State Rep. Greg Heartsill individually introduced four pieces of legislation on Friday, the majority of which have to do with the feasibility of restructuring state government agencies.
The Columbia Republican, who represents the southern half of Jasper County and points south, introduced House File 2026 that calls for a feasibility student on restructuring state government departments. The measure calls on the Department of Management to conduct a study on the viability of reducing the number of state departments to no more than 10. The study would be due to the General Assembly by Jan. 1.
The first term state lawmaker, in House File 2025, is also asking the Department of Management to complete a study by Jan. 1 that assesses the impact of reorganizing the various state government divisions, bureaus and offices based on the function performed by each.
Heartsill's House File 2024 would establish a task force that would look at establishing common statewide service delivery districts. The study group would be tasked, again by Jan. 1, with identifying common boundaries, to the extent possible, for the delivery of services that are provided on a regional district basis with the goal of providing cost efficiencies through possible co-location of services within the identified districts.
Finally, Heartsill's House File 2021 would require that a recipient of Medicaid through the Department of Human Services submit to a health risk assessment and comply with any individualized health plan subsequently developed by the recipient's health provider as a condition of continued eligibility. The DHS would be tasked with developing the guidelines for the health risk assessment and individualized health plans to be used by primary care providers.
A March 3 trial date has been set for the Sully man charged in federal court for being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition in connection with an incident in late December where he severely beat his wife while holding her against her will and discharging weapons toward her inside their southeast Jasper County home.
Magistrate Judge Ross A. Walters set the trial date for William "Billie" Sanders, 40, of 11010 S. 100th Ave. E. on Friday during his arraignment on the charges brought by a federal grand jury earlier in the week.
The charges from the grand jury indictment replace similar charges brought in a federal criminal complaint against Sanders after he was allowed to be released on $200 bond on the initial willful injury and possession of firearms complaints brought by the state. Following his arrest on the federal charges, he was ordered detained due to the risk he poses to public safety, the judge determined.
The grand jury indictment charges that on Dec. 28, Sanders, "having been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, did knowingly possess ... firearms and ammunition" in violation of federal statutes.
The grand jury indictment also states that upon Sanders' conviction, the firearms and ammunition involved in the commission of the offense, be forfeited to the U.S. government. He is accused of possessing a Stevens pump 12-gauge shotgun, a H&R 12-gauge pump shotgun, a Marlin Model 40 .22 caliber rifle, and a Springfield XD 9-millimeter pistol, and ammunition for the guns.
Judge Walters set Feb. 18 as both the filing date on any motions to continue the trial and to advise on any plea negotiations.
Sanders was ordered to remain detained.
State prosecutors have amended the charges initially brought against Sanders. He is now charged with willful injury resulting in serious injury, a Class C felony, intimidation with a dangerous weapons, also a Class C felony, false imprisonment and habitual offender.
A Newton man was charged by Missouri law enforcement officials last week for allegedly shooting a Moberly steakhouse owner 17-years ago, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported on Saturday.
Ollie M. James III, 39, was charged after Moberly police allegedly obtained a recorded conversation where the Newton man admits he was responsible for the shooting.
James is accused of shooting the owner of Richard's Steakhouse in the chest on the evening of Dec. 28, 1997. The shooting is alleged to have occured in the parking lot of the restaurant it had closed for the evening. The victim in the attack survived.
James was charged on Tuesday with first degree assault, the Missouri newspaper reports. Bond was set at $100,000.
Newton Chief of Police Jeff Hoebelheinrich and Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said neither of their departments had any involvement in the investigation nor did they participate in making James' arrest.
Jasper County Conservation is partnering with the Central College Fishing Club to host the first "Frozen Fins Ice Fishing Tournament" set for 10:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday on the Arhens access side of Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve.
There is a $30 refundable entrance fee for pre-registered contestants with the registration fee rising to $35 on the day of the event.
