Arbitrator Finds for Iowa Employees on Health Care Issue

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An arbitrator has sided with Iowa state employees who objected to a state proposal that would have forced them to pay up to 15 percent of their monthly health care premiums.

The arbitrator sided with the employees’ union on Saturday, saying the employee union’s proposal to instead pay $20 a month toward their health care premiums was the most reasonable. The wage proposals of both the state and union leaders were much the same. State employees will get a pay hike of about 6 percent over two years. Union president Danny Homan on Saturday lauded the decision, saying it will “help put money in the pockets of state employees.” But Gov. Terry Branstad’s office says the decision will “cost the Iowa taxpayers an additional $24 million.” Continue Reading

Sex Offender Challenges State’s Supervised Release Law

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a state law that allows sex offenders to remain under supervised release even if they’ve been found unlikely to engage in acts of sexual violence. The law was challenged by 57-year-old Calvin Matlock, of Waterloo, who has three sex abuse convictions. He was released from prison in 2000 but confined to a Cherokee sex offenders unit as a sexually violent predator. In 2013 he was released under supervision of a probation officer after he was found to have a mental abnormality but prosecutors failed to prove he was likely to reoffend. Matlock claims the conditions violate his constitutional due process rights. Continue Reading

Snarky Highway Signs Getting Positive Response

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Department of Transportation officials say they’re getting a good response from electronic signs that use sometimes snarky messages to promote driving safety. Dakin Schultz, a traffic planner for the state DOT in Sioux City, says the signs have been grabbing the attention of drivers across the state with messages including sassy wordplay and parodies of popular songs. Such as “Hey Bobblehead, stop looking at your phone” and “I’m all about that belt, bout that belt, just click it”

Iowa DOT spokeswoman Tracey Bramble says the messages are part of the so-called Zero Fatalities program that the department launched in June. She says the messages change every week and relate to one of five driving categories: speeding and aggressive, impaired, distracted, drowsy or seat belts. The Sioux City Journal reports that there are 90 permanent electronic signs in Iowa. Continue Reading

Iowa House Votes to Require Pre-Abortion Ultrasounds

The Republican-led Iowa House has voted to require doctors to offer women seeking an abortion the opportunity to see an ultrasound image and hear the heartbeat of the fetus.  

The bill passed on a 57 to 39 vote after several hours of debate. Representative Joel Fry, a Republican from Osceola, was the bill’s floor manager. “It is my belief that we are defending two lives here, both a mother and a child,” Fry said. “…It’s my attempt, my desire to bring to the forefront that one that is often not heard.” Continue Reading

Storm Lake Man Accused of Having Homemade Bombs

STORM LAKE, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say a 28-year-old man was charged with possessing explosive devices after officers who broke up a fight at a Storm Lake residence found homemade bombs. The officers responded early Wednesday morning to a report about the fight and arrested three people on charges related to the melee. The officers report that they found bombs inside the residence and subsequently arrested Dion Caldwell. Online court records don’t list the name of a defense attorney who could be contacted for comment about the allegation against Caldwell.   Continue Reading

Iowa Straw Poll Moving to Boone in 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s Republican straw poll, which has long been held in the college town of Ames, is moving. State GOP officials announced Thursday that the event would be held in Boone at the Central Iowa Expo on Aug. 8. They said earlier this year they would take bids to host the political gathering, in an effort to better manage costs. Four locations submitted bids and the committee that governs the party voted unanimously to go to Boone, located about 45 minutes outside Des Moines. Continue Reading

Archdiocese Investigates 30-Year-Old Sexual Abuse Claim

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — The Archdiocese of Dubuque is investigating a sexual abuse claim against a former Iowa pastor 30 years after the alleged abuse occurred. The Telegraph Herald reports that the claim, made last year against a former Dubuque pastor, alleges the man sexually abused a minor in 1985. Efforts by The Telegraph Herald to reach the man for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful. Director of communications John Robbins says the accuser’s attorney brought the allegation to the Dubuque County Attorney’s Office. He says criminal investigation isn’t expected because of the statute of limitations. Continue Reading

Senate Panel Reviews Medical Marijuana Legislation

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An effort to expand access to medical marijuana in Iowa has won preliminary approval in the Iowa Senate. A subcommittee reviewed the proposed legislation Wednesday. The bill would make medical marijuana available to people with a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Those approved by a doctor would then purchase marijuana products produced in Iowa at state-run dispensaries. Last year, the Legislature approved a law that allows some residents with epilepsy to use oil with an ingredient derived from marijuana for treatment. Continue Reading

Testimony Heard in Student’s Lawsuit Against High School

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (AP) — Court proceedings have begun in a lawsuit against the Marshalltown Community School District by a student suspended from playing football after authorities accused him of making a gesture denoting white power. The Marshalltown Times-Republican reports that 18-year-old Blair Van Staalduine sued the district after he was suspended from playing in three football games for a photograph that school administrators say showed him wearing white and making a “W” with his hands. The student’s attorney, Barry Kaplan, says the photo references a school event where students in Van Staalduine’s grade were encouraged to wear white to school that day. Van Staalduine denies the gesture referred to white power. Van Staalduine and his family want to see his record cleared of any reference to disciplinary action. Continue Reading