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Wednesday News, February 27

Two Le Mars Real Estate Agencies Merge

(Le Mars) -- Two local real estate companies have announced plans to merge their businesses.  Property Pros, under the direction of Lisa Wagner and Jim Gergeni and Linda Mayrose Real Estate all of Le Mars will now combine to work under the name of Property Pros.  Mayrose and her agents will be joining the Property Pros group to expand the company's market presence and vision to provide extensive professional real estate services.  Mayrose says about the merger that it is the "best of the best", adding that she will be able to concentrate on the part of real estate she loves, the listing and selling and giving extra special care to clients.  Property Pros will move to the Linda Mayrose Real Estate building at 41 Central Avenue Northwest to accommodate the increased agent roster.

 

Republicans To Roll Out Budget Plan

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Republican leaders in the Iowa House plan to unveil their budget spending goals.
Lawmakers have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to announce their "budget targets" for the 2013-2014 state budget.
Gov. Terry Branstad announced a $6.5 billion spending plan last month. Leaders in the Republican-controlled House review his plan and then develop their own budget proposal.
The Democratic-majority Senate will also put out a plan. The lawmakers must then negotiate a final version of the budget.

 

Gay Marriage Bill Introduced

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Republican senator has introduced legislation that would begin the process of referring a constitutional ban on gay marriage to Iowa voters.
A 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriage in the state. Sen. Dennis Guth says Tuesday that voters should get to decide whether gay marriage is permitted in the state. His
resolution has a total of 18 sponsors in the Senate.
The measure would need to be approved by the current legislative assembly and then one elected in 2014 before it could go to voters.
The effort has little chance of advancing since Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has repeatedly blocked debate on such proposals.
Nine states and Washington have legalized gay marriage.

 

Durham Defends Deal With Fertilizer Company

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Economic Development Authority director told lawmakers her team knew an Egyptian company seeking tax breaks to build a fertilizer plan in southeast Iowa was being sued by the federal government, but no one told her.
Agency director Debi Durham earlier said the state's vetting didn't uncover the lawsuit, which alleges a company subsidiary defrauded U.S. taxpayers out of millions of dollars. Durham says "I'm
not sure how anyone would have found that."
On Tuesday, Durham told lawmakers she has learned her team knew of the 2004 lawsuit against the subsidiary of Cairo-based Orascom.
Durham told lawmakers, "I'm not proud of it, but that's what happened."
Legislators at the hearing criticized Durham and the $200 million in tax breaks given Orascom.

 

Study Shows More Troopers Are Needed

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The head of the Iowa State Troopers Association says budget cuts have thinned ranks so much that many counties don't have a trooper on duty overnight.
Iowa State Troopers Association President Darin Snedden met with legislators and staffers from the governor's office Tuesday, asking the state to allocate funding to hire an additional 87 troopers.
Snedden says the Iowa State Patrol has 363 troopers, down from 455 in 2000 before repeated budget cuts. He wants the state to hire 29 more troopers a year, for three years. The cost of adding 29 troopers is $4.3 million in the first year and $2.9 million in subsequent years.
Branstad's budget does not include any funding for more troopers.

 

EPA Official To Speak At Ames

AMES, Iowa (AP) - The Midwest regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency will discuss Iowa water quality issues at Iowa State University on March 5.
Karl Brooks, who oversees EPA operations in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, will talk about water pollution that comes from no specific source but from runoff after rainfall or snowmelt. It's known as nonpoint source pollution and it can carry fertilizer, chemicals and other manmade and natural contaminants into lakes and streams.
Brooks will discuss collaborative efforts of the EPA, Iowa farmers, state agencies and Iowa State University to address water quality concerns related to agriculture.
Brooks is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. March 5 in the Memorial Union Great Hall at ISU.

 

Waterloo Man Charged With Meth Explosion At Loras

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - A 26-year-old Waterloo man blamed for a meth-related explosion at Loras College in Dubuque has been given 10 years in prison.
Brent Brown had made a plea deal with prosecutors on charges of arson and manufacturing methamphetamine. He was sentenced on Monday.
Court records say Brown tried to make meth in a bathroom of the Lynch-McCarthy apartment complex while visiting his girlfriend in February 2012.
Judge Thomas Bitter says Brown owes $10,000 in restitution to Loras College.
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Iowa Public Radio Fires Chief Executive

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Public Radio's board has fired its chief executive because of concerns about her management style.
The board voted 6-1 to fire CEO Mary Grace Herrington on Tuesday.
The only vote against the firing came from University of Iowa Chief of Staff Mark Braun. Braun says he just recently joined the board and didn't feel like he knew Herrington well enough to support her firing.
The Iowa Public Radio board spent four hours discussing Herrington's management style and the climate at Iowa Public Radio during a conference call before the vote Tuesday.