Cash prizes will be given to the top three places, dependent on the number of teams registered. There will also be a "big fish" pot teams can enter into for an additional $5.
Space is limited so teams are encouraged to register by contacting Greg Oldsen at 641-792-9780 as soon as possible.
Find out if you are one of the estimated 28 million Americans who have a hearing loss that can be treated when Skiff Medical Center Audiologist Sue Bartel-Kelso holds free hearing screens from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday.
Bartel-Kelso offered a number of indicators individuals might use to determine whether a free hearing screening might be in their best interest. Individuals should take note if they:
"People who see themselves in these statements should be seen for a hearing test," she said. "Even a slight hearing loss can have an impact on your daily life. Hearing loss is treatable, and there is no reason to miss all the important sounds of life."
The free hearing clinics at Skiff are by appointment only. Call 641-791-4380 to schedule an appointment for Thursday.
By SEN. DENNIS BLACK
The governor's State-of-the-State address this past week was surely one with which few could disagree. It was not overly substantive, but the major items were those that need attention. Bullying in schools, exempting veterans retirement benefits from state tax, freezing tuition at regent's institutions, and improving on the successes of the General Assembly from last year's session were the primary issues. The governor provided accolades to both parties for accomplishments of 2013, and to my recollection, gave no one reason to refrain from standing during the many applause lines. In other words, the address was meant to be non-partisan, and uplifting to the spirits of Iowans that the future would bring good things.
This session should not be devoted to just the above, for they have near unanimous support in both chambers. Rather, the time should be spent with serious dialogue and action concerning cutting taxes for middle class families, expanding job skills training, investing in infrastructure and creating jobs, providing adequate funding for environmental protection and enhancement, and seeking compromise that will allow Iowan's to have a livable wage from their jobs. In other words, it need not be a "do nothing" session, accomplishing only the perfunctories, and then adjourning so folks can go home and campaign for re-election. We're there to get things done, and I have a personal agenda pertaining to soil and water conservation initiatives, and getting colleagues to understand that the problems with tree diseases are real and must be considered.
My continual harping on the necessity of adequate funding to the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture has been noticed by "special interest" groups in the state. I was delighted to learn that one of the Iowa Farm Bureau's top objectives is to have the legislature appropriate the funds that would cover the state's share of completing all the current engineered plans for land improvements for soil conservation and water improvements on Iowa's farms. The state pays a third of the conservation practice costs, and the farmer pays two-thirds.
Specific plans are prepared by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the statewide backlog is such that if the legislature will appropriate $18.5 million, combined with $37 million from the landowners, unprecedented progress can be made in conservation land practices. And, the $55.5 million public/private cost share would be direct job creation for land improvement contractors in Iowa. The money stays here. A caveat to this is the necessity of funding for local Soil and Water Conservation Districts to hire technicians that will oversee the planning, coordination and construction of these land practices.
Citizens need to get involved in the environmental issues. Soil health is deteriorating, and our waters need immediate attention. Yet, as long as folks can eat, and turn on the faucet and have clean water, the cry is inaudible for proactivity in our most basic and essential natural resources. Even now, it's a "catch-up", yet few want to accept the truth.
Questions or comments? Email Dennis.Black@legis.iowa.gov or call 515-281-3371.
By REP. GREG HEARTSILL
House District 28
The 2014 session of the Iowa General Assembly is under way!
This year’s session is scheduled to be 10 days less than last year’s session, at 100 days. However, leaders in both chambers are suggesting the legislative calendar may be even shorter than that. With a shorter schedule also comes earlier deadlines for the first and second self-imposed funnel dates for legislation.
Over the interim, I have been busy gathering input from several of you in the district and working with fellow legislators to craft bills that are ready to submit. And I am not alone in that. Knowing that this year’s session will likely end sooner than last year’s, many in the House Chamber were prepared to hit the ground running on Day One. I have likened it to the guy who takes days to set up tens of thousands of dominoes in a gymnasium only to see them all topple one-by-one in a matter of minutes.
