October 26, 2014

Pheasant season has prospects for better success this year

Pheasant rooster along fence.

Pheasant rooster along fence.

The annual pheasant season opens Saturday and the man who keeps track of bird counts across the state believes it could be a good one. DNR pheasant biologist, Todd Bogenschutz says the survey numbers shows a rebound in bird numbers in the August count.

“I am expecting hunters should see some more birds and that we’ll see an uptick in hunter numbers. I think the crop harvest is going to make it a challenge, with the late planting and then the wet weather we’ve had has really put them behind,” Bogenschutz says.

Crops give pheasants a place to hide. “When the crops are standing, they’ll pretty much stay there all day,” Bogenschutz says. He says if the crops are out, they will go out to feed in the morning and midafternoon and then they go back to grassy cover areas.

Saturday and Sunday could be big days for hunters. Bogenschutz says 30 to 40-percent of the total harvest happens during the first two weekends and nine days of the hunt. “We might see…somewhere around 50 to 60,000 birds harvested in the first nine days or so,” Bogenschutz says.

With farmers still in the field, there’s some added safety concerns. He says both the hunters and the farmers out in the fields should be aware and he says hunters should be wearing blaze orange. Bogenschutz says hunters in a group should be sure to have a plan and stick with it.

Hunters harvested 10,000 more pheasants in 2013 than 2012 despite record low survey counts. Bogenschutz says the harvest this year could get as high as 300,000.

Hunting hours for Iowa’s pheasant seasons are 8 a.m. until 4:30 each day. The daily limit is three rooster pheasants. The season closes on January 10th.


Former U-I employee given probation on mail fraud charges

A former University of Iowa employee will not serve prison time after admitting to mail fraud. A U.S. District Court judge sentenced 37-year-old Jennifer Whitmore-Meier of Avon, Colorado to three years probation after she plead guilty to three counts of mail fraud.

Court records show Whitmore-Meier was an I-T consultant for the University of Iowa Hospitals between 2003 and 2011 when she purchased 567 items with university funds without approval. She then sold the items on-line for more than $122,000.

She also admitted to buying personal items online and paying for their shipping with university funds.


Iowa Supreme Court rules out video testimony in Dubuque County case

Iowa Supreme Court building.

Iowa Supreme Court building.

The Iowa Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed witnesses in a Dubuque County case to testify via video link. Zacariah Rogerson wrecked his car on August 13th of 2012 and in the process three passengers in the vehicle suffered multiple injuries.

He was charged with four counts of unintentionally causing serious injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle. The state sought to have witnesses who lived out of state and officials with the state crime lab in Ankeny testify via a two-way videoconferencing system. Rogerson appealed, saying the videoconferencing would violated his Six Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state did not show any exceptional circumstances for using the videoconferencing testimony. And it said while technology now makes such testimony very close to a face-to-face confrontation, the court does not believe it is the constitutional equivalent of the confrontation envisioned in the Sixth Amendment.

See the full ruling here: Video testimony PDF


ISU, UNI, UI student leaders support tuition increase if quality education is maintained

Hilary Kletscher

Hilary Kletscher

The Board of Regents discussion of a proposed tuition increase Thursday had a few unusual twists, with student body representatives saying they understood the need for the increase, and then the regents discussing an unprecedented third year freeze.

The proposed increase would amount to around 116 dollars in tuition for students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

UNI student government president, Kevin Gartman, told the board that the students in Cedar Falls would be okay with the increase. “They support the increase, because they understand that without it, UNI faces even greater funding challenges which can negatively impact the quality of education that the university is able to provide,” Gartman said. “Students want to maintain the high quality of education that they receive at UNI.”

Gartman said the environment students have at UNI is important to them. “UNI students cherish their small class sizes. For many students it was the deciding factor when they chose to attend UNI. And there are many students who are willing to pay the cost of a tuition increase if it means maintaining their small class sizes,” Gartman says.

He suggested that the Board of Regents adopt yearly increases in tuition. “We need to allow students the ability to plan for their future knowing what the cost of higher education will be and giving them their chance to adapt to it,” Gartman said. “I believe it is vital to keep higher education affordable in the state of Iowa and I think it is important to be transparent with increases. I call upon the Iowa Board of Regents to implement systematic small tuition increases into the plan for the state of Iowa student tuition, so that students will not be faced with the dramatic increases that they have been face with in years past.”

The president of the Iowa State University student government, Hillary Kletscher, agreed. “Students consistently say, ‘you know it’d be really great to see another tuition freeze and another one,’ but they understand that higher education does come with a cost. And the thing I’ve gotten again and again from students is a small incremental increase is something that we can understand and it’s something that we can work with,” Kletscher said.

Kletscher said it is important to keep make sure the state provides a quality education at the schools. “Our students want to stay in Iowa, and when I talk to the engineering students, the agriculture students, students in all of the colleges, they want to stay in Iowa, they want to contribute to the economy and the communities in this wonderful state,” Kletscher said. “And I think we need to continue to put that value on higher education so that they stay here. And their families in the future and their children, come back to our wonderful universities.”

U-I student government president, Patrick Baroski, agreed that maintaining the quality of the education they receive is the most important issue. After hearing from the students, Regent Larry McKibben said he was worried about the debt load on students in Iowa and said he would propose another tuition freeze when the board takes a vote on the issue at their December 3rd meeting.

The campaigns of the two candidates for governor each sent out a news release congratulating the regents for “voting” to not raise tuition, even though no vote was taken.


Regents’ discussion of tuition increase turns to talk of another freeze

Larry McKibben

Larry McKibben

The Board of Regents held a discussion today on a proposed tuition increase at the three state schools. That discussion quickly turned to a proposal for another tuition freeze. Regent Larry McKibben of Marshalltown says he is concerned about figures showing Iowa college students graduating with the sixth highest debt load in the country.

