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Friday Afternoon News, February 20

Sioux County Farmer Lobbies Legislature For Fuel Tax Increase

(Sioux Center) -- Earlier this week delegates representing the Iowa Farm Bureau were in Des Moines visiting with state legislators to advocate the farm organization's positions.  The Iowa Farm Bureau is an organization that normally opposes tax increases, however, it is in favor of the ten cent per gallon fuel tax increase for roads and bridges repair. Matt Schuiteman (Sky-ter-man) of Sioux Center serves as the voting delegate for the Sioux County Farm Bureau.  He says the Iowa Farm Bureau believes it is time to give attention to the deteriorating infrastructure.

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Schuiteman doesn't believe the added ten cents per gallon will adversely affect people's decision to purchase fuel, saying the price of gasoline routinely fluxuates in price.

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The Sioux County farmer spoke with State Representative Chuck Soderberg and State Senator Randy Feenstra of Hull about the fuel tax increase.  He says Feenstra still has some concerns about the bill.

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It is expected debate on the fuel tax increase will reach both chamber floors by the middle of next week.

 

Supreme Court Upholds Speeding Cameras

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the right of cities to use automated cameras to catch speeding motorists.
     A Sioux Center attorney challenged Sioux City's 2011 ordinance establishing the use of cameras to catch speeders.
     Michael Jacobsma's car was caught on camera going 67 miles an hour on Interstate 29 where the speed limit is 55. 
     He launched three constitutional challenges to the ordinance. He claims the ordinance is an unreasonable exercise of police power, violates due process rights of car owners and violates a limited home rule provision that says city ordinances cannot conflict with state laws.
     The court rejected all three arguments Friday and upheld Jacobsma's fine.
     Jacobsma, who represented himself, did not immediately return a message. The Sioux City attorney's office also didn't immediately respond.

 

Prison Contractor Asking For Additional $20 Million

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A corrections official has informed a legislative panel that the general contractor responsible for the new state prison in Fort Madison seeks an additional $20 million in state payments for its work.
     Janet Phipps, director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, on Thursday told the House Government Oversight Committee that Walsh Construction of Chicago believes it is due somewhere around $20 million for the company's role in the project.
     This revelation comes after the Iowa Department of Corrections confirmed that an often-cited $132 million cost for the empty Iowa State Penitentiary was inaccurate, and that the price tag had risen to $166 million.
     Rep. Clel Baudler, a Greenfield Republican, says the project is a "colossal screw up" that will cost Iowa taxpayers.
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Flooding Outlook

 CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) - Regional experts for the National Weather Service say the risk of flooding is at or below normal for Iowa this spring.
    The reports released Thursday by service meteorologists in Des Moines and Davenport in Iowa and La Crosse, Wisconsin, covered the potential for river and lake flooding in their respective coverage areas through the end of May.
     They cited the general lack of snowpack in much of Iowa and said stream levels and frost depths also were near normal for this time of year.
     The meteorologists noted that their predictions could change with the weather. The weather service offices are scheduled to update their spring flooding outlooks on March 5.

 

Iowa Man Used Counterfeit Money For Food Purchases

  CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) - Police say a Waterloo man arrested on forgery charges used counterfeit money to buy meals at several fast-food restaurants.
     31-year-old Brett William Wehrle was arrested Thursday for six counts of forgery in connection with fake money found at stores in Cedar Falls and Waterloo. Police say this is Wehrle's second counterfeiting arrest in the past year.
     According to court records, Wehrle tried to use fake $1, $5 and $10 bills at McDonald's, Burger King and Taco John's restaurants in the area. Documents show he also tried to purchase a soda using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store.
     Cedar Falls Police Department Capt. Craig Berte says the case has been passed on to the U.S. Secret Service. Wehrle is being held on $30,000 bond.
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Teenage Boy Charged With Kidnapping And Sexual Assault

  WEST UNION, Iowa (AP) - A northeast Iowa teen has been charged with kidnapping a girl and sexually abusing her.
     The 16-year-old from West Union was arrested for first-degree kidnapping and third-degree sexual abuse. He has been charged as an adult.
     The Associated Press generally doesn't name minors accused of crimes.
     According to court records, the teen picked up a 15-year-old girl and wouldn't let her leave his vehicle. Records say he parked the car and initiated sexual contact with the girl. Police found the two inside unclothed.
     Police say the teenagers knew each other.
     If convicted, the teen, who was arrested Feb. 13, faces up to 10 years in prison on the sexual abuse charge and life in prison on the kidnapping charge.
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Friday News, February 20

Legislature Rushing Bills Through Committees To Beat Funnel Deadline

(Des Moines) -- Discussion of legislative bills this week at the state capital has primarily been at the committee and sub-committee levels, according to State Representative Chuck Soderberg of Le Mars.  He says legislators are pushing introduced bills through the committee before the first funnel deadline.

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Soderberg chairs the appropriations committee, and he is still trying to find ways to cut the Governor's budget.

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Attention has been focused on the proposed 10 cent per gallon raise in the fuel tax to go to repair roads and bridges.  Soderberg expects the bill will find its way to the House and Senate floors sometime next week. He says he has some concerns with how the bill is being presented.

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The Le Mars Republican says if the bill passes in its current form, it would be implemented immediately.

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Soderberg says many people may not realize the bill would implement a 10 cent per gallon increase all at once, without a phase-in program.