On opening day, January 13, I was encouraged to hear the leadership of both parties set a more conciliatory tone for this year’s upcoming session. We have proven to ourselves and the citizens of Iowa that we can work together on common ground solutions that benefit all Iowans.
The main event of day two was Governor Branstad’s Condition of the State Address. After reviewing the accomplishments of the last legislative year, the Governor laid out his administrative priorities and budget proposal.
Governor Branstad highlighted the “centerpiece” of his agenda as the Home Base Iowa Initiative, which is a bipartisan plan focused on recruiting service members to Iowa. Included in this plan are proposals to match veterans with high-paying careers, increase support for the Military Homeownership Assistance Program, opportunities in higher education, and exempting their military pensions from taxation.
The Governor also proposed a budget that will surpass the $7 billion mark for the first time ever. This is slightly more than the on-going revenue projection of $6.983 billion by the Revenue Estimating Conference. House Republicans are committed to only passing a budget that complies with our budgeting principles. Quite frankly, I am not ready to support any budget proposal that exceeds $7 billion.
The third day of the legislative session featured the Condition of the Judiciary delivered by Chief Justice Mark Cady. Chief Justice Cady touted the judicial branch’s success in improved efficiencies in the court room along with highlighting the importance of courts serving as protectors of the young. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I am pleased that Iowa’s Court System has made good use of technology and new specialty courts to improve the justice system for Iowans.
Again this year during the Session, I plan to hold town hall meetings in each of the three counties in House District 28. The first one is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7, in Knoxville. If you are unable to attend one of my scheduled forums, please feel free to contact me with your issues or concerns as they arise. You may do so either by phone (515-281-3221), e-mail (email@example.com), or when visiting the Capitol. I appreciate and welcome your comments and feedback. Also, if you would like to subscribe to my weekly e-newsletter, please send a quick note via email and I’ll put you on the list.
I am honored to be your representative in the Iowa Legislature. Until next time, God bless!
By PETER HUSSMANN
I am writing this post to let you know that daily news items on the Newton Independent will slow considerably beginning in the middle of next week due to the necessity of my checking in to a hospital for treatment of a growth found on my larynx that doctor’s suspect is cancerous.
I am scheduled to report to the hospital on Wednesday afternoon. The plan, as it now stands, is to first have the growth biopsied to determine if it is cancerous. Should that be the finding, it is then likely that doctors would perform a tracheotomy to assist my breathing and install a feeding tube for my nutritional needs. The radiation and chemotherapy treatments would follow.
While much is yet unknown about the course this treatment will take, what is known is that I will not be able to continue to be the trusted news source my thousands of daily readers have come to count on. For that, I apologize. I hope – and anticipate – this turns out to be nothing more than a short-term blip in my ability to provide local news content you’ve come to enjoy and often can’t find anywhere else.
But readers, I need your support now more than ever. As I get set to enter into the world of cancer, I am fraught with emotional, familial and financial anxiety. Your support, through word and deed, can help to relieve that stress and provide the boost I know I will need going forward. With God’s grace, I plan to soon be back at the keyboard. Keep checking.
Newton residents have one final chance to weigh in on a proposal to issue a total of $3,735,000 in taxable essential corporate purpose general obligation bonds to finance a multi-faceted housing initiative at three public hearings set at Monday's Newton City Council meeting.
For months the council has been mulling the staff proposal to issue millions of dollars of debt to finance implementation of housing initiative designed to improve the city's curb appeal and facilitate new housing construction in the city.
The proposal includes the continuation of the City's current focus on property nuisances and rental inspections, financing for the reinstitution of the Dangerous and Dilapidated buildings program, implementation of an Abandoned and Dilapidated buildings program and funding for low and moderate income resident home improvements.
