A key legislator says Iowa lawmakers probably won’t revisit the issue of gay marriage in 2005. Senate President Jeff Lamberti, a republican from Ankeny, says it’s time for a federal answer. Lamberti says as states like Massachusetts are recognizing gay marriages, there’s now a question as to whether other states have to acknowledge those unions as legal. Iowa has a law which declares that the only marriages legal in Iowa are ones between a man and a woman. The federal Defense of Marriage Act outlines similar sentiments, but Lamberti says the courts now have to resolve whether that’s the law of the land and whether states like Iowa will be forced to recognize civil unions from Vermont or Massachusetts or California. Lamberti made his comments during an appearance on Iowa Public Television.
Archives for May 2004
The head of the Iowa State Patrol says he’s proud of the high level of seat belt usage and the low number of drinking-related fatalities in the state — but Colonel Robert Garrison says there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Garrison says Iowa ranks fourth in the nation in seat belt compliance and sixth in alcohol-related fatals, but there are still over 400 people that die on Iowa’s highways. Garrison says the states ahead of Iowa in seat belt compliance are closer to perfect than Iowa drivers. He says there are states like Washington and Oregon that’re up around 90-percent compliance. He says there are people who don’t want to wear their seatbelts and you have to give them a ticket to get them to wear them. Garrison says the new point-oh-eight drunk driving standard is an important change. He says the law does not mean that more arrests have been made, but he says it’s given law enforcement another means to enforce the rules for someone that’s too intoxicated to drive. In order to reach point-oh-eight, a 170-pound male would have to consume four to five drinks in one hour on an empty stomach, and a 130-pound female would have to consume three to four drinks. Passage of the new .08 law means that Iowa is now eligible for 45-point-six million dollars in federal road money between 2004 and 2007.
On the heels of last weekend’s storms, authorities are warning of crooks with home-repair scams. Bill Brauch, director of the consumer-protection division in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, has little doubt there’ll be some scam home-improvement artists out there, targeting victims of the flooding and he hopes people will be be on their guard. It’s bad enough to incur damage to your home but he says it would be “just awful” to also lose money you’ve gotten for home repairs from a home insurance policy or FEMA’s disaster recovery program. Brauch says your first warning may be when someone comes around offering to help with your home-repair tasks. Reputable contractors aren’t going to be out soliciting business — they know they’ll be getting plenty. Brauch says to call your local workers, be patient with their busy schedule and work with the folks who have a proven reputation in your community. Be alert, and Brauch says you could help spot scam artists trying to find a target, things like a repair truck just showing up, going door-to-door, folks asking for money in advance, having out-of-state plates or phone number on their truck — they’re all warning signs. You can always check on a repair business or worker by calling the local law-enforcement agency, sheriff or police, or phone the attorney general’s consumer-protection office to check if there are complaints on file, or to get more information. That number’s (515) 281-5926.
While thousands of Iowa cooks will sweat over a propane grill this holiday weekend, the industry’s focus is on higher-volume uses of the fuel. More than eight-Million homes in the U-S depend on propane for their primary heating and cooking energy source. Debra Grooms, head of the Iowa Propane Gas Association, says commercials promoting use of propane are running now in major markets in Iowa. The TV ads ran in the Country Music Awards recently and in eastern Iowa there are radio and TV commercials running in local markets this spring. The state association offers ongoing training for Iowans who work in the heating, cooling and plumbing business because they use the fuel as part of their industrial work. In January 2003 a state law was passed requiring anyone who works with propane to get documented training every three years.
Key legislators say newfound state gambling tax revenue from new riverboat licenses — and additional fees from existing operations — may be used to bankroll the state’s “Iowa Values” state economic development fund. Senate President Jeff Lamberti, a republican from Ankeny, says lawmakers voted to create a half a BILLION dollar fund that’ll be handed out to businesses that expand or locate in Iowa over a seven year period. Lawmakers provided enough money for just the first two years. Lamberti says one option to get the next five years is to borrow the money, and use the extra gambling taxes to repay the loans. That’s what legislators did when they created the “Vision Iowa” program that handed out state money for large-scale community attractions. Lamberti expects the state to start collecting more gambling taxes, and predicts the first payment will be a multi-million dollar fee from Prairie Meadows. Lamberti says Prairie Meadows will pay that money to add table games, like roulette, to its slot machine casino. And Lamberti expects the other two tracks to follow suit. While a new casino boat may not be up and running immediately, he says a boat could start paying gambling taxes sometime in early 2006, which would bring new gambling tax revenue to the state. Lamberti says the real debate may be whether to use that gambling cash to pay for the program year-to-year, or whether to borrow money, using the gambling taxes over the next 20 years to pay the loan off. Lamberti says the extra gambling taxes may give lawmakers the flexibility to pursue either course. Lamberti made his comments on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press program.
