Branstad Chief of Staff Resigns

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad’s chief of staff Matt Hinch says he is resigning for a career in the private sector. Hinch announced his plans in a news release Wednesday, but did not provide details about his next job. His last day in the governor’s office will be Aug. 7. The 35-year-old Hinch has been serving in his current role since 2013. Continue Reading

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Branstad: Trump “Unlikely” to Wind Up Republican Nominee

Governor Terry Branstad doesn’t think it’s “likely” that Donald Trump will wind up being the Republican Party’s presidential nominee next year. “It’s way early and polls at this point in time tend to reflect name recognition,” Branstad says. “And, obviously, he’s a TV personality who has a lot of recognition, but there’s a lot of really good candidates in this race.” Trump is tops in several recent national polls and a couple of recent surveys focusing solely on Iowa Caucus-goers found Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in the lead, with Trump surging into second place. “I don’t think he’s going to be the nominee, but you know he, like any other candidate, has an opportunity to express their viewpoint,” Branstad says. Continue Reading

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Burlington Man Arrested Following Drunken Car Chase–With Three Kids in the Car

A Burlington man is facing 14 separate criminal charges after drunkenly getting into a car chase with West Burlington Police before wrecking his car in a ditch on Saturday–all with three children in the car. Police first tried to stop 39 year old Anthony Maurice Walls for speeding in West Burlington when Walls allegedly took off at high speed down Roosevelt and West Burlington Avenues, reaching speeds of about 80 miles an hour before West Burlington Police Chief Frank Newberry ordered officers to discontinue the chase, four minutes after it began at 9:04pm. About an hour later, Des Moines County Sheriff’s deputies discovered Walls’ car in a ditch in rural Des Moines County. Walls was arrested and charged with three counts of Child Endangerment, Driving Under the Influence, Reckless Driving, Driving with a Suspended License, No Insurance, Speeding, Felony Eluding, Following Too Closely, Failure to Use a Turn Signal, Failure to Obey a Stop Sign, Failure to Maintain Control, and Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device. Continue Reading

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Road Construction, Road Construction Everywhere

It’s no surprise that you can’t seem to drive through Burlington right now without hitting some sort of road construction. Projects are currently underway with both the Burlington Public Works Department and the Iowa Department of Transportation, and more projects are on the way. Currently, city crews are working on a street overlay project on Garfield from Barrett to West Avenue, and a sewer separation project affecting Division Street between Marshall, Gunnison and 6th and 7th streets. But that’s not all the work that’s happening on Division, according to City Engineer Ryne (Rhine) Thornburg. They’ll be resurfacing the street in addition to separating the sewer line. Continue Reading

Bird Flu Disaster Declaration Extended for Third Time

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad has extended a state of disaster emergency through Aug. 30 in response to the bird flu outbreak in the state. The declaration Tuesday is the third extension of the original disaster proclamation. It otherwise would have expired Friday. The virus has infected more than 31.5 million birds in Iowa, mostly egg-laying chickens, making the state the hardest hit in the nation. Continue Reading

The Fort Madison State Prison. Courtesy: Fort Madison Prison Memory Project

Lockdown Still In Place Following Fort Madison Prison Escape

Inmates at the maximum-security prison in Fort Madison are still on a tight security lockdown following an escape three weeks ago. Inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary remain on restricted movement status, which means they are confined to their cells for the vast majority of the time. Prison officials imposed the lockdown July 5, after inmate Justin Kestner escaped from one of the state’s highest-security cells. He was captured several hours later in Illinois. The 25 year old Kestner had removed the screws from an access cover to a pipe chase in the cell shower and subsequently maneuvered up the chase and through a vent to the roof. Continue Reading

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Tuition Freezes at Regent Schools Could End in the Spring

The three years of tuition freezes at the three state universities could be coming to an end. Materials released by the Board of Regents propose a three percent tuition increase for the spring semester of 2016 at the University of Iowa, Northern Iowa and Iowa State University. Board president Bruce Rastetter said in June they would hold the line on tuition for the fall, but said a freeze for the spring was up in the air after the 2015 Iowa Legislature approved only a portion of the funding they were asking for. Legislators approve six-point-five million dollars in funding, while the regents had requested 21-point-seven million. The proposal says the increase would add 100 dollars to the cost of tuition for full-time undergraduate students. Continue Reading

Truck Spills Around 100 Gallons of Oil in Burlington

A small oil spill caused headaches for drivers and cleanup crews Monday in Burlington when a truck hauling used motor oil spilled around 100 gallons onto the road near Highway 61 and Mount Pleasant Avenue. Burlington Fire Officials say that one of the containers failed on its top right corner, causing the oil to spill on the road. The truck is owned by Roth Trucking. Burlington Fire Department crews, Iowa Department of Transportation Officials, Des Moines County Secondary Roads Crews, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources spent around two hours and used 29 oil dry bags to clean up the spill. The incident occured at around 9:48 am. Continue Reading

Johnson County Plan to Raise Minimum Wage ‘Unlawful’, Says Labor Commissioner

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s labor commissioner says the Johnson County plan to raise the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour would be unlawful. Labor Commissioner Michael Mauro told the Iowa City Press-Citizen on Monday that employers always have discretion to pay more than minimum wage, but he says a county mandate would be unconstitutional because it would be inconsistent with state law. He says it would take a court challenge to prevent the county board from setting a new rate. Last week the county Board of Supervisors decided to seek a county ordinance that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2017, using three hikes of 95 cents an hour, starting on Nov. 1. Continue Reading