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Friday Afternoon News, April 10

Governor Branstad Signs School Start Date Bill

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad has signed a bill that says Iowa schools can start the academic year no earlier than Aug. 23.

Branstad signed the legislation into law Friday. The bill represented a middle ground between those seeking to give school districts total control over their calendars and others - including Branstad - who argued that early start dates hurt tourism.

Under the legislation, schools could start no sooner than Aug. 23, though some school districts with year-round calendars would be exempt from the new rules. The bill excludes high schools from seeking such exemptions.

The state announced plans late last year to stop issuing automatic waivers to allow districts to bypass the previous start date rules.





Supreme Court Says Tax On Ethanol Plants Is Constitutional

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Rejecting a challenge from the ethanol industry, the Iowa Supreme Court says the state's tax on the use of natural gas is constitutional.

Several ethanol plants argue the law is unfair because it requires them to pay higher taxes than many competitors for natural gas, which is heavily used in the manufacturing process.

The affected plants are those that obtain natural gas directly from interstate pipelines rather than local utilities. They are assessed the tax based on the amount they use and their geographic location.

Little Sioux Corn Processors, which operates an ethanol plant in Marcus, argued the tax was unconstitutional because it treats similar plants differently and punishes consumers who buy gas from out-of-state suppliers.

The court says the tax may not create uniform results, but it is constitutional.





Sioux City Man Acquitted For Indecent Contact

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A Sioux City man accused of fondling an 8-year-old girl has been acquitted.

A judge returned a verdict Thursday finding 45-year-old David Winne not guilty of indecent contact with a child. The verdict stems from a non-jury trial conducted on March 17.

Court documents say Winne was accused of touching the girl over her clothes in October and asking her to touch herself.

The judge presiding over the case ruled that evidence presented during the trial was insufficient to prove the contact occurred with the intent to "arouse or satisfy the sexual desires" of Winne. In turn, the judge says the contact could have been accidental.

An attorney for Winne could not be reached for comment on his behalf.





More Food Safety Inspectors Needed

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - Some county officials are seeking more funding for food safety inspections at Iowa restaurants as financial constraints have restricted the frequency of reviews across the state.

Local health officials continue to pressure state lawmakers to increase the budget appropriation for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals food safety program. Legislation failed to gain traction in both the House and the Senate this year.

Sandy Heinen, a Black Hawk County environmental health officer, says stagnant funding has meant fewer inspections of restaurants and grocery stores, most of which are now reviewed every couple years as compared to twice a year in the past.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, a Waterloo Democrat, says school funding and other fiscal measures continue to take priority at the Capitol.




Attorney Suspended

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court has suspended the law license of a Des Moines attorney who worked on former gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch's campaign.

The high court issued an order Friday suspending John Hedgecoth's license to practice law. The ruling states the license could be reinstated after three months.

The court says Hedgecoth violated several rules of professional conduct while representing three clients in 2012 and 2013. Among the chief issues was his failure to respond properly to legal requests and deadlines.

Court documents show Hedgecoth, who worked for Hatch as he built his 2014 campaign, told a grievance commission his neglectful conduct resulted from administrative "missteps" in his part-time law practice while he simultaneously worked as a political operative.

Hatch lost to Gov. Terry Branstad in November.





Friday News, April 10

Log Cabin To Move To Museum

(Le Mars) -- Sometime within the next few months, the Joy Hollow log cabin will be moving from its present location at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds to its new home at the Plymouth County Historical Museum.  Last evening during the Plymouth County Fair Board meeting, Grant Hanstein of Le Mars shared with the fair board, the plan as presented by the Plymouth County Historical Museum. Hanstein informed the fair board that the museum board did decide to take ownership of the 115 year old log cabin.  Fair officials voted to allow the museum to be moved.  Fair board president, Tony Schroeder expressed his opinion about the cabin with fair officials echoing his sentiments.


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Schroeder says the fair board is fiscally conservative and they didn't feel as though they wanted to invest the money needed to repair the log cabin.


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Hanstein informed the fair board that the museum has been able to raise $31,375 from 102 donors, enough to cover the costs of moving the cabin, and begin the restoration process. Eva Mouw of Le Mars appealed to the fair board to consider keeping the cabin at the Plymouth County fairgrounds.


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She continued to say, the fair grounds is where the cabin belongs.


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Mouw said it was the intention of the Girl Scouts organization when they gifted the cabin to the fair board, more than ten years ago, when the cabin was first moved to the fairgrounds that the cabin would remain at the fairgrounds.


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Fair board director, Candice Nash responded to Mouw's plea by informing her, the fair board is not a preservationist.  She pointed out that it is the job of the museum is to serve as preservationist. She continued to say the fair board recently invested $18,000 to repair the famous round barn. Nash also informed Mouw the space would not be used for commercial exhibits, but rather it is being planned to expand a children's stage.



Tornadoes Hit Eastern Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Severe weather making its way across eastern Iowa has produced at least one tornado.

The National Weather Service confirms that a tornado was located around 5:25 p.m. Thursday in rural Donahue, which is about 15 miles north of Davenport.

Meteorologist John Haase says there were no reports of structural damage. He says the tornado caused some blown-over semitrucks and uprooted or damaged trees. Hail as large as ping pong balls was predicted in the area.

The Weather Service says it received multiple reports of tornadoes later Thursday evening in Scott and Clinton counties. There were no injuries reported. Damage included downed trees and power lines and an overturned semi-trailer.

Meteorologist Rich Kinney says storm survey crews will be headed to the area Friday morning.




High Speed Broadband Internet Bill Passes

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislation aimed at expanding high-speed Internet in Iowa continues to move forward this session, though lawmakers agree there will be some changes to the bill.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously Thursday for a bill that would create a 10-year property tax relief program for service providers that add infrastructure for broadband, also known as high-speed Internet. It now heads to the full House.

The bill would create a grant program funded with federal and private money. It originally had $5 million in state dollars, but that was stripped away earlier in the session after some lawmakers expressed concern about its sustainability.

A similar bill is being considered in the Senate. Lawmakers overseeing both bills say they expect to align the legislation and make changes.




Republican Candidates Court Home School Families

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Eight years after Mike Huckabee tapped the support of evangelical home-schooling families as part of his winning coalition in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, a lineup of GOP hopefuls is seeking to duplicate that effort.

Five Republican prospects courted homeschool families in Des Moines on Thursday at an annual gathering sponsored by the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators. While the number of homeschoolers in the state may be small, they are viewed as a well-organized subset of the evangelical population.

In attendance at an afternoon panel discussion were Huckabee as well as former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry came to a portion of the program at the state Capitol earlier in the day.









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