August 21, 2014

Six Iowa locations for public hearing on new cannabis oil law

Iowans have a chance to share their views about the new state law that allows severe epileptics to possess cannabis oil as a treatment.

It’s not legal to buy or sell cannabis oil in Iowa, but the 2014 Iowa legislature passed a law that decriminalized possession of the substance. Advocates say it can help patients with a severe form of epilepsy. The Iowa Department of Public Health has drawn up a set of rules for administering the law. For example, people would go to an Iowa DOT licensing station with a doctor’s recommendation for a card that shows the holder can possess cannabis oil in Iowa. The public health department would process the applications.

A 90-minute public hearing has been scheduled for August 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Iowans who want to speak out on the subject can go to a site in any of six Iowa cities to participate, via a video link over the Iowa Communications Network.  Here’s the list of sites:

Ottumwa Regional Health Center, 1001 E. Pennsylvania, Ottumwa

North Iowa Area Community College, 500 College Drive, Mason City

Iowa Western Community College, 2700 College Road, Council Bluffs

Sioux City Public Library, 529 Pierce Street, Sioux City

Davenport Public Library, 321 Main, Davenport

Lucas State Office Building, Sixth Floor, 321 E. 12th Street, Des Moines

The hearing will be accessible via conference call as well.

Dial-in: 1-866-685-1580

Pass code: 5152814355

Written comments may be mailed to this address:

Deborah Thompson, Iowa Department of Public Health
Lucas State Office Building
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075

In addition, comments may be sent by fax to (515) 281-4958 or by e-mail to

Donations allow more Korean War veterans to take Honor Flight

The organizer of an Honor Flight for Korean War Veterans to Washington, D.C. says they’ve gotten enough donations to increase the number of veterans going along. The chairman of the Central and Western Iowa Honor Flight organization, Jeff Ballenger, says Polk County initially put up $125,000 dollars for the trip. They planned on taking 130 veterans, but they got many more applications than that for the flight, and asked donors to help.

He says Hy-Vee and Caseys have now each donated $110,000 and the Polk County Supervisors have come up with an additional $70,000 to go along with smaller donations from Knapp Properties and the Rassmussen group. “We are truly blessed, we now have enough to take at least 400 of our veterans, and we feel that that will probably be just about everybody that wants to go,” Ballenger says.

He says the veterans come from many areas. “We’ve got ‘em from Pottawattamie, Mills, Decatur — but I would say the majority are from Polk County are — but they are actually coming from counties all the way to the Missouri River to here in central Iowa,” Ballenger says. The flight allow the veterans to go to Washington, D.C. for free to see the monuments built in their honor. “We did start with World War Two and this will I believe actually be our 12th flight,” Ballenger says. “We feel blessed. With these 400 veterans, we will have taken nearly 3,000 World War Two and Korean veterans and raised just under three million dollars.”

Ballenger says he recently got a letter from the family of a veteran who had gone on a flight in 2009. He says the veteran was so proud of the trip and the World War Two Honor Flight hat that he got, that his family buried him in the hat after he died in July. “These flights mean a lot to our veterans and it’s a very, very small thing that we can do to say thank you,” according to Ballenger.

He says anyone can donate to help pay for the flights. Ballenger says the donations are tax deductible and you can send them to:

Central Iowa Honor Flight, P.O. Box 125 Council Bluffs, Iowa, 51502.

You can also call 712-322-6638, or visit the website:

The flight will leave on September 30th.


Leader of IHSAA to retire in January

Rick Wulkow

Rick Wulkow

Rick Wulkow is retiring as the Executive Director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association. Wulkow has spent the last 35 years at the IHSAA, including the last 10 as the director. “I just feel it’s time to start a new chapter in my life,” Wulkow says. He says after all the nights as a coach, official and with the organization, it’s time to support some of the things his wife and children do after they have supported him.

Wulkow’s will step down in January and says it is a move he has been considering for about a year. “I still get up every morning, I still enjoy my job…I’m not worn out, I just think it’s time to start a new chapter in life,”Wulkow says.

During Wulkow’s time at the helm the association has expanded district football as well as the football playoffs and the state instituted a “no pass no play” rule.

Wulkow says while the IHSAA is most visible during championship events the biggest goal remains promoting participation so students can gain some values from being part of a of a team. “Teamwork, hard work, dedication, loyalty, learning how to win, how to lose, there’s just some great values out there that the activities offer that our students don’t get in the classroom,” Wulkow says.

