February 19, 2019 - 4:01 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — An energy efficiency plan for the electric utility company that serves Sheldon and other areas of northwest Iowa has been approved by regulators.

A five-year energy efficiency plan filed by MidAmerican Energy Company has been approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, or IUB. The company’s plan, approved for 2019-2023, includes 14 energy efficiency and demand response programs with a proposed total budget of $256 million.

The utilities board says that MidAmerican’s plan as approved contains approximately $709 million in net electric benefits and more than $41 million in net natural gas benefits, projected to cumulatively save 767 million kilowatt-hours and 8.3 million therms. The IUB determined MidAmerican’s plan meets cost-effectiveness testing; includes programs for residential, commercial and industrial customer classes; and projects expenses that fall within budget parameters defined by Iowa Code.

Information from the board says that Iowa law allows customers of rate-regulated utility companies to request an exemption from participating in an energy efficiency plan if a plan does not meet the threshold 1.0 score on a cumulative rate-payer impact test. MidAmerican’s plan score of 1.09 does not trigger that exemption for the utility’s customers.

MidAmerican’s total energy efficiency spending under the plan is approximately $163 million for electric and $33 million for natural gas, or about 2 percent of the company’s expected retail electric revenues and 1.5 percent of the expected retail natural gas revenues during plan years. MidAmerican’s demand response spending under the plan is approximately $60 million.

February 19, 2019 - 3:19 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds has approved legislation providing a nearly 90 million dollar state funding boost to public K-12 schools in Iowa.

One bill increases the state’s per-pupil spending on public schools by just over two percent. In the other bill, per-pupil spending in 170 districts is boosted by five dollars per student, to correct an inequity in the state’s school funding formula. There’s nearly 8 million dollars in that bill as well to increase state spending on school transportation budgets to help rural districts struggling to pay for busing students to and from school.

School boards are required by law to certify the budgets for the next academic year by mid-April. A state law requires the legislature to make the basic decision on school funding by mid-February, but there’s no penalty for missing the deadline. Lawmakers have often been tardy in taking final votes on school spending plans, and school administrators in northwest Iowa have said that they sometimes wish they knew what they had to work with before certifying their budgets.

February 19, 2019 - 2:53 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — (RI) — Republican Governor Kim Reynolds will not appeal a district court judge’s ruling that struck down the six-week abortion ban she signed into law last year. Reynolds said in a written statement she sees no path for getting the case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republican Senator Jake Chapman of Adel says given recent rulings on abortion from the IOWA Supreme Court, that’s a prudent choice.

Chapman says this will heighten interest for an amendment to Iowa’s Constitution, stating the document does not protect abortion rights. House Republican Leader Chris Hagenow of Urbandale says banning abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected was important to GOP lawmakers.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s executive director says having the district court ruling that struck down the six-week abortion ban go unchallenged “is a victory for every Iowan who has ever needed or will need a safe, legal abortion.”

February 19, 2019 - 2:38 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Mother Nature has set her sights on northwest Iowa, sending a winter storm our way.

On Tuesday we talked to National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Gillispie from the Sioux Falls weather station, and asked him what we can expect from this impending snowstorm.

Gillispie says that once we get through this storm it’s not going to be time to hang up our snow shovels just yet, because another round of winter storms s forecast to bear down on our area later in the week, into the weekend.

He says blowing snow with the storm will make weekend travel difficult across northwest Iowa.

Between storms, however, Gillispie says we can enjoy the day on Thursday, when we should see mostly sunny skies and highs in the 20s.

February 19, 2019 - 2:07 pm - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate have again drafted a resolution to give gun rights the highest level of protection possible under the Iowa Constitution.

Secretary of State Paul Pate’s staff missed a deadline for publishing the proposal last fall, so Republicans who’ve championed the amendment had to re-start the process. Richard Rogers, a lobbyist for the Iowa Firearms Coalition, says Iowa is one of six states that doesn’t specifically include gun rights in its constitution.

Opponents of the proposal say it goes further than the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Reverend Wendy Abrahamson, an Episcopal pastor from Grinnell, points to the inclusion of “strict scrutiny” language in the proposal.

Others say it makes current gun laws vulnerable to legal challenges. Supporters say it’ll keep lawmakers and courts from infringing on the right to keep and bear arms. The resolution triggering a statewide vote on the plan has cleared subcommittees in the House and Senate. 2022 is the earliest the proposed amendment could be presented to Iowa voters.

February 19, 2019 - 11:57 am - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Seven Republicans in the Iowa Senate have voted to deny food stamp benefits to parents who aren’t making an attempt to pay child support.

The seven Republicans on the Senate Labor Committee also have endorsed quarterly income checks to make sure people on Medicaid and food stamps are eligible for the assistance. Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, says the plan also calls for checking to ensure people aren’t getting welfare benefits from the State of Iowa if they move out of state.

The four Democrats on the committee opposed both bills. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, says it’s “pretty punitive” to require quarterly income checks for low-income elderly and disabled Iowans who’re on Medicaid.

Another Democrat said he’s no fan of “dead beat dads” who aren’t paying child support, but he suspects some of those fathers are living in other homes with other kids who’d suffer if the household loses food stamps benefits.

Northwest Iowa — While recent “honor flights” have recognized veterans of World War Two, Korea and Vietnam, a new honor flight is being organized for those who served in conflicts in the Middle East.

Bill Williams, a co-founder of the non-profit group Patriotic Productions, which puts on the flights, says this initial new flight to Washington DC for veterans from western Iowa and Nebraska will be limited.

Bronze Star recipients are also welcome to apply for the flight, scheduled for May 24th. Williams says some other VIPs will also be making the journey.

