Huckabee is Latest Straw Poll No-Show; is Event in Jeopardy?

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The people running Iowa’s Republican presidential straw poll want less money and glitz involved as they try to take this summer’s event back to basics. But now they are facing a different kind of downsizing — fewer candidates. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is the latest 2016 prospect to opt out of the Iowa tradition. He said Thursday he won’t participate in the poll that he placed second in eight years ago. That was the latest bad news for the carnival-like summer event that draws thousands of party activists. Continue Reading

Chicken Coop

All Live Bird Exhibitions Cancelled Throughout State

The Iowa Department of Agriculture announced Thursday afternoon an order to immediately cancel all live bird exhibitions at county fairs, the Iowa State Fair, and other gatherings of birds due to avian influenza. Iowa Ag Secretary, Bill Northey, says they looked at a lot of factors in making the decision. “In the interest of making sure that we don’t spread this disease — that we minimize the opportunity for it to move around the state especially — it’s important for us to cancel those exhibitions and make sure we are doing everything we can in the midst of this situation to control the disease,” Northey says. The county fairs will be the first to be impacted. The state announced the 63rd probably case of the avian flu Thursday shortly after announcing the cancellation of poultry shows. Continue Reading

No Straw Poll for Huckabee

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says he won’t participate in the Iowa Straw Poll, where he competed and placed second eight years ago. In an opinion piece published Thursday in The Des Moines Register, Huckabee said his resources are better spent on other efforts. He argued that the straw poll is likely to draw only conservative candidates and that the competition could weaken them. Huckabee has declared his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. In 2008, he won the Iowa caucuses but did not win the nomination. Continue Reading

Two More Turkey Farms Show Bird Flu Signs

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa agriculture officials say tests on two new turkey farms indicate presence of the bird flu raising the number of cases to 62. The sixth turkey farm in Sac County and the first case in Calhoun County were added Wednesday to the state’s list of contaminated farms on which all birds will be euthanized if the virus is confirmed. The number of turkeys on each farm was not immediately released. Calhoun County becomes the 15th Iowa County to have bird flu cases reported. Samples will be sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Ames for confirmation of the H5N2 virus. Continue Reading

Report: Iowa 3rd in Nation for Structurally Deficient Bridges

A new report shows 22-percent of Iowa’s rural bridges are “structurally deficient.” That’s the third highest rate in the nation according to the National Transportation Research Group. The report states 4,815 of Iowa’s 21,939 rural bridges are structurally deficient. Scott Neubauer, bridge maintenance and inspection engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation, says most of the bridges at issue carry very few vehicles. “Over 3,800 of them have less than 50 vehicles a day and about 4,500 of them have less than 500 vehicles a day,” Neubauer says. Continue Reading

Lawmakers Still Battling Over School Funding

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — As lawmakers struggle to resolve the state budget, a new conflict has sprung up about how much new money to give schools in the 2016-2017 school year. The Appropriations Committee in the Republican-led House on Wednesday approved a plan that would provide about $125 million in new dollars in that year, with some of the money going to a teacher leadership program. But Democrats say the funding level is inadequate. Republicans had previously supported spending more money, but Rep. Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars, said they didn’t want to “overcommit and under-deliver.” The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-majority Senate are still at odds over how much new money to provide in the upcoming school year, with Democrats wanting to offer more than Republicans. Continue Reading

fireworks[2]

Fireworks Bill Passes Iowa House

It would be legal to sell and set off fireworks in Iowa if a bill that cleared the Iowa House Wednesday becomes law. Representative John Wills, a Republican from Spirit Lake, was among the 53 House members who voted “yes.” “We need to have people understand that what they do and how they do it is their responsibility,” Wills said. “This bill gives freedom back to the people and I’m in favor.” Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, was among the 43 who voted “no.” Continue Reading

Egg Prices Climb 58% as Four More Bird Flu Cases Identified

The number of cases of bird flu in the state has hit 60.The state Ag Department announced four more probable cases Tuesday, three in Sioux County and one in Buena Vista County. The Buena Vista County case involves 24-thousand turkeys, and is the 16th case there. One of the cases in Sioux County includes an estimated 150-thousand laying hens, while another facility contains an estimated 100-thousand pullets, which are the birds that grow into laying hens. The third new case in Sioux County involves 15 chickens in a backyard flock. It is the 17th case in the county. Continue Reading

Amid Controversy, Iowa Law Enforcement Academy Head Announces Retirement

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy is stepping aside after facing opposition to his appointment from state senators. Arlen Ciechanowski has informed Gov. Terry Branstad that he’s retiring June 30. Branstad appointed the longtime instructor as academy director in 2011. Ciechanowski faced criticism over how he handled an investigation that found that his assistant director, Michael Quinn, mistreated female employees and cadets. Ciechanowski disciplined Quinn but let him keep his job after learning Quinn made inappropriate workplace comments. Continue Reading