Alan Beste will take over as Executive Director. He has been with the IHSAA since 1989.


Iowa DOT offering online registration for speciality & personalized license plates

DOT director, Paul Trombino demonstrates online license plate registration to the governor.

DOT director, Paul Trombino demonstrates online license plate registration to the governor.

As of today, Iowans can go on-line to order a specialty license plate for their vehicle. There are more than 70 plate designs available.

“Those plate designs allow our customers to show their connection to an Iowa college or university or support a cause such as education, the environment or organ and tissue donation,” says Iowa DOT director Paul Tr0mbino. “Customers are also about to express themselves through combinations of letters and numbers on their license plates.”

About 17,000 vehicles in Iowa have a specialty plate or a personalized plate. Trombino expects that number to grow with the convenience of on-line ordering.

“In the past, customers were able to go online and enter personalizations to see what it looked like on a selected plate. However, they were unable to see if that combination was available,” Tr0mbino says. “With the system we are launching today, Iowans can immediately see if their personalization is available and order it in a matter of minutes.”

It takes the DOT about 18 days to process the paper requests for these plates. That processing time is reduced by two weeks if an Iowan orders their plate online. A team of DOT staffers review each word or phrase submitted as a plate design, to check whether the combination might be a profanity.

“These folks are really good at seeing some of the language and some of the potential offensiveness to some of the combinations,” Trombino says.

It costs $90 extra to order a personalized plate, plus there are processing fees. The specialty plates have a range of different fees and some are provided at no cost to recent veterans. The Iowa DOT began offering on-line drivers license renewal a year ago and so far more than 100,000 eligible Iowans have chosen that option rather than walking into a DOT office or their county treasurer’s office to conduct the transaction.

ISU president ends Veishea, promises thoughtful approach to future

ISU president Steven Leath.

ISU president Steven Leath.

Iowa State University president Steven Leath today announced his decision on the future of a springtime tradition on the Ames campus. “I’m announcing today that Veishea is ended and the name Veishea is retired,” Leath said.

Veishea has been marred by violence several times in recent decades and the event was cut short this year after students and others flipped over cars, ripped out street signs, knocked over light poles, and threw rocks and beer cans at police in the Campustown area of Ames.

Leath said he understands that many people will be upset a 92-year-old tradition has ended. “But, I’m not going to continue to put students at risk so we can observe what, to many, has become a week long party,” Leath said. “I am not going to be the president who has to call a student’s parents in the middle of the night to tell them their student has been critically injured in another Veishea disturbance.” One student was badly injured this year when they were hit by a falling light pole. That student has fully recovered.

Previous violence associated with Veishea has included a young man being stabbed to death in a fight outside a fraternity house in 1997. Riots in 2004 led then-ISU President Greg Geoffroy to suspend Veishea in 2005. Today’s decision to end Veishea follows recommendations delivered to Leath from a task force that held several public meetings over a three month period.

Leath said some traditions associated with Veishea will likely continue, but the content and timeframe of any old or new events has not been determined.

“We still want to be able to showcase the wonderful things we do here in our colleges,” Leath said. “But, we’re going to take a very thoughtful approach to this as we decide how to move forward to ensure we have the right kind of festivities and we ensure student safety.”

Leath noted that he believes the money that ISU spends on Veishea could be “reinvested” to better serve students. “The university does spend, after expenses and receipts, when it’s all done, a quarter-of-a-million dollars (on Veishea annually),” Leath said. “That’s a lot of scholarships.”

According to Leath, nine ISU students have been suspended and police have filed 250 criminal charges in relation to the disturbances during this year’s Veishea. Leath said he recognizes ending Veishea won’t stop all of the problems associated with alcohol on campus. “Right now, when freshman get to this campus, they are under the impression that Veishea is the equivalent of spring break without having to leave campus. So, when you come into a campus thinking you’re going to have a week like this in the future, it incentivizes that type of behavior. So, pulling these things apart and not having a week like that will certainly help,” Leath said. “Are we naive in thinking there could be no problems? No.”

Leath said he and other ISU administrators will continue to work with Ames community leaders and police to address issues related to student conduct on and off campus.


Regents approve plan to consolidate purchasing of 3 state universities

The Board of Regents today approved moving ahead with a recommendation from a consultant to combine the purchases of the three state-supported universities into one plan. The board president, Bruce Rastetter, says the proposal from the consultant Deloitte will save the University of Iowa, Northern Iowa and Iowa State University millions of dollars. He says Deloitte will meet with the three universities and develop a plan where they will enter into a master contract together for purchasing that will help lower costs.