“I’m gonna offer a motion on December 3rd to freeze the tuition for an unprecedented third year in a row,” McKibben says. “I have heard the students, I have heard the folks, I’ve heard families , I’ve heard first-generation families, and I have attended town hall meetings multiple times on your university campuses. we can do better, it can be done.”

McKibben says the TIER measures the schools are looking at implementing will save millions of dollars and that money can be used to help hold the line on tuition. “We can move implementation quicker…we can find the savings and we can listen to our consumers and customers over the next six weeks, we have six weeks to talk about this, six weeks to dialogue,” McKibben says.

Regent Ruth Harkin of Cumming says she supports McKibben’s freeze proposal for in-state students, but says they should also look at the impact on out-of-state students. “Because I think if we talk about freezing in-state tuition we want to make sure that we don’t have too large a gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition,” Harkin says.

Regent Robert Downer of Iowa City says he is concerned about the increase in mandatory fees, especially at UNI. “The effect of all of this is, when you put the mandatory fees in there, the increases for the University of Iowa and for Iowa State University are below 1.75-percent. For UNI, it’s 2.6-percent when you add the fees in there,” Downer says. “It seems to me that this is something that needs to be looked at as well.”

Regents president Bruce Rastetter of Alden also says he would support another freeze on tuition. “I think over the last 60 days as we learned more and more about the TIER opportunity and the opportunity for efficiency savings — brings into my mind, the question of why are we raising tuition? In particularly when we have the support of the presidents and institutions at implementing those significant savings that we’ll be talking about in early November, ahead of our tuition support.”

Rastetter says he is also concerned about the impact on graduate students. Rastetter says they board approved lowering the tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students at the U-I law school, and then saw a record incoming class and more revenue generated. The board did not take any vote on the tuition issue today at their meeting in Iowa City.


Secretary of State candidates agree on ‘Safe at Home’ program

Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

The two major party candidates for Iowa Secretary of State say they agree on a program that would help victims of some crimes vote without the fear of putting themselves at risk. Democrat Brad Anderson released his “Safe at Home” plan Wednesday.

“These polices help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault stay safe by providing them a designated address to use for official documents like voter registration,” Anderson explains. “And these services keep survivor’s physical address out of the hands of their assailment.”

Anderson says he heard about the program at a conference where the Secretary of State from Missouri and his counterpart in Minnesota spoke about their programs. He says 35 states have such a program, but Iowa does not.

“Currently in Iowa, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault who want to both remain anonymous and also vote are in a very difficult position,” Anderson says. “They are advised by the state to register and vote on election day, but then immediately cancel their voter registration. But, even given this cumbersome process, it still does not guarantee their anonymity.”

Anderson says it would take a change in state legislation to implement the program here. “We estimate about a thousand Iowans would participate in this program and the program would grow annually,” Anderson says. He says if he is elected, he would push to get the program passed in the next session of the legislature.

Paul Pate

Paul Pate

Republican Paul Pate is running against Anderson, and says he also favors such a program “It think the program is very important to protecting Iowans, it’s a top priority. As a former state senator I led legislation to toughen penalties for stalking victims in Iowa. I have first-hand experience as a state senator and mayor working with the state legislature and governor. And if I was the next Secretary of State I would make it a priority to join the other 35 states,” Pate says.

Pate says he has already started the groundwork to get such legislation passed. “I’ve had conversations with the speaker of the House and with the governor’s office and started the dialogue. They were very receptive to it. I think we could get something worked out and I think we would see something passed in the upcoming the legislative session,” according to Pate.

Pate says he’d also like to see another voting issue passed in the next session. “Just as Safe at the Home offers participants an additional safeguard for their protection, I think we also have to protect the integrity of all Iowa voters with a voter ID safeguard,” Pate says. “I think both priorities are important, they need to be approached in a bipartisan manner, and I think I have the experience to get that done.

Current Secretary of State, Republican Matt Schultz, is not seeking reelection.

Students protest proposed tuition increase by Board of Regents

A late afternoon photo from the Pentacrest camera.

A late afternoon photo from the Pentacrest camera.

Students sat in a circle using typewriters on the University of Iowa Pentacrest Wednesday protest against proposed tuition increases. The demonstration included more than fifty people who waved signs and chanted, “No more tuition, no more fees, education must be free,” as the State Board of Regents met in Iowa City.

Graduate student Melissa Zimdars says the typewriters are in response to critics who say student debt is due to lifestyle choices. “We kinda made up a little joke that we could save a thousand dollars if we use typewriters instead of buying laptops. So, here we’re showing we are leading fiscally responsible lifestyles by using technology that we had around our homes instead of going out and buying new Mac books,” Zimdars explains.

The Board of Regents will meet again today in Iowa City and will discuss the first tuition increase after two years of tuition freezes. The students held signs saying: “I’m not a loan” and, “Don’t Balance the Budget on Our Backs” Zimdars says they’re protesting the gradual defunding of higher education not only in Iowa but across the country.

“Twenty years ago, the Iowa Policy Project found that 67 percent of the public universities’ (budgets) were funded by the state and today it’s only 35 percent. So, the states are primarily funded by tuition dollars, which have gone up 75 percent when adjusted for inflation since the 1990 school year,” according to Zimdars. “So, obviously students are paying significantly more now.”

The Regents will discuss a 1.75-percent increase in tuition and mandatory fees for U-I undergraduates and a 1.95-percent increase for graduate students. The University of Northern Iowa would see the highest increase, a proposed 2.37-percent increase in tuition and fees.