Tuesday Afternoon News, March 3
Plymouth Energy Asks Supervisors For Support On Repealing Tax
(Le Mars) -- Representatives of the Plymouth Energy ethanol company appeared before the county supervisors to ask for their support to help reduce taxes relating to the purchase of natural gas. Eamonn Byrne, the Chief Executive Officer for Plymouth Energy informed the county supervisors that natural gas is the second largest expense, following corn, for the Merrill facility. He says $7 million dollars is spent annually for natural gas. Byrne informed the supervisors that 21 ethanol and biodiesel plants in Iowa are subject to the tax and wanting to eliminate the Iowa Bypass Replacement Tax. He says the tax is an "unfair tax" and explains the difference between the three types of natural gas replacement taxpayers.
Byrne says the tax rate is too excessive.
Byrne says Plymouth Energy contributes to the county's economic development with the number of people employed directly or indirectly to the local ethanol plant.
The supervisors agreed to write a letter of support for the local ethanol plant, and advised the ethanol representatives that the letters should be addressed to Governor Terry Branstad and many other legislative leaders.
Cherokee Man Agrees To Plea Deal
CHEROKEE, Iowa (AP) - A 36-year-old man who'd held officers at bay in a Cherokee County home has taken a plea deal.
Joshua Allender pleaded guilty on Monday to intimidation with a dangerous weapon and assault on a peace officer. He'd been charged with attempted murder, assault and a weapons crime.
The plea agreement calls for a 10-year sentence. Allender's sentencing is scheduled for April 13.
The charges stem from an incident Oct. 30 in Cherokee County, when officers responded to a call about a suicidal person. The officers say Allender refused to leave the home and fired a gun from an upstairs window.
More than six hours later officers fired tear gas into the home, and Allender soon was in custody.
Legislators Continue To Debate Over Education Spending Bill
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers from the Democratic-majority Senate and Republican-controlled House remain at odds over education funding.
A joint committee met Tuesday to try to hammer out a deal for a funding level for K-12 education for the upcoming academic year. But the committee did not immediately reach a resolution.
House Republicans have advanced a plan that would provide about $100 million in additional funding, while Senate Democrats want to give schools over $200 million in additional funding.
Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, of Hiawatha, says he'll consider more funding if Democrats would agree to modify arbitration rules for teachers. This committee cannot directly negotiate on that, but a bill proposing some changes received approval from a House subcommittee Tuesday. Democrats are unlikely to consider any change to union rules.
Legislators Debate Time-Off Caucus Bill
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A bill that would require employers to give time off to non-essential workers so they could attend Iowa's presidential caucuses has received preliminary approval in the Iowa Senate.
A Senate subcommittee backed the bill Tuesday. Under the proposal, employers would be required to provide unpaid leave to workers who want to attend their precinct caucus. There are exemptions for jobs that impact public health or safety or if employers could show they would experience economic distress.
It will move on to the full committee for review later this week in the Democratic-majority Senate.
Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Ben Foecke spoke in favor of the bill, saying it would provide greater access to the state's leadoff presidential caucuses. No Iowa Republican Party officials attended the hearing.
Judge Ponders Whether To Fine A Man For Frauding Veterans
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A judge is considering whether to sentence a Nebraska businessman to prison for fraudulently landing $23.4 million in federal contracts intended for disabled veterans.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Des Moines will ask for a two-year prison term during Tuesday's sentencing for Ram Hingorani.
Hingorani's attorney is expected to ask U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose for probation.
His companies won 45 contracts to perform construction work for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Des Moines and Omaha and at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. They were awarded under a program to encourage contracts for veterans who were injured during their service.
Hingorani is not a veteran. But in order to qualify, he falsely claimed that an associate who was service-disabled was in charge of a company Hingorani controlled.
Kindergarten Teacher Faces Sexual Abuse Charges
FOREST CITY, Iowa (AP) - A north Iowa kindergarten teacher is facing a criminal charge following accusations he inappropriately touched a child under the age of 14.
Winnebago County Attorney Adam Sauer says the suspected incident didn't happen at the elementary school of the North Iowa Community School District, where 61-year-old Allen James Twait of Forest City is employed.
The district's superintendent says Twait has been placed on administrative leave.
Twait is charged with one count of lascivious acts with a child. He was arrested Saturday and was released from the Winnebago County Jail after posting a $10,000 cash bond.
It wasn't immediately clear if Twait has an attorney. A phone listing for Twait could not be found on Tuesday morning.