Rastetter says they expect to save in a couple of different ways. “Some of that would be in master contract, some of that would be in the standardization of items purchase and how they purchase those collectively together,” according to Rastetter. The estimates for savings in the next year-and-a-half to two years ranges from 16 to 40 million dollars in purchases of office supplies, food, furniture and other things needed to keep the schools running.

Regent Larry McKibben says that’s an early estimate. “As we move this process forward, this gap will narrow and we will have a much tighter number. But they are not yet willing until they work with all three universities moving forward in wave one to give a tight number,” McKibben says. “But as they move forward over the next few months, that number will tighten.”

Rastetter says the savings are expected to average between two and four percent of what each school spends. “Which if you look at the numbers that they are now getting closer to, if there’s 900 million dollars of savings and you have three percent, then it’s 27 millions dollars a year. And so, it’s real money that tuition dollars and state appropriations is paying for today that will benefit students and student debt and lowering that going forward,” Rastetter says.

The Board of Regents also agreed today that Deloitte will turn in receipts for travel and food that had not previously been submitted. Rastetter says they worked with the consultants after questions from the media about the receipts. “It’s a normal contract that consultants would do where they don’t turn in those expenses, but we think within the spirit of what we’ve comitted to the public that it just makes sense that those receipts and that those expense accounts be forwarded to the board office,” Rastetter says.

The board authorized the Regent’s executive director to negotiate a contract with Deloitte for implementing the program. They won’t know the cost of implementing this first phase until that contract is complete. The board previously authorized up to $3.3 million for the first two phases of the project, but did not approve any money to implement any of the proposals.


Official urges motorists to be aware that more ATVs, ORVs are on Iowa roads

Two tragic accidents this past week involving all-terrain and off-road utility vehicles are refocusing attention on safety as well as efforts to allow utility vehicles on city streets and county roads. David Downing of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says sales of ATVs and ORVs — the short-hand for “off-road utility vehicles” — are growing rapidly.

“You’re seeing more and more of those vehicles and as the counties start to open up their roads and city jurisdictions open up their roads for ATVs and ORVs, obviously there’s more interaction with motor vehicles and all kinds of other things,” he says, “so people need to be aware of that.”

On Saturday, four 14-year-old boys were killed when the utility vehicle they were riding in was hit by a pick-up truck that ran a stop sign near Epworth. Two nine-year-old boys died in an A-T-V accident Monday on a farm near Mount Vernon. Representative Curt Hansen, a Democrat from Fairfield who taught driver’s ed for 43 years, urges Iowans to take the safety courses that are available.

“They don’t handle like a vehicle designed for roadway use and so there’s a lot of limitations that people have to realize,” Hansen says.

Downing’s agency offers an ATV safety course.

“You can take the class online. It’s available 24 hours a day or you can take a hands-on class,” Downing says. “There’s also the ATV Safety Institute, which you get a certificate back from them, the manufacturers, when you purchase an ATV, then you’re able to take the course free of charge.”

Downing says ATV drivers have to learn how to shift their weight to balance the machine as it moves. Representative Hansen says he worries about the larger, off-road utility vehicles that have bench seats.

“They’re almost golf carts on steroids,” Hansen says. “They’re just very, very fast and the vulnerability increases with the increase in speed.”

Four-wheel ATVs may be driven on rural roads and county highways today if they’re being used for farming. Some local city and county ordinances also allow ATVs, golf carts and other off-road utility vehicles on local roads, but the operator has to be a licensed driver, the vehicle can’t go more than 35 miles an hour and the hours of operation are limited to between sunrise and sunset.

A bill that would have allowed ATVs and off-road utility vehicles on every rural road and county highway in Iowa passed the House this spring, but stalled in the Senate. Representative Brian Moore, a Republican from Bellevue who has been pushing for the legislation, says it only would have applied to Iowans who are above the age of 16 who have a valid drivers license.

“Of course, you get stuff out on the road, four-wheelers and ATVs and more traffic out on the road, there’s going to be a risk,” Moore says. “There’s a risk on bicycles. There’s a risk on walking.”

Moore says he doesn’t plan to introduce the bill again in 2014 unless there are major changes in the make-up of the state senate and he determines the bill could pass the the senate.