of 191 nation-wide colleges in the Faith On View Christian College rankings.  The rankings are based on reputation, student success and satisfaction, faculty resources, and student selectivity of colleges that seek to be Christ-centered.
Northwestern was also ranked by Faith on View as eighth among 46 Midwestern colleges and tied for eighth among 78 small colleges with enrollment between 750 and 1,999. Other institutions in the rankings include Dordt College of Sioux Center which tied for 36th nationally and 11th in the Midwest.  The Faith On View Christian College ranking follows a seventh-place ranking among Midwestern colleges by U.S. News & World Report; a ranking as the nation’s sixth-best baccalaureate college by Washington Monthly; a ranking as Iowa’s fifth-best college by; and a fifth-place rating on the CBS MoneyWatch list of the colleges with the best professors.


Iowa Universities Falling Short On Graduation Goals

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new report says Iowa's three public universities are still missing target rates for graduation in four years.
Fewer than half of the students at the three schools finish in four years, although the rates have been rising in recent years.
The annual report for the Iowa Board of Regents says Iowa's universities have graduation rates above the national average.
Iowa State University has a 39.5 percent rate, nearly 2 points shy of its goal. The University of Northern Iowa, at 37.8 percent, is less than a point away from its goal of 38.4 percent.
The University of Iowa's current rate is just short of its goal of 48.3 percent.
The regents want each university to achieve its goal by 2016.


Senate Education Committee Approves Education Reform Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel approved a beefed-up version of the governor's education reform plan that requires increased teacher pay and institutes leadership programs.
The Senate Education Committee approved the measure Thursday by a 9 to 6 vote, with all Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.
Bill sponsor Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames says the Senate's version would cost $190 million. That's more expensive than Republican Governor Terry Branstad's plan.
The measure increases minimum teacher salaries to $35,000 and offers options to school districts for leadership programs.
The Senate plan includes a 4 percent funding increase to school districts in coming two fiscal years.
Republicans opposed the bill, saying it removes experienced teachers from the classroom to mentor other educators.
The House has approved a bill limiting raises and making reforms voluntary.

Arbitrator Rules In Favor of AFSCME Union

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad says a new two-year contract for state workers marks the first time since collective bargaining began in Iowa that no overall pay increases
were awarded.
The contract for 20,000 members of Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was announced Thursday. Under the deal, workers won't have to pay
toward health care premiums.
The contract was reached through neutral arbitration after the two sides could not resolve their differences on health care through negotiation. The union wanted to maintain current terms,
while Branstad had wanted employees to pay 20 percent of health care costs.
Still, Branstad said this contract is less expensive than a deal with raises. The contract will add $107 million to the state's costs over two years.


Union Doesn't Have To Pay Health Care Insurance

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Workers in Iowa's largest public sector union won't have to pay a contribution to their health insurance under a new two-year contract issued by an arbitrator.
The award for the 20,000 members of Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was announced Thursday. The contract includes no raises, except for
step increases for workers who haven't reached top pay scale.
Union President Danny Homan says the union and Governor Terry Branstad agreed on wages during negotiations, but the process went to arbitration because the two sides couldn't resolve health care.
Branstad called for union members to start paying a portion of health care costs, while the union sought to maintain current benefits.
In a statement, Branstad says he's disappointed by the health care decision.

Bills Failed To Get Through Committees Will Die On Friday

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Some of the hundreds of bills introduced in the Legislature will die this week as lawmakers run up against a self-imposed deadline.
Most high-profile measures dealing with issues like property tax changes and education reform are moving through the process, but others dealing with gay marriage, abortion and gun control won't
survive the Friday deadline.
Under the Legislature's rules, bills die if they haven't been approved by a committee by Friday, though they can be eligible in the session next year. Lawmakers won't return to work until Monday.
The Legislative Services Agency says 478 bills were introduced in the House this year and 354 in the Senate. Last year, 640 House and 478 Senate bills were introduced.


State Casinos Spend More Than $1 Billion

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new state report says expenditures by Iowa's 18 state-regulated casinos hit $1.14 billion last year. It was the first year since 2008 that the casinos spent more than $1
The 14 percent growth over 2011 came in large part from the 2011 opening of a casino in northwest Iowa and improvements at other casinos.
Industry leaders also say the increased spending and revenue show the industry has stabilized after three years of lower returns.
The report says the 18 casinos last year spent about $286 million on payroll and benefits; $363 million on equipment, supplies, and services; $405 million on federal, state and local
taxes; and $87 million on charitable donations and other nonprofit contributions.


Des Moines Wastewater Reaches Stream

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state Department of Natural Resources says about 7,200 gallons of untreated wastewater flowed from a sewer in southeast Des Moines and into a small stream.
The city of Des Moines reported the spill Thursday afternoon, and a crew stopped the problem by removing a blockage from the sewer line.
The estimated 7,200 gallons flowed from a manhole into an unnamed stream that flows into the Des Moines River.
The DNR says people should keep children and pets away from the area until at least Friday afternoon.
State officials say they will monitor the area Friday.





