Two More Poultry Farms Show Bird Flu Signs, Disposal Proving Difficult

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa agriculture officials say two additional commercial poultry farms show signs of the presence of bird flu. A chicken farm in Osceola County with 100,000 birds and a turkey farm in Cherokee County are the latest additions to the list of farms testing positive for the H5N2 virus. The number of turkeys wasn’t immediately released by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Osceola County now has three cases and Cherokee County totals four. They raise Iowa’s total number to 37 cases in 11 counties. Continue Reading

Democratic Senators Reject Call for Drug-Testing Welfare Recipients

Democrats in the Iowa Senate have rejected a Republican call for drug testing of all Iowans who receive state welfare checks through the Family Investment Program. The proposal called for drug tests for Iowans who get Family Investment Program checks. That’s not the “food stamp” program. It’s to support living expenses and over 11-thousand Iowans received Family Investment Program benefits last months. The average payment was for 332 dollars. Continue Reading

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Duck Flock Added to Bird Flu List

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa agriculture officials say five additional commercial chicken farms show signs of the presence of bird flu and a backyard duck flock near a previously confirmed case also has tested positive. The new chicken cases are on Sioux County farms. Two had a total of 200,000 chickens. Estimates were not immediately available for the remaining three farms. The backyard ducks are on a farm in O’Brien County. The new cases raise Iowa’s total number to 34 cases in 11 counties. About 21 million of Iowa’s chickens will be affected if the latest cases are confirmed. Continue Reading

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Tentative Agreement Made on School Funding

A flurry of high-level negotiations at the statehouse on Wednesday may have yielded a tentative agreement on how to resolve the impasse over state funding of public schools. According to the Facebook post of an eastern Iowa legislator, the tentative deal would give K-through-12 schools a one-and-a-quarter percent increase in general state aide for the next school year — the Republican bargaining position since January — along with a one-time boost of 55-million dollars in state support — so the total amount of new money for schools would equal what Democrats in the legislature had been seeking. School officials, by state law, had to certify their districts’ budgets for the next school year by April 30th. Since legislators had failed to make the decision on school funding by then, Iowa superintendents issued more than 11-hundred layoff notices to teachers and staff last week. Continue Reading

Fireworks Legalization Passes Senate Committee

A bill that would make it legal for Iowans to set off fireworks has cleared a Senate committee. Senator Randy Feenstra of Hull says it’s time to make the change. “Since it’s happening already, maybe we should put some parameters in place, which this bill does, to legalize it,” Feenstra says. If the bill becomes law, Iowans could legally set off fireworks from 9 a.m. through 10 p.m. any day of the year, plus for an extended period on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and on New Year’s. The only fireworks which are legal to sell and set off in Iowa today are sparklers and snakes. Continue Reading

Branstad Refuses to Commute Five Sentences

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has denied five inmates’ requests to lessen the long prison terms they are now serving. Of the inmates denied commutation Tuesday, two are serving life sentences for first-degree murder, including one man whose crime was committed more than 54 years ago. Another is serving a life sentence for first-degree kidnapping. Commutation denotes the modification or reduction of a punishment. Under Iowa law, first-degree murder is punishable by life in prison without parole. Continue Reading

Former Oelwein Mayor Acquitted on One Sex Charge, Mistrial for Second

The former mayor of Oelwein, on trial over accusations of sexual abuse against two minor girls, has been acquitted of one charge, while the jury deadlocked on another. Thirty-seven-year-old Jason Manus had been charged with second degree sexual abuse of a girl between 6 and 9 years old and third degree sexual abuse of a 14 year old girl. The incidents allegedly took place in 2010, but did not come to light until August of last year. Manus resigned as Oelwein’s mayor, a post he held for just a few months, days after he was arrested. The trial was moved to Chickasaw County on a change of venue. Continue Reading

House Passes Budget Bills to Fund Courts, Natural Resources Department

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa House has passed budget bills that would fund several services including the state’s judicial branch and natural resources department. The Republican-controlled House voted Tuesday for the bills, which would pay for various state departments in the fiscal year that begins in July. The chamber voted 56-43 to allocate more than $174 million to the state’s judicial branch. That would keep funding at the same level as last year. Lawmakers voted 57-42 for a bill in support of $42 million for agencies like the state Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Continue Reading

Eminent Domain Law Still Moving Through Iowa Senate

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Legislation that would make it harder for two energy projects to win eminent domain rights has passed another legislative hurdle in the Iowa Senate. The Senate Government Oversight Committee approved the bill Tuesday. Under the proposal, a project seeking eminent domain to build through private properties could get permission only after negotiating voluntary deals for at least 75 percent of the affected land. The proposed change could impact two current proposals, both before the Iowa Utilities Board. One is to build an oil pipeline that would ship 450,000 barrels daily from production sites in North Dakota to an oil hub in Illinois. Continue Reading