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Monday Afternoon News, January 12

Branstad Tells Republican Legislators To Look Forward To 2016

(Des Moines) -- Iowa's 2015 General Session begins today, but Governor Terry Branstad is already looking ahead to 2016.  During a legislative fundraiser breakfast held this morning, Branstad urged Republican lawmakers to start making plans for the next election cycle.

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During his 20 year tenure, Branstad has rarely had both legislative chambers hold a Republican majority.  It did happen once in 1996, and Branstad says he would like to see it happen again.

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The Iowa Senate has 25 seats that are up for election every two years.  Branstad says Republicans need to find suitable candidates for each Senate position.   


Iowa Has High Percentage Of Homes With Radon

(Des Moines) -- Iowa is believed to have the largest percentage of homes in the U.S. with radon levels above what the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) calls "acceptable." Mindy Uhle, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says at least half of the homes in the state have an elevated radon level.
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Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that causes no immediate health symptoms, but long-term exposures may cause lung cancer. It comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil. Uhle encourages all homeowners to purchase a radon test kit, which typically costs less than $20.
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Radon gas typically seeps into a house under the home -- through cracks in the foundation, floor or walls, and openings around floor drains, pipes and sump pumps. Uhle suggests having a second test done if a first test shows high levels of radon in your home. Repairs to fix the problem are expensive.
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Last week, Governor Branstad signed a proclamation, formally declaring January as "Radon Action Month" in Iowa.


Branstad Says Teacher Licensening Program Is Working

   DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad says a teacher licensing program aimed at helping veterans and their families is working.
     Branstad said at a Monday news conference that the military exchange license program has helped veterans and their spouses secure technical and provisional licenses that will keep them working in the state. The program allows participants to teach in the state for several years without having to immediately take additional college coursework. 
     Branstad says the program ties in with his separate Home Base Iowa initiative, which went into effect last year. That law is aimed at giving veterans incentives to work in Iowa once their military service is over.
     The licensing program is offered through the Board of Educational Examiners. A board report says more than 20 licenses were issued in 2014.


Drake Announces New President

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An administrator at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, will become the next president at Drake University in Des Moines.
     Drake announced Monday that Earl F. Martin, Gonzaga's executive vice president, would become the 13th president at Drake in July.
     Martin will succeed David Maxwell, who will retire after 16 years at the university.
     At Gonzaga, Martin has provided administrative and operational oversight since 2010. He also served as academic vice president and dean of Gonzaga's School of Law during his tenure at the university.
     Martin joins Drake as the school works to advance STEM initiatives and complete a $200 million fundraising campaign. 
     Drake University Board of Trustees chairman Larry Zimpleman says Martin is 'well-equipped' to lead Drake as the university wraps up past projects and confronts new challenges.


Branstad To Speak At Summit

  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will appear at a conservative summit in Iowa this month.
     Organizers of the Iowa Freedom Summit said Monday that Branstad and Reynolds will participate. The Jan. 24 event in Des Moines is being sponsored by Citizens United and Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa.
     Other confirmed guests for the summit include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.


Council Bluffs Man Beaten During Home Invasion

     COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A 72-year-old man has been beaten by a man who broke into his home in western Iowa.
     Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker says the man entered a house in the rural Honey Creek community north of Council Bluffs around 9 p.m. on Sunday. Danker says the man wore a black ski mask, black jacket and hood and used a weapon of some sort to beat Robert Bogar. Bogar's wife was not injured.
     The man left the house without taking anything. Bogar was taken to a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.
     No arrests have been reported.






Monday News, January 12

"Lunch And Learn" Session Scheduled For Today

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Chamber of Commerce along with the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach of Plymouth County will again be hosting another "Lunch and Learn" session today.  The program will feature Le Mars City Administrator, Scott Langel. The seminar will be held at the Blue Bunny ice cream parlor beginning at 12:00 noon.  Reservations are needed and you can contact either the Chamber office at 546-8821 or the Extension office at 546-7835.