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Bike Central To Offer "Do Not Freeze" Bike Runs

(Le Mars) -- This coming Saturday, Bike Central of Le Mars is hosting its annual DNF bicycle ride.  DNF stands for Do Not Freeze.  Mark Strub says participants have two choices, they can ride on the gravel, or take a destination ride on paved roads.  Either way he suggests participants dress accordingly.

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Strub reminds people both bicycle runs are designed to be destination runs, and not races.  Bicyclists also have the option to ride on paved roads for a 25 mile course.

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Strub says besides the cold and windy weather conditions, there are other challenges to riding a bicycle during the winter months.

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Last year, the Do Not Freeze Bicycle ride attracted nearly 40 people and Strub believes this year's ride will have the same, or perhaps more participants.  Strub says the vast majority of the participants are local residents, however, he says there are some coming from Omaha to ride in this year's DNF.  Strub encourages people to pre-register.  The rides will begin at 9:00 a.m. from the Bike Central shop but he says Bike Central will provide some refreshments to the participants beginning at 8:00 a.m. 

 

Estherville Man Found Guilty Of Killing Woman 

   ESTHERVILLE, Iowa (AP) - A jury has found an Estherville man guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of a 30-year-old woman. 
    An Emmet County jury has convicted Scott Sudbeck in the killing of Michaela Jordan last February at her Estherville home.
     Sudbeck testified this week that he went against his no contact order by visiting Jordan. He says that his gun went off as he was turning to leave and didn't notice Jordan had been shot.  
     His defense team said that while Sudbeck did shoot Jordan, it wasn't intentional. Sudbeck's sentence hearing has been scheduled in April.
     Estherville is in northwest Iowa, about 25 miles northeast of Spencer.
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Fine Arts May Be Included As Part Of Iowa Core

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A House panel has approved a bill that would add fine arts to Iowa's mandated education curriculum for K-12 students.
     An education subcommittee approved the bill Thursday. It now advances to a full committee for review.
     The bill would add music, theater, visual art and other fine arts to the Iowa Core, the state's academic standards. The Iowa Core currently includes English, mathematics, science and social studies.
     Emily Piper, of the Iowa Association of School Boards, says it's better for school districts to infuse fine arts education into the current curriculum without a state mandate. Rep. Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia and co-sponsor of the bill, says the addition would help prioritize fine arts education.
     Similar legislation was introduced last session but it did not advance.

 

Fuel Tax Bill Being Considered In Both Legislative Chambers

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen made some key changes to a House committee to help ensure there were enough votes to pass a bill raising the state fuel tax.
     Paulsen said Thursday he had replaced one member of the ways and means committee, bringing in a lawmaker who supports the bill instead of a member who opposed it. Paulsen also planned to temporarily replace another committee member so that he himself could cast a yes vote.
     Paulsen said he needed to make sure that "bills the body wants to debate can get to the floor."  The bill passed the House committee in a 13-12 vote Thursday.
     The Senate ways and means committee also approved the bill Thursday afternoon.
 

House Bill Would Protect Abuse Victims From Having Address Published

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A House panel has approved a bill that would help Iowa abuse victims keep their home address confidential.
     Members of a public safety subcommittee approved the bill Thursday. It now moves to a full committee for consideration.
     The bill would allow a victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, stalking and other scenarios to enroll in a program through the secretary of state's office that would allow mail for a victim to be forwarded to a designated address.
     Supporters say the bill would protect victims from offenders using public records.
     Subcommittee members expressed concern about the program's $100 fee to individuals in Iowa who are convicted of charges including domestic abuse. Rep. Dean Fisher, a Garwin Republican and a bill co-sponsor, says he's open to changes in the legislation.

 

Senate Considers Bill To Stop Cell Phone Use While Driving

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Senate panel has approved a bill that would ban people in Iowa from holding a cellphone and talking while driving.
     A transportation subcommittee discussed the bill Thursday. It now moves to a full committee for consideration.
     Current law prohibits people in Iowa from reading, writing and sending messages on an electronic device while driving, though an officer must be stopping a person for a different offense in order to enforce it. This bill would ban a person from holding a cellphone and talking while driving.
     The bill would also remove the circumstances for stopping a person. The bill exempts a person using a GPS or a device in a hands-free or voice-activated mode.
     The Department of Public Safety is sponsoring the bill, and it has Governor Terry Branstad's support.

 

West Des Moines To Construct Aquifer Storage Facility

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - West Des Moines plans to provide about $3.5 million to build an aquifer storage facility that Des Moines Water Works says will add 3 million gallons of water capacity on peak usage days.
     Des Moines Water Works will own and operate the facility, which will also be used to cool Microsoft's new data center.
     The aquifer will pump treated water during the colder months into a half-mile well that is drilled underground. It will be used as storage for 300 million gallons of water that can be drawn out during the summer when water use spikes.
     The well will also feed the Jordan aquifer rather than draw on it. Iowa and other states have been concerned about overdrawing the Jordan stock.
    Funds for the project will be sourced from a local tax increment financing incentive package.

 

USDA Reports Iowa Continues To Lose Farms

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in a new report that the number of farms in Iowa continues to slide. 
     In an annual report released Thursday the USDA says Iowa farms fell to 88,000 last year, 500 fewer than the year before. Most of the decrease came in the small farm category, those with annual sales between $1,000 and $10,000.
     The number of Iowa farms has fallen 1.2 percent since 2010, while the average farm size is up 1.2 percent in the same period, a reflection of national trends.
     The average farm in Iowa is 347 acres, up one acre from the year before. 
     Iowa had 30.5 million acres in farms last year, down 100,000 acres from the year before.

 




 



 

   

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