Tuesday Afternoon News, June 30
New Laws To Start On Wednesday
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A number of new Iowa laws take effect Wednesday, though the governor has not yet acted on some key parts of the state budget.
One new law would allow grocery stores and liquor stores with the proper permit to sell craft beer in refillable containers, known as "growlers." Another would likely allow sledding in more public parks next winter by protecting cities from liability if people are injured.
Some key legislation did not have a July 1 start date. A bill to raise the state fuel tax already took effect.
Gov. Terry Branstad still must act on several key pieces of the state budget, including a one-time funding bill for K-12 education. He has until Monday to decide if he will approve budget bills.
Statewide Radio Communications Requested By Public Safety
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Leaders from various law enforcement agencies in Iowa say the state's radio system for communicating in emergencies is outdated, and they're urging Gov. Terry Branstad to sign a bill into law that they say will change that.
Authorities from multiple departments spoke at a press conference Tuesday and encouraged Branstad to sign legislation that would allocate funding to upgrade the radio system. They say the current radio system is unreliable.
A Branstad spokesman says the governor is still reviewing the bill.
Sgt. Thomas Lampe with the state Department of Public Safety says a contract for the work would cost $68 million.
Lampe says if legislation is approved, vendor Motorola has agreed to launch the system in about two years. Motorola was selected amid criticism over the bidding process.
Audit Shows West Des Moines School Principal Charged With Improper Spending
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state audit has found that a former West Des Moines elementary school principal improperly used school purchasing cards.
The audit released Tuesday says Beth Thornton improperly used the procurement cards, which work like credit cards, to the tune of nearly $10,000. That included nearly $3,500 for airline tickets and hotel rooms for her family, which she reimbursed. It also included more than $5,000 for gift cards reportedly given to families in need. District rules prohibit using procurement cards to buy gift cards.
Thornton resigned in April.
Her attorney, Guy Cook, says Thornton denies "any intentional wrongdoing whatsoever." Cook says no school money is missing and that Thornton resigned to pursue other opportunities.
The report has been sent to the Polk County Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Office.
State Supreme Court Says More Warrants Needed To Search Vehicles
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A divided Iowa Supreme Court is concluding its term with a ruling that will require police to obtain warrants more often before searching inside suspects' vehicles.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court ruled Tuesday the Iowa Constitution generally requires officers to obtain warrants before they can search vehicles during traffic stops.
The court said a Davenport officer violated a drug suspect's privacy rights when he searched a locked safe found in his van. The search uncovered a loaded revolver and several baggies of marijuana.
The court's majority says that evidence should be suppressed. Its new rule says warrantless searches inside vehicles are justified only when safety concerns are at issue.
Dissenting justices say the rule will be a challenge for arresting officers to implement and goes against prior precedent.
Branstad Appoints New Director For Law Enforcement Academy
JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad is appointing former Des Moines police chief Judy Bradshaw as the new director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.
Bradshaw has been the academy's assistant director since retiring from the Des Moines Police Department last year.
She will replace director Arlen Ciechanowski, who has decided to retire after his appointment to a four-year term wasn't approved by the Iowa Senate. Branstad withdrew Ciechanowski's appointment after Democrats raised questions about his management and whether the academy had a welcoming environment for female cadets.
Branstad says the 56-year-old Bradshaw has the "leadership, knowledge, temperament and communications skills" necessary to lead the academy.
Bradshaw says she looks forward to helping teach future police officers "best practices to effectively serve their communities." Her appointment is subject to Senate confirmation next spring.
Smoke From Canadian Forest Fires Creates Hazy Skies
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A haze is blanketing much of the Midwest as strong winds carry smoke from forest fires in Canada thousands of miles to the south.
National Weather Service forecasters say Tuesday that smoke from wildfires in northern Saskatchewan is blowing as far south as Tennessee. A thick band of smoke extends through much of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, eastern Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.
The smoke prompted health warnings in Iowa and Nebraska. The haze also has slightly cooled temperatures.
Bill Borghoff, a weather service forecaster in Chanhassen, Minnesota, says the smoky skies should remain through Wednesday but then shift to the east.
The haze could extend as far as New England later this week, but Borghoff says the smoke shouldn't be as thick as it travels east.
New Trial Ordered For Woman Charged With Drowning New Born Baby In Motel
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court is ordering a new trial for a woman charged with drowning her newborn baby in a hotel room.
The court ruled Tuesday that Hillary Tyler's second-degree murder conviction was tainted by improper expert testimony.
Tyler gave birth in a Fort Dodge hotel, where workers found a deceased baby the next day in a trash can. She later allegedly confessed that she drowned the baby in the bathtub. A jury found Tyler guilty of second-degree murder, and she was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
The court ruled that jurors shouldn't have heard testimony from a state medical examiner, who ruled the baby drowned based on Tyler's alleged confession and not on any scientific findings.
Tyler's defense argues the baby was stillborn and died immediately after birth.
Veteran Funding Has Been Cut
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Funding has been pulled for adult day care for veterans in Omaha and western Iowa due to a $2.5 billion shortfall in the Department of Veterans of Affair's health care budget.
The Omaha World-Herald reports that the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System will no longer cover adult day care and other forms of non-skilled nursing care after July 31.
VA spokesman Will Ackerman says that officials understand that it's an inconvenience to veterans and their families but that they must be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Ackerman says the VA will work with veterans' families to ease the transition.