Le Mars Community School Board To Meet Tonight

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community Board of Education is scheduled to meet this evening.  The school board will discuss briefly the initial bargaining proposal from the Le Mars Education Association for the 2015-2016 master contract, which will be presented to the school board on January 19th.  The school board has scheduled January 26 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. as the school board and administration retreat.  The school board will begin the process of evaluating the job performance of school superintendent, Dr. Todd Wendt.  The school board will also discuss and is expected to take action on two students petitioning for open enrollment.


Auditions For "Boeing...Boeing" Play Scheduled For This Evening

(Le Mars) -- Auditions for the next Le Mars Community Theater will be held tonight and tomorrow evening beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Le Mars Postal Playhouse.  The play, "Boeing...Boeing" is a comedy that requires a cast of two men and four women.  The plot of the story involves a swinging bachelor pilot who ends up having three fiancee's who are airline stewardesses.  None of which know about the other two.  Due to scheduling conflicts, all three finally end up at the bachelor's apartment at the same time.  Larry Brangwin will direct the play.  Performance dates are scheduled for March.


Soderberg Wants To Use Good Principles For Appropriations 

(Le Mars) -- Iowa's General Assembly will convene for the new session on today. Republican State Representative Chuck Soderberg of Le Mars has again been appointed to chair the House Appropriations Committee.  Soderberg says he has a goal to present a balanced budget that will remain within the state's budget principles.

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Soderberg says establishing good budget principles five years ago, has helped the state's financial position today.

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Soderberg indicated he has not pre-filed or authored any bills for consideration.  However, he says he has a personal goal to restructure the personal income tax program. 

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Port Neal Fertilizer Plant Has Explosion And Fire 

(Sergeant Bluff) -- Over the weekend an explosion rocked the Nulex fertilizer facility located at the Port Neal Industrial Area, south of Sioux City.  The plant, although it suffered some damage from the explosion and fire from Saturday evening, is expected to start up production again within the next few days.  No one was injured during the blaze and there were no employees working when the fire broke out.  Officials are investigating to find a cause for the fire.  A dozen local fire departments responded to the fire, and it took more than three hours to bring the fire under control.


Authorities Still Investigating Death Of Sloan Man

 SLOAN, Iowa (AP) - Authorities say they are continuing to investigate the death of a 29-year-old man found inside his Sloan home as suspicious. 
     The Woodbury County Sheriff's Department hasn't released a cause of death yet for Dustin Taylor Wilder, who was discovered Friday morning inside his residence. 
     The sheriff's department said more information will be released as it becomes available. 
     Authorities were dispatched to the home after they say they received a report about an unconscious male.


Wahlert Resigns From Unemployment Post

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The embattled head of the Iowa agency that oversees benefits for unemployed workers has retired from her job.
     Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert submitted a formal notice to Gov. Terry Branstad on Friday. Her retirement becomes effective Sunday.
     Wahlert was named to the post by Branstad in 2010. Last year, she was accused of mismanaging the department and creating a hostile work environment. A former chief judge said he was fired because he stood up to Wahlert.
     Wahlert later defended her work in front of lawmakers investigating the agency.
     Beth Townsend, executive director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, will be acting director of the agency. A press release from the governor's office says a timeline has not been set to name a permanent director.


Flu Strikes Several Iowa Nursing Homes

 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Officials say at least 32 care centers in Iowa have had outbreaks of influenza recently, despite safeguards like vaccination and sanitation measures.
     Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the state's top infectious disease expert, says she's received daily reports of the disease affecting nursing homes, assisted living centers and other care facilities. She says the rate of infection is higher than it's been in the past. 
     At the Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston, every resident and employee was vaccinated. But the virus spread at the center in December. Several residents required hospitalization.
     Quinlisk says the flu contributes to hundreds of deaths of the elderly in Iowa during a typical year.




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