The chartered jet will fly out of Omaha’s Eppley Airfield for a day-long whirlwind tour of Washington DC, including stops at several war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns. There will be a special homecoming in Omaha that night.

The last honor flight, which was for Vietnam veterans, saw a crowd of about seven-thousand gathered at the Omaha airport to welcome the veterans back from DC.

Veterans of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan who earned the Purple Heart or Bronze Star can apply for the May flight. Applications are available at the website: www.patrioticproductions.org.

Sioux County, Iowa — The Sioux County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Siouxland Community Foundation, has announced that they are now accepting grant applications from 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and units of local government.  

Since the first grants were made in 2006, over $1.1-million has been awarded to nonprofit organizations to help support present and emerging needs in the areas of arts and culture, community betterment, education, environment, health, and human services.

The Sioux Community Foundation Advisory Board says service clubs and organizations have an important role in Sioux County.  Even though the Foundation cannot make grants directly to service clubs or other non-501(c)(3) organizations, those organizations are encouraged to collaborate with a qualified nonprofit agency on projects or seek a fiscal sponsor.

Questions about the grant program or application process may be directed to Duane Feekes, Sioux County Community Foundation  Advisory Board Chair, at (712) 737-7700 or the Siouxland Community Foundation at (712) 293-3303.

Grant applications can be submitted online at: www.siouxlandcommunityfoundation.org/affiliates/ and are due by March 15th, according to Sioux County Community Foundation officials.

Rock Rapids, Iowa — Congressman Steve King made his second town-hall appearance of the 39 he has planned this year on Monday. This time he was in Rock Rapids.

In his introduction, King mentioned a quote from George Orwell’s 1984. The quote says that those who control the language control the argument. Those who control the argument control the information. Those who control the information, control the history. Those who control the history control the past, and those who control the past control the future. King says this is ringing true now with the firestorms of false stories in the media and social media. He says we have to view all sources with more skepticism than ever before.

King says that especially since he’s been stripped of his committee assignments, he has turned more and more to President Trump’s administration to get things done.

King says he’s still working on some situations. He says California shouldn’t be allowed to regulate poultry and egg production in Iowa. He says the anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” is moving along at the federal level. He says they’re also trying to pass it state-by-state.

King says he was notified in November by a major political operative that he didn’t name — that his opponents were going to launch a media firestorm against him soon.

In January, King was interviewed by the New York Times, and he says his syntax was misrepresented. The specific quote was, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King claims that he was asking when the term “western civilization” became offensive. King said on Monday that he and his staff did a Lexus Nexus search on his use of the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist”, and they couldn’t find one time when he had used that language before. He called the other two terms “abhorrent ideologies” in his speech on Monday, and said that they were “weaponized terms” that Democrats have started using to take down members of his party. When asked what he meant by “western civilization” King said he meant any area that was founded on or where they have now established Judeo-Christian values.

The congressman also noted that some of the people he looks up to the most politically are black people. He also mentioned that black conservatives have been seeking him out to partner with him, because they have been through similar situations where they have been called names.

King says we are at a critical time right now.

King was asked what the path might be to overcoming the issue of losing his committee assignments, he said that he needs to build critical mass in the Republican conference, get the truth into the media, and continue to hold these town meetings.

When asked what his constituents could do to help in his current situation, King said they should pray, spread the truth, and contact Kevin McCarthy.

Probably the most interesting question from the audience was that of Bob Protexter from Sioux City. Protexter told King that Protexter is the grandson of two former mayors of the town of Little Rock and was a student of political science. He then went on to say he was thinking of challenging King for his congressional seat and asked the congressman for his advice. King said he appreciated Protexter’s honesty and his study of political science, but unsurprisingly declined to give any advice on how to defeat him.

King wrapped up by telling about the “blessings” in his life like his church, his wife, and his family.

Around 50 people attended the town hall meeting, about 10 of which were reporters from various tri-state media.

February 15, 2019 - 1:11 pm - Posted in News

Rock Valley, Iowa — Voters in the city of Rock Valley will be going to the polls in early March to decide if they want to impose a hotel/motel tax on guests who stay in their community.

According to City of Rock Valley personnel, if the proposal is approved by the Rock Valley voters, guests that stay at the Heartland Hotel & Suites or the GrandStay Hotel & Suites in Rock Valley will pay a 7% tax in addition to the 5% state excise tax on room rental. They tell us that if the measure is passed, it’s estimated that the tax will generate $60,000 to $90,000 annually. They say all the money will stay in Rock Valley.

The City Council has agreed that at least 50% of the revenue generated will be used for constructing or maintaining recreation or entertainment facilities in Rock Valley. The remaining funds will be used for marketing the community and funding local grants for special events and community projects.

City Administrator Tom Van Maanen says that they believe this is a unique opportunity to generate funds for trail construction, building shelter houses and many other projects that will benefit the community.

Van Maanen says that currently, there are 163 towns and 19 counties in Iowa that have already approved the Hotel Motel Tax. Locally Orange City, Sheldon, Sibley, Sioux Center, and Lyon County receive funds from a Hotel-Motel Tax.

The poll will be open from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. on March 5th at the Faith Reformed Church in Rock Valley.

Absentee voting is underway now. You can request a ballot be mailed to you if you are a Rock Valley citizen. But the request has to be on an official absentee ballot request form, which can be found at https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/absenteeballotapp.pdf. The Sioux County Auditor’s office says that the deadline for them to mail out ballots out is Friday, February 22, 2019. They also tell us that the deadline to early vote in person at the Auditor’s office is Monday, March 4th.