Legislative Committee May Vote on Gas Tax This Week

The first committee votes on a bill that would raise the state fuel tax by as much as a dime a gallon may come this week at the statehouse. For several years, the idea of phasing-in a gas tax hike was considered, but never enacted. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, says this year is different.  More than 200 county and city officials, along with road builders, flooded the statehouse last Wednesday to lobby for a fuel tax increase. Paulsen, Republican Governor Terry Brasntad and Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal have all said it will require “bipartisan support” for a gas tax hike to pass the legislature, however. Continue Reading


Southern Iowa, Northern Missouri Approaching Drought Status

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Parts of Iowa, Missouri and other Midwest states are teetering close to drought status. The National Drought Mitigation Center on Thursday classified a large swath of southern Iowa, areas along the northern Missouri border and the region east toward Illinois and Wisconsin as abnormally dry. This is one level below its moderate drought category. The label comes just a week after the center categorized the area as normal. Continue Reading


Tests Continue on I-35; Safety During Snowstorms the Goal

With snow expected in many places this weekend, testing is underway on a project in central Iowa that could reduce the number of traffic crashes during snow storms.

Iowa Department of Transportation engineer Willy Sorenson says the idea involves the use of sensors and lasers to monitor winter pavement conditions. A mathematic formula then calculates an “advised” slower speed limit which is posted on digital signs along Interstate 35. On an icy day, for example, the signs might suggest a speed limit of 55 miles an mile. Many crashes on the interstate during a snow storm happen because some motorists are driving too slow at a time when others are going too fast for the conditions. Sorenson believes an “advisory speed” would bring the speeds of all vehicles closer together and make it safer on the interstate. Continue Reading

Established Iowa Tax Watchdog Pledges Retribution if Gas Tax is Raised

The leader of a group created nearly four decades ago to lobby for a smaller state government and reduced taxes says Iowa legislators will pay a price in 2016 if they support a gas tax increase in 2015. Rob Solt is president of Iowans for Tax Relief, a group urging lawmakers to vote against any bill that would raise the state gas tax. Here’s how the formula works: nearly half of the money raised by those taxes is kept by the state, with 20 percent going to cities and the rest going to counties. Solt suggests the state should keep less and share more with local governments. It appears momentum is building at the statehouse for a gas tax increase, however. Continue Reading

Iowa Sees Double-Digit Increase in Suicides from 2012 to 2013

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Health officials say more than 400 Iowans committed suicide in 2013, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. The Iowa Department of Public Health released data last month that reveals 445 such deaths statewide in 2013, the most since at least 1989. The suicide rate was 14.4 per 100,000 people, up from 12.8 in 2012. The Telegraph Herald reports Iowa’s suicide rate exceeds those of neighboring Illinois and Wisconsin. Officials say changes to Iowa’s mental health system might improve crisis intervention in eastern Iowa. Continue Reading

New Iowa Strip-Search Bill Mirrors U-S Supreme Court Ruling

A bill in the Iowa Legislature would allow more strip searches of inmates in city and county jails, in accordance with a U-S Supreme Court ruling. Under the bill, people arrested for simple misdemeanors such as public intoxication or possession of drug paraphernalia could be searched for contraband even without probable cause. Lisa Davis Cook with the Iowa Association for Justice objects. Iowa law already allows so-called visual searches without probable cause for more serious offenses. A-C-L-U attorney Pete McRoberts says the bill should only cover violent offenders, but Marshall County Sheriff’s Department chief deputy, Steve Hoffman, says that could pose a threat to officers. Continue Reading

Special Prosecutor Will Look Again at Trooper-Involved Drowning

The case of a Clive, Iowa man who drowned while in the custody of Missouri troopers is getting another look from a special prosecutor. The special prosecutor that four months ago said she wouldn’t charge a Highway Patrol trooper in the drowning of an Iowa man while in that trooper’s custody now says she is reviewing the case after getting new information. The Kansas City Star reports Amanda Grellner has had witnesses re-interviewed in recent weeks, including a couple who saw Brandon Ellingson in the water on the Lake of the Ozarks minutes before he drowned. She won’t comment about what is being reviewed or specifics of the investigation. Brandon Ellingson died May 31 after falling out of a Patrol boat while handcuffed and after the lifejacket that had been improperly placed on him, slid off. Continue Reading


Governor Branstad Answers Critics on Mt. Pleasant Mental Health & Clarinda MHI Issue

Governor Terry Branstad says his administration won’t be violating state law if they continue to run “significant” prison operations and a military-style academy on the Mental Health Institute campuses in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda. But state Senator Rich Taylor of Mount Pleasant argues Iowa law requires the state to provide in-patient care for mentally ill patients at both sites. Branstad says the attorney general’s office has assured him what he’s proposing is legal. Key legislators…including Taylor and Republican Dave Heaton of Mt. Pleasant… Continue Reading


It’s Iowa; ‘Must Be Election Season

A parade of Republicans who’ve said they may run for president will speak at an event tomorrow(Saturday) in Des Moines. The speaking schedule for Congressman Steve King’s “Iowa Freedom Summit” includes a retired surgeon, two people who’ve made their mark in the business world and four people who are either in congress now or who used to serve there. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is one of the half dozen current or former Republican governors who’ll speak.  Walker will tout what he calls the “Wisconsin comeback” — something he says some of the other would-be candidates can’t match. The other speakers at Saturday’s event who have state-level chief executive experience are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Governors Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Sarah Palin of Alaska and Jim Gilmore of Virgina as well as Rick Perry, whose 14-year run as governor of Texas ended earlier this week. Continue Reading