Teacher Leadership Cash Counts, But School Funding Decision Needed, Superintendent Says

PLEASANT HILL, Iowa (AP) — The superintendent of a suburban Des Moines school district says new dollars for teacher leadership training benefit schools, but he adds that basic school funding is still needed for expenses like books. Southeast Polk Community School District Superintendent Craig Menozzi spoke Monday at a press conference with Gov. Terry Branstad. The event highlighted the progress since the governor’s plan to boost funding for teacher training was approved two years ago. Branstad says the program will “transform education.” Menozzi praises the new program, but, along with several local superindendents, expresses concern over how much new basic funding that schools will get for the upcoming school year. Continue Reading

Cross-Country Search Turns Up Photo of Fallen Iowa Soldier

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Cross-country efforts to track down a photo of an Iowan killed in the Vietnam War have turned up an image of the man when he was 14 years old. Chris Mudge, executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association, says the photo of Staff Sgt. David L. McCombs was provided Thursday by an Illinois man. The photo of McCombs, a U.S. Army soldier who was born in Oskaloosa and died at age 26 in Vietnam, was the last one needed to complete Iowa’s contribution to the Vietnam Memorial Fund’s “Wall of Faces.” The tribute aims to put a face to the more than 58,000 names listed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Continue Reading

Court: Iowa Casino Doesn’t Have to Pay $41M Jackpot Error

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Illinois grandmother’s incredible luck has run out. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Waterloo casino does not have to pay Pauline McKee the $41 million she thought she won in 2011 while playing a penny slot machine. The court says the game’s rules capped jackpots at $10,000 and didn’t allow bonuses. The court says the message that appeared indicating McKee won a $41.8 million legacy bonus “was a gratuitous promise” that the casino wasn’t obligated to pay. The Antioch, Illinois grandmother of 13 hit the bonus while gambling on a Miss Kitty slot machine at the Isle Casino Hotel during a family reunion. Continue Reading

Iowa Law Tries to Ensure Adult Children Can See Sick Parents

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A year after the children of radio personality Casey Kasem had to seek court action to see their ailing father, a new Iowa law aims to ensure that adult children can see their sick parents — granting them visitation rights unless the person’s guardian goes to court to stop them. Gov. Terry Branstad signed the bill Friday. The law gives an adult with a legal guardian — someone who cannot manage their own affairs — the right to receive visits from family members and others they have previously expressed interest in seeing. Sen. Rob Hogg said he started working on the issue after hearing from a constituent having difficulty visiting her brother. The legislation was backed by Kasem’s daughter, Kerri Kasem, who appeared on Iowa radio to advocate for it. Continue Reading

Medicaid Cuts Part of New IL Budget

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Cuts to Medicaid will make up about one-third of the $300 million in spending reductions by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office as part of a budget fix for this fiscal year. Rauner’s office shared a letter detailing the $106 million in cuts to service providers in the health care program for the poor. The governor’s office says the providers’ reimbursement rates will reduced by 16.75 percent. Hospital and mental health services will be exempt from reductions. Continue Reading

Government Oversight Committee Probing Hot Lotto Case

The Government Oversight Committee in the Iowa House is asking questions about the case involving a lottery contractor who is charged with trying to illegally claim a 14-million dollar Hot Lotto jackpot. Iowa Lottery C-E-O Terry Rich met with the committee Thursday and offered a briefing on security and the four-year-long timeline for the case. “Iowa stopped this fraud and what we believe was a fraud on the Iowa Lottery…thanks to the structure that we had,” Rich said. A handful of states allow lottery winners to remain anonymous, but Iowa law requires public disclosure of the winner’s name. Rich says that’s one factor that helped prevent Eddie Tipton, an lottery contractor, from claiming the Hot Lotto prize. Continue Reading

Another Iowa Turkey Farm Succumbs to Bird Flu

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Department of Agriculture says a turkey farm in Sac County has become the third farm in Iowa to have confirmed cases of bird flu. The farm’s 34,000 turkeys will be killed to contain the virus. The farm is within a six-mile monitoring zone of the first turkey farm identified in Iowa to have the H5N2 virus. Sac County is the adjacent county south of Buena Vista County where a farm with 27,000 turkeys was confirmed to have the virus on April 13. An egg-laying facility with 3.8 million chickens in Osceola County northwest of the turkey farms also has the virus. Continue Reading

Fugitive Coralville Lawyer Apprehended in Colorado

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A disbarred Iowa lawyer’s long run from the law is over. Investigators have captured former Coralville lawyer Dennis Bjorklund, one of the FBI’s most wanted white-collar criminals, in Colorado several years after he vanished. Authorities said Wednesday that Bjorklund was arrested without incident April 15 in Pueblo, Colorado by the FBI and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office. They say he is being transferred back to Iowa to face federal charges of mail and tax fraud. An indictment returned in 2010 accuses Bjorklund of defrauding clients in drunken-driving cases by recommending they make contributions to a phony charity he established. Continue Reading

Henry Rayhons embraces his daughter following the verdict. (Radio Iowa Photo)

Former Iowa Legislator Acquitted of Sex Abuse Charges

After three days of deliberations, a northern Iowa jury has acquitted a former state legislator involved in a sex abuse case that has garnered international attention. Seventy-eight-year-old Henry Rayhons was accused of engaging in sexual activity with his wife when she could not consent. Donna Rayhons had Alzheimer’s and her daughters had placed her in a nursing home in Garner last year. That’s where prosecutors alleged the sex act took place, in her nursing home bed. Henry Rayhons could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on the felony sex abuse charge. Continue Reading