The distance runners opened up the boys state track meet in Drake Stadium. Tim McKenna of N.U. High in Cedar Falls was the first champ as he won the class 1A 32-hundred meter run. McKenna finished second a year ago and was also motivated by his finish in cross country.McKenna pulled away with two laps remaining.He says the victory “feels good.”Grinnell’s Jason Wagner is the Class 3A champion in the shot put after a toss of 56 feet six inches. It was his final toss of the competiotion and it was close to to mark he had at the Drake Relays.Wagner says experience reaaly helps.
Memorial Day is the kick-off holiday of the summer season, and many Iowans are putting foot to peddle. The weather’s warming up, and more bicyclists are sharing the roads with cars. Scott Falb of the Iowa Department of Transportation warns bikers they must follow the same rules of the road as those cars. Falb says Iowa lawmakers tried to make the rules more clear in the mid-80s. Falb says there used to be a lot of confusion about whether bikes were permitted on the roads. Iowa law asks bicyclists to stay close the right edge of the road, and to ride in the same direction as other traffic. In addition, bikes must abide by the posted speed limit. Falb rides a bike and offers some advice to other travelers on two wheels. He says bicyclists are “virtually invisible” to motorists, so cyclists need to be especially aware of vehicles, particularly those coming up behind them. The Iowa DOT has bicycling safety tips printed on small cards the size of the plastic you carry in your wallet.If you’d like one, call 515-239-1713. You may also get one via e-mail by contacting Kathy Ridnour at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Police in western Iowa have issued a missing-person alert, after a resident of a group home’s been missing since Thursday. Matthew Leaf reports. Atlantic police say twenty-one year old Amy Chambers signed out of the group home where she lives and was last seen getting into a red pickup truck at a convenience store in Atlantic about five Thursday evening. Her mother says she got a cellphone call asking her to have Amy picked up at a mall in Council Bluffs, but when her ride arrived the woman was nowhere to be found. Her mother says she’s a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who has delusions of being part of a gang and being pursued by the FBI, and says she’s off the medication she takes to control the delusions. The missing woman’s described as five-foot-seven, 125 pounds with brown hair and green eyes. Anyone who can help should call the Atlantic police department at (712) 243-3512.
An attempt by Des Moines city leaders to cash in on a tax cut state lawmakers enacted is drawing fire from legislative leaders. Senate President Jeff Lamberti, a republican from Ankeny, says the legislature intended for Iowans to get a tax break when lawmakers voted to erase the state sales tax on utility bills.
Des Moines’ City Council is considering a hike in the city franchise fee — equal to the amount of the sales tax cut.Lamberti says lawmakers are not happy with Des Moines, and may vote to take away cities’ authority to levy a franchise fee on utility bills. Laberti says “in the case of Des Moines we’re simply seeing a franchise tax increase as a way to generate more revenue.”
Senate Democrat Leader Michael Gronstal of Council Bluffs agrees lawmakers may act if Des Moines officials follow through on their plan.Gronstal says democrats have long opposed the idea of taxing people — or charging a fee — on basic necessities like food and utilities. Gronstal made his comments during an appearance on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press program.
Coinciding with the dedication of the new World War Two monument in the nation’s capitol Saturday, the American Legion Post in the western Iowa town of Dedham is one of the many places where Memorial Day will be observed with a special tribute this weekend. John Derner, the department adjutant for the American Legion of Iowa, will be in Dedham for the event and says particular attention will be given to veterans from World War Two.Derner says “For some reason or another, we have never had a national monument to honor the veterans from that generation until now, and with the dedication of the World War Two national monument in Washington, I think it’s only fitting we hold ceremonies to honor some of these World War Two veterans, because we know a lot of them are not going to be able to make the trip out to Washington DC.” Derner speculates there hasn’t been a monument in Washington until now because no one asked for one. He says “The World War Two generation seems to be very selfless. They did what they did because it was the right thing to do. Our nation was in a time of crisis. They arose to the call and never expected any recognition for it, it was just their contribution.” Derner says this weekend will provide an opportunity to understand the sacrifices made by those involved in the war effort. Derner says “World War Two was a turning point in our nation’s history and this is a chance for citizens of all generations to come meet these members that made history. They really get an opportunity to talk to these people one-on-one and hear about their personal experiences, not only those that fought in the war, but even those here on the homefront that did special things to make sure we won World War Two.” The community celebration in Dedham will be held on Sunday and will begin with a replay of Saturday’s World War Two memorial dedication ceremony in Washington.