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Utility Company To Help Ospreys Nesting

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - A utility is working with state and local officials to build nesting sites in Cedar Rapids for ospreys.
Interstate Power and Light Company says it's working this week with the Cedar Rapids parks department, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Indian Creek Nature Center to install new
platforms for ospreys along the Cedar River.
Ospreys are birds of prey with wingspans of nearly 6 feet that primarily eat fish. They migrate to Central and South America for the winter and will return to Iowa in the spring.
Interstate Power and Light says the platforms will be visible from the Sac and Fox walking trail and a hard-surface trail at the Prairie Park Fishery.

   

Tuesday Afternoon News, Feb. 26

Two Le Mars Real Estate Companies Decide To Merge

(Le Mars) -- Two local real estate companies have announced plans to merge their businesses. Property Pros, under the direction of Lisa Wagner and Jim Gergeni and Linda Mayrose Real Estate all of Le Mars will now combine to work under the name of Property Pros.  Mayrose and her agents will be joining the Property Pros group to expand the company's market presence and vision to provide extensive professional real estate services.  Mayrose says about the merger that it is the "best of the best", adding that she will be able to concentrate on the part of real estate she loves, the listing and selling and giving extra special care to clients.  Property Pros will move to the Linda Mayrose Real Estate building at 41 Central Avenue Northwest to accommodate the increased agent roster.

 

Waterloo School Board Approves Teacher Early Retirement Plan


WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Across the state, the Waterloo Community Schools board has approved an early retirement incentive that's already been offered to 115 teachers.
The board voted final approval on Monday.
The incentive is aimed at helping cut the budget for the next school year.
If 65 to 80 teachers were to retire, the district could save up to $1.6 million. Officials estimate a savings of $20,000 per teacher as experienced teachers are replaced with less experienced
staffers.
Teachers must be at least 55 and have 13 years of service in the district to qualify for the incentive. They would receive an annual supplemental benefit of $10,000 for three years after retiring at
the end of the current contract year.


School Districts Concerned Over Affordable Healthcare Act

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Hundreds of Iowa school districts are figuring out what the Affordable Health Care Act will mean to their part-time employees.
The law taking effect in 2014 will force nearly all of Iowa's 348 school districts to extend health insurance benefits to part-timers who work more than 30 hours a week or reduce hours so
those employees wouldn't qualify for benefits. Districts also could opt to be fined for not providing required benefits.
Most school districts employ a number of part-time employees, such as teacher aides, cooks and bus drivers.
Galen Howsare, of the Iowa Association of School Boards, says officials are seeking more information, "but all districts will be affected in some way."

 

Spending Cuts May Hurt Iowa National Guard

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad says he's concerned about how automatic federal budget cuts could impact military spending in Iowa.
During an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Branstad noted that defense will take a hit in the state if Congress doesn't act on a deficit reduction agreement by Friday. Without action in
Washington, $85 billion in cuts are set to take effect nationally from March through September. That could mean lost funding for the state national guard, as well as other military functions in the
state such as recruiters, engineers and support staff.
Branstad says, "I'm worried about national defense. It takes the biggest hit."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Defense said the automatic cuts mean that about 1,500 civilian military employees in the state could also be furloughed.


Branstad Doesn't Want To Expand Medicaid

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad says he feels positive about a meeting with federal officials where he delivered the message that he does not plan to expand Medicaid in Iowa.
During a Tuesday press conference, Branstad called his Friday meeting in Washington with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "cordial." He says he does not want to expand
Medicaid, but pressed Sebelius for a federal waiver to continue IowaCare, a health care program that provides limited benefits to 70,000 low income adults in the state. That program is set to
expire later this year.
Branstad says Iowa will soon provide a full proposal for extending IowaCare.
Critics of Branstad's plan say expanding Medicaid would provide more services to a larger number of people. But Branstad calls an expansion unaffordable.


Computer Hacker May Have Compromised Social Security Accounts

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Officials say a hacker may have gotten Social Security numbers and other personal information on county employees by accessing an Internet-based tool used for the Cerro
Gordo County bank account.
County Treasurer Pat Wright told the Mason City Globe Gazette (http://bit.ly/X8dpWt ) on Monday that security safeguards prevented the hacker from stealing any money from the account.
Wright says the hacker gained access to the county's account with Shazam, an Internet-based tool used to create automatic payments and withdrawals.
Officials say 230 of the county's 250 employees have direct deposit of their paychecks through Shazam.
Wright has sent a letter to county employees and about 100 entities that do business with the county, telling them their bank account numbers, bank routing numbers and Social Security numbers
may have been compromised.
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