To facilitate new housing development, the program calls for city funding for the installation of infrastructure and financial incentives for home buyers, builders and property owners. Funds for potential property acquisition are included.
The needs to be addressed in the housing intiative were identified through the development of the city's recent Comprehensive Plan, a comprehensive local housing report and current demographic factors.
Three seperate public hearings will be held to approve financing for the various components of the overall initiative. Each component is being deemed an essential corporate purpose, though based on different sections of Iowa Code.
Late last year, former council member Dennis Julius asked on behalf of constituent Dennis Messick whether any of the proposed bond costs could be subject to reverse referendum petition calling for a citizen vote on the matter. The city's bond counsel indicated that state law is written broadly enough so that each of the components of the initiative could be deemed an essential corporate purpose and not be bound by reverse referendum provisions.
However, Newton residents are still allowed to challenge to the District Court the Newton council's decision to issue the bonds as essential corporate purposes. The council's decision to issue the bonds is final unless the court finds the council exceeded its authority.
Staff is recommending that bond underwriter costs be added to the total bond issuance which will allow for the $3.65 million originally proposed to be available for implementation of the housing program.
The project descriptions of the separate public hearings are as follows:
Pulbic Hearing 1 - D&D program and administration cost
Public Hearing 2 - Infrastructure
Public Hearing 3 - General development assistance
City staff is also recommending that all the bonds be issued as taxable, a move that will increase interest rates and cost more to repay.
The recommendation is being made due to the increased flexibility of taxable bonds, including fewer reporting and compliance requirements and to allow for the possible private benefit that may go to an individual, company or corporation through the housing program.
The staff report to council in advance of tonight's meeting does not include information on the long-term impact of the bonds on a Newton property owner's city property tax bill. However, at a special meeting on Monday where the council was asked to consider issuing bonds to finance a number of capital projects, the council was hesitant until more information could be provided on how the capital project bonding and the housing initiative bonding would impact next year's budget and the property tax bills of local residents.
Though its future is uncertain at best, a group of 21 House Democrats on Wednesday wasted little time in introducing legislation to raise the state's minimum wage.
House File 2011 calls for the current $7.25 minimum wage to jump to $7.75 as of July 1, $8.25 as of Jan. 1, 2015, $9 as of July 1, 2015, and $10.10 as of Jan. 1, 2016.
In addition, the bill calls for annual increases to the minimum wage beginning July 1, 2016 by the same percentage as the cost-of-living increase in federal Social Security benefits approved by the Social Security Administration.
An employer would not be required to pay a new employee the applicable hourly wage until the employee has completed 90 calendar days of employment. After the 90 days, the employer would be required to pay the employee the applicable hourly wage as of the date of completion.
Current new hires have a minimum wage of $6.35. That would increase to $6.85 on July 1, $7.35 as of Jan. 1, 2015, $8.10 as of July 1, 2015 and $9.20 as of Jan. 1, 2016.
Lobbyists are lining up for and against the measure along worker/business interest lines. The Iowa Federation of Labor is backing the measure while the Iowa Lodging Association, Iowa Restaurant Association and Iowa Grocery Industry Association all voicing opposition to the bill.
The bill has been sent to a subcommittee of the House Labor Committee.
By REP. DAN KELLEY
We opened the 2014 legislative session this week and it was great to see my colleagues from around the state again. After legislative leaders offered their agenda for session on opening day Monday, we had two special joint sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday to hear from the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court.
The Governor outlined his priorities this year and also released his budget recommendations. We were pleased to hear many things that we all agree on, including: connecting more Iowans to broadband, freezing tuition at our state universities, and stopping bullying in our schools.
While he also took a positive step expanding apprenticeship and job training programs, we’re going to have to work together to build more support for community colleges and grow our skilled workforce.
If we keep focused on the middle class, we can approve some common sense solutions and give Iowans more economic security.
