School Funding Compromise Fails

An attempt at compromise between Iowa Democrats and Republicans over school funding in the state failed last night. In January, Republicans proposed a one-and-a-quarter percent increase in general state aid to public school districts, while Democrats had favored a four percent boost. The ten legislators assigned to resolve the impasse met Wednesday afternoon and Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames made the Democrats’ formal offer of a two-and-five-eighths percent increase, which would be right in the middle. “Schools now need the final answer,” Quirmbach said. “They need to certify their budgets by April 15.” Continue Reading

Governor Signs Bill Protecting Cities from Sledding Claims

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Sledding may be allowed in more public parks next winter under a new law that protects cities from liability if people are injured. Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill into law Wednesday. It won unanimous approval in the state Legislature. The old rules protected cities from liability when people were injured skateboarding or biking on city property but did not include a sledding protection. This law changes the language to provide protection from injuries sustained during “recreational activities,” which means sledding would be covered. Continue Reading

Fire Breaks Out on Farm Owned by Governor Branstad’s Family

FOREST CITY, Iowa (AP) — Forest City authorities say crews spent hours dragging burning bales of cornstalks away from buildings on a farm operated by the governor’s family. Fire Chief Mark Johnson tells the Mason City Globe-Gazette that several hundred round bales of stalks were found burning between two buildings on Branstad Farms on Wednesday morning. The farm is about four miles south of Forest City. It’s operated by Gov. Terry Branstad’s brother and his nephews. Crews let the bales burn out. Continue Reading

Ride-Sharing Legislation Considered

A bill to regulate internet-based ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft is under consideration at the statehouse. Uber drivers have been operating in the metro areas of  Cedar Rapids and Des Moines — using their own cars and ferrying passengers who request a ride using a smart phone app. The City of Des Moines just passed an ordinance to regulate Uber drivers. Pooneet Kant– Uber’s general manager — is pressing legislators for statewide rules. “We just think that having a uniform standard makes more sense,” Kant says. Continue Reading

Sweeping Changes to Gun Laws Likely Won’t Happen this Legislative Session

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Legislation that would have made sweeping changes to Iowa’s gun laws appears to be dead this session, after Senate lawmakers focused on a separate bill with more limited scope. The Senate voted 46-4 Tuesday for a bill that would allow the use of suppressors to silence weapons. It now heads to the House, where lawmakers have a small window to advance it before a procedural deadline Friday. The House passed a bill recently that would have made several changes to Iowa’s gun laws. It included a proposal to allow children of any age to use a handgun under a parent’s supervision. Continue Reading

Bill Would Allow Teachers More Authority to Respond to Bullying

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Senate has passed legislation that would give school educators more authority to respond to student bullying in Iowa. The Senate voted 43-7 Tuesday for the bill. It now heads to the House, where lawmakers are considering a similar measure. The bill would give school educators more authority to respond to bullying, including guidelines to respond to bullying off school grounds. It also expands language on cyberbullying to include social media. Continue Reading

Early School Start Bill Heading to Branstad for Approval

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa schools will be able to start the upcoming academic year no earlier than Aug. 23, under a compromise bill that is now headed to Gov. Terry Branstad for approval. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal on Tuesday lifted a procedural hold he placed on the bill last week. The state House and Senate both approved the legislation, but Gronstal stalled, citing concerns that high schools would be excluded from setting year-round calendars. Gronstal says it was time to move on. Continue Reading

Iowa Judge Overturns Jury Verdict in White House Bomb Threat

LE MARS, Iowa (AP) — A judge has overturned the conviction of an Iowa man found guilty of threatening to blow up the White House. On Friday Judge Steven Andreasen granted a motion by the attorney for 37-year-old Jeremy Hebert, of Akron, saying the evidence didn’t support the jury’s guilty verdict rendered on Feb. 18. The Le Mars Daily Sentinel reports, however, that Andreasen sentenced Hebert to five years in prison for three counts of felonious assault. Those sentences are to be served at the same time. Hebert also was given suspended fines of $750 for each count of assault.

Authorities say that when Hebert was arrested at his home on Nov. Continue Reading

Science Standards Could Prove Controversial

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — The new set of standards for what is taught in Iowa science classrooms could prove divisive because of the sections on evolution and climate change. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports  several members of the State Board of Education and some members of the public expressed concerns about those subjects. Board members Michael Knedler and Mike May said at a meeting last week that they worry that including evolution and climate change could make it difficult to implement the standards statewide. A team of experts is reviewing a set of model science standards. They will make a recommendation to the state board later. Continue Reading