Thursday Afternoon News, March 7

Plymouth and Sioux County Authorities Make Drug Arrests

(Le Mars) -- The Plymouth County Sheriff's Department arrested two men from Sioux City on Tuesday evening on drug charges.  A traffic stop at the intersection of County Road C-80 and Frelon Road resulted in the arrest of 20 year old Brandon Hieb and 21 year old Cody Baker. 
Hieb was charged with operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance, and Baker was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of
drug paraphernalia.  Both were transported to the Plymouth County jail.

(Orange City) -- Sioux County authorities executed two separate search warrants resulting in
the arrest of five people.  A search warrant was issued on Tuesday at 905 Highway 10 west, Lot B in Orange City resulting in the arrest of 27 year old David Miedema and 24 year old Alyssa McConnel also of Orange City.  Both were charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.  Miedema was also cited with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, child endangerment.  The 15 month old child present was not injured.  Meanwhile, on Wednesday a second search warrant was executed, this time at 3962 Garfield Avenue, two miles west of Sioux Center.  Upon further investigation, it was determined that the occupants were growing marijuana at the residence.  26 year old Mark Pruismann and 26 year
old Justin DeBondt both of Sioux Center, and 36 year old Melissa Berg of Roberts, Wisconsin were all charged with manufacturing marijuana, child endangerment, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.  The nine year old child present was not injured.

Floyd Valley Hospital Ask City For Expansion Project Funding

(Le Mars) -- Floyd Valley Hospital's expansion project was given a bit of a boost on Tuesday when the Le Mars City Council approved to commit up to one million dollars from the Local Options Sales Tax to the hospital.  Hospital Administrator, Mike Donlin appeared before the city council on Tuesday asking in fact for financing from the city to help with the expansion project.  Hospital officials say they were seeking at least three million dollars, but the city has only the one million available to allocate at this time.  Donlin appeared before the city council in January, and at that time, the city instructed its finance committee to meet with the hospital's finance committee to determine where extra funds could be raised.

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The city council said they would approve the other two million dollars that is being requested by the local hospital on the condition voters approve the renewal of the Local Options Sales Tax.  Donlin says a precedent has been established with voters approving construction projects with the local options sales tax when it approved the construction of the Plymouth County Law Enforcement Center.

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A major portion of financing the hospital's plan for expansion depends upon whether the U-S Department of Agriculture's Rural Development agency extends a low-interest loan to the hospital for nearly $16 million dollars.  Donlin is confident the loan will be approved for the hospital.

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The hospital administrator says there is no set deadline, but he did say he hopes actions can take place as soon as possible as to show the USDA the community support for the proposed project.  Donlin anticipates if all goes as planned, and financial commitments and pledges are received, ground breaking may occur next winter or spring.


Regulators Don't Renew Gaming License For Argosy Casino

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa regulators haven't renewed the gambling license for the floating Argosy casino in Sioux City.
But the cards still will be shuffled and dealt and bets will be made, because the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission intends to keep the Argosy operating.
The Sioux City Journal reports ( that the commission gave routine license renewals to the rest of the state-regulated casinos on Thursday.
But the Argosy's wasn't because its operator, Penn National Gaming Co., and its local nonprofit sponsor, Missouri River Historical Development, no longer have an operating agreement.
Commission chairman Jeff Lamberti says the plan is to keep the Argosy operating and its more than 300 employees working until its land-based replacement opens.

State's Budget May Be Reduced By $46 Million Due To Federal Budget Cuts

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Department of Management Director David Roederer says Iowa's state budget will be reduced by $46 million due to automatic federal budget cuts.
Roederer says education, public health and workforce development will be the hardest hit areas. More than 235 budgeted positions could be impacted, though he didn't say how many of those jobs were filled or how many could face layoffs or furloughs.
Roederer said at the Thursday press conference at the state Capitol that the state's National Guard funding will be cut. But it is largely funded by the federal government and doesn't come under
the state budget.
The total state and federal budget for Iowa is about $12 billion.
The White House and Congress last week failed to meet a deadline to prevent $85 billion in budget cuts.


Airports May Lose Overnight Traffic Controllers

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Airport control towers in Des Moines and Omaha could go dark during overnight hours if the federal government follows through with a plan to eliminate midnight air
traffic controller shifts. It's because of the government's automatic spending cuts.
Executives at Des Moines and Omaha airports expect no disruption since commercial flight schedules end before midnight. Planes could still land and takeoff without controllers since all pilots are trained to use electronic Instrument Landing System equipment.
The FAA says it may eliminate overnight shifts at 72 airports beginning early April including Eppley Airfield in Omaha and Des Moines International.
Control towers at 238 smaller airports including Waterloo, Dubuque, and Sioux City in Iowa and Grand Island, Neb., could be completely closed.
The FAA is expected to decide by next week.







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