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Lawmakers Will Try to Shut Down 2015 Session This Week

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa lawmakers have returned to the state Capitol as they move closer to shutting down the 2015 session

The full membership of the House and Senate reported for duty Tuesday, as lawmakers work to wrap up the 2015 legislative session. Both sides started voting on budget bills, with a judicial branch budget winning approval in both chambers. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, said lawmakers “should be able to get this done this week.” Under a compromise financial plan revealed Monday, the state will spend about $7.3 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. The tentative deal includes $7.168 billion in ongoing spending, plus an additional $125 million in one-time expenses. Continue Reading

Keep Emergency Alerts On, Authorities Urge

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Iowa authorities acknowledge Amber Alerts can be jarring, especially when they sound on smartphones before 4 a.m., but they’re urging people not to switch off the notices. People across Iowa got an early wake-up call on Monday when the Department of Public Safety issued an alert for two children, ages 2 and 4, who were missing from Jefferson. Police found the children safe at a downtown Des Moines hotel and arrested the 21-year-old babysitter on child endangerment charges. Several Kirkwood Community College students say they were jolted awake when the alert went off. But they say they didn’t consider it enough of a nuisance to shut off the notices. Continue Reading

30 Health Insurance Plans Proposing Double-Digit Increases

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Thirty individual health insurance plans in Iowa are proposing double-digit increases for next year, citing higher medical and prescription drug costs and greater use of services. The proposed hikes would apply to plans sold on the health insurance exchanges created under the federal health care law, as well as individual coverage sold through brokers and agents. The rate proposals were posted online by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Rate increases were only disclosed on the website if they were proposed to grow by 10 percent or more. Wellmark Health submitted 16 proposed such increases, the largest being 35 percent. Continue Reading

$7.3 Billion Spending Plan Approved in Iowa Legislature

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Under a compromise budget deal in the Legislature, the state will spend about $7.3 billion for the coming fiscal year, with some additional dollars coming to schools. Lawmakers announced the terms of the tentative agreement Monday. The budget includes $7.17 billion in ongoing spending, plus another $125 million in one-time expenses. As it is structured, the Republican-led House maintains a pledge to limit ongoing spending, while the Democratic-controlled Senate gets some more money for key priorities like education. Republicans say the one-time expenses will come out of the surplus dollars remaining at the end of the current budget year. Continue Reading

Monday Amber Alert Cancelled, Subject Jailed

The Amber Alert issued early Monday Morning has been cancelled and a suspect is jailed after the alleged abduction of two children in central Iowa. Authorities say 21-year-old Allison Tucker did have her friend’s permission to take the two children to Des Moines to look at a dog to adopt on Sunday afternoon. The parent, in Jefferson, became worried after they never reached their destination. The children were reported missing around 8 o’clock Sunday night. Tucker was taken into custody without incident at a hotel in downtown Des Moines around 5:30 A-M, about two hours after the alert was issued. Continue Reading

Counties Targeted in Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit Respond

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The three rural Iowa counties targeted in a federal lawsuit by a Des Moines water utility have filed a response denying that they contribute to high nitrate levels in rivers. The Des Moines Register reports that Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties submitted the response on May 22. The lawsuit filed earlier this year says the three counties should be required to obtain federal water pollution discharge permits because they release nitrate pollutants into rivers much like regulated factories. The nitrate comes from fertilizer and manure from 1.2 million hogs and a million turkeys that is spread on the fields in the counties. Water Works also seeks $900,000 it spent in 2013 and $540,000 this year to operate an expensive treatment system to remove nitrates from water. Continue Reading

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Tentative Budget Agreement Struck in Des Moines

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Legislative leaders say they have a tentative budget agreement that could enable them to adjourn within days. Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said Friday they had reached an understanding. They declined to provide details on the overall spending level or on individual items, like education, saying that information would be released next week. The leaders in the divided Legislature reached the terms after roughly five hours of negotiations Friday. They have been haggling for weeks since their daily expense payments ran out May 1. Continue Reading

Bird Flu Disaster Emergency Extended

The governor has extended the disaster emergency he issued following the outbreak of avian flu. Governor Terry Branstad declared the emergency on May 1st and it was set to expire at the end of this month, but he has now extended the declaration through the month of June. The number of facilities hit by the bird flu outbreak is now 68, and has impacted millions of chickens and turkeys in 18 counties. The disaster declaration allows for the coordination of state resources in the disposal of the infected animals. Branstad said at the time he declared the state of emergency that it was the worst such outbreak in the state in modern times. Continue Reading

Be Mindful of Teen Drivers During “100 Deadliest Days”

A new study finds almost two-thirds of people injured or killed in crashes involving a teen driver are people -other- than the teen behind the wheel. Rose White, traffic safety director at Triple-A-Iowa, says we’re now in what’s considered the “100 Deadliest Days,” the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when teen crash fatalities historically climb. Kids are out of school, White says, and often have access to vehicles. “As a result, we always see a big increase in crashes and, unfortunately, fatalities and injuries involving young teen drivers,” White says. “Looking at stats over two decades, we are noticing that in those fatality crashes, it’s usually a person in the other vehicle or possibly a passenger that’s killed in the car crash.” Continue Reading