Chief Justice Mark Cady’s State of Judiciary highlighted several priorities for the courts this year. The top priority is protecting Iowa’s kids with more face-to-face meetings with troubled youth. Justice Cady also wants to make sure the courts provide equal access to every Iowan regardless of where they live.
This session I will serve on the same committees as last year; Ways & Means, Environmental Protection, Agriculture, and International Relations. I will serve, once again, as Ranking Member on the Administration and Regulations Budget Subcommittee. In addition, our new Minority Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown has appointed me to the State Government Committee. I’m excited about this new assignment. It’s good to get back to work at the Capitol.
While every Iowan knows the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses are held every presidential year, many Iowans don’t realize the caucuses for both Democrats and Republicans are held in non-presidential years as well. It’s an opportunity to meet with your neighbors and talk about what’s important to you, your family, and your community. The 2014 Iowa Caucuses will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21 in a location near you. Please attend and participate.
Visit my website at www.electkelley.com. ‘Friend’ me on Facebook and ‘follow’ me on Twitter. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
The Jasper County Sheriff's Department is investigating a number of break-ins and thefts reported recently in the rural Prairie City and Mitchellville areas.
On Jan. 6, Sheriff's Department officials received two break-in reports in rural Mitchellville where miscellaneous tools and all-terrain vehicles were reported stolen at both locations.
On Saturday, Sheriff's officials received a report of a vehicle being stolen from a rural Prairie City residence though the owner located it later that day and that it appeard that nothing had been taken from the vehicle.
On Tuesday, a rural Prairie City resident reported that tractor batteries and copper battery cables had been taken from equipment in a farm field.
The Jasper County Sheriff's Department is continuing to investigate the thefts.
Members of the Newton Park Board will mull a proposal to ban tobacco use at all city parks and recreational facilities over the course of the next month before again discussing the matter at its meeting next month.
Representatives of the American Lung Association made the pitch to Park Board members at its meeting Wednesday though the Park Board took no action on the matter.
The Lung Association is pushing governmental entities throughout central Iowa to enact ordinances for tobacco free recreational areas. It has successfully persuaded the communities of Prairie City and Mitchellvile to ban tobacco at all city parks, trails and recreational facilities.
The Park Board could enact a rule banning tobacco use or recommend to the Newton City Council that an ordinance banning tobacco be enacted. The Board could also choose to do nothing.
The cross-country ski and snowshoe clinic at Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve on Saturday has been cancelled due to a lack of snowcover, Katie Cantu, a conservationist with the Jasper County Conservation Department announced this morning.
The next scheduled ski and snowshoe clinic is set for 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Preserve, weather permitting.
Members of the Newton Christian School First Lego League Team show off the hardware they won at a regional competition that allows them to advance to state competition on Saturday at Iowa State University. Team members pictured are Abby Ambroson, TJ Barwegen, Jonathan Breckenridge, Tanner Garton, Brayden Koon, Peter Larson, Mason Lee, Parker Schnell, Tate Osborn and Logan Zylstra. The team is coached by Kim Didier and Steve Larson.
Newton Christian School's First Lego League Team, the Tornado Techs, will compete in the First Lego League state competition set for Saturday at Iowa State University.
The school's team recently participated in a regional competition in Maxwell where they earned recognition as the "most well rounded team" and qualified for the state competition.
The Tornado Techs programmed an autonomous robot to complete missions and completed a project that accompanied this year's theme, "Nature's Fury." They were judged on three elements during the competition, the robot game, project and FLL Core Values.
The team's project centered on learning about tornados and ensuring that the Christian School was appropriately prepared in case of a tornado. During their research, team members interviewed residents of tornado ravaged Parkersburg, emergency management personnel, local law enforcement and school personnel. Their research lead them to make positive changes to the school's tornado plan.
First Lego League is a robotics program for students age 9 to 16. It is designed to spur interest in science and technology, as well as teaching life skills.
Newton Christian School is a private, non-denominational K-8 school.