Des Moines, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court has set December 1st as the deadline for Iowa lawmakers to approve new boundaries for Iowa congressional and legislative districts.

The Legislative Services Agency will release new maps Thursday, part of the once-every-ten-year process of redrawing congressional and legislative district lines based on new Census data. That data showing shifts in Iowa’s population didn’t get delivered until August — four months late — making it impossible to meet the September 15th constitutional deadline for having a redistricting plan approved. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen has issued an order that sets December 1st as the new deadline.

The chief justice says Iowa’s redistricting law has been recognized as the nation’s gold standard and has been studied and praised by redistricting commissions in other states. Christensen’s order cited the strict criteria the Legislative Services Agency uses to reconfigure the districts as she granted the legislative branch permission to proceed with the process that has been used since 1981.

Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny says he appreciates the Supreme Court’s work in helping to maintain Iowa’s nationally recognized redistricting process. Governor Kim Reynolds has set October 5th as the date for legislators to reconvene in special session to vote yes or no on the set of maps that will be released this Thursday.

Orange City, Iowa — When Iowa voters vote in the upcoming November election, several new provisions will be in effect.

We talked to Ryan Dokter, who along with being the Sioux County Auditor is also the President of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, and he tells us about some of the important changes.

That voter registration deadline for the November election will be October 18th, but as Dokter says, you can register another way. He says absentee voting has changed as well.

So, for this election, here are the dates:

Absentee voting in person and the mail-out of absentee ballots can start on October 13th. People were able to request an absentee ballot as early as August 24th, and that continues. The last day your Auditor’s office can mail out ballots is October 18th.

Dokter says that postmarks will now have no effect on whether your completed mailed-in absentee ballot will be counted or not.

The auditor tells us that there are also several changes to the way county election officials handle several aspects of the election. One of those is that county auditors can no longer set up satellite voting sites at their discretion. He says any satellite voting sites now have to be requested by petition. He says this is not a provision that affects Sioux County at this time, but it does affect some of the larger counties in the state. He also says that willful violation of the election law by election officials is now a class D felony offense.

Northwest Iowa — A northwest Iowa based company has been approved for a pair of state grants to bring broadband internet service to two locations in this area.

The Governor’s Office announced Tuesday afternoon that Premier Communications, which is headquartered in Sioux Center and serves multiple communities in this area, has been approved for two grants through the Broadband Grants Program from Empower Rural Iowa.

One of the grants is for just over $1.745 million to be used to bring broadband internet access to the rural Ashton are. Premier Communications CEO Doug Boone, tells us more.

The second grant, for just over $7.405 million is for a project in rural Plymouth County.

Boone says, if Premier accepts the grants, in-depth engineering work will begin in those areas.

He says there are circumstances beyond Premier’s control that may force the schedule to be pushed back.

Boone says he’s excited to serve these underserved areas.

The state has allowed Premier Communications ten business days to accept these grants.

 

Northwest Iowa — The City of Sheldon and its Chamber and Development Corporation, Cooperative Farmers Elevator (CFE) and the Northwest Iowa Manufacturing Sector Partnership were recognized at the 11th Annual Northwest Iowa Development (NWID) Partner Meeting at the Hawarden Community Center in Hawarden late last week.

The City of Sheldon and Sheldon Chamber of Commerce and Development Corporation were recognized by Northwest Iowa Development with the Beyond Expectations Economic Development Support Award for its Comeback Cash program to stimulate the local community economy during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Retired NCC President Alethea Stubbe was recognized for her 30-year career at the college, 10-years as the college’s president and her support of regional economic development.

Receiving the Kirk Grau Business or Organization Innovation Award was Cooperative Farmers Elevator of Ocheyedan. CFE completed a new feed mill project using state-of-the-art technology to increase tons manufacturer and produce a higher, more consistent quality product.

The second Kirk Grau Business or Organization Innovation Award was presented to the Northwest Iowa Manufacturing Sector Partnership, an organization focused on workforce. This unique partnership between 22 regional manufacturers, NCC and NWID is focused on promoting manufacturing careers in northwest Iowa and works with a Career Coach to build relationships with local school districts.

Image: Kiana Johnson presents Sheldon & SCDC recognition for “Comeback Cash promotion. Pictured, left to right, are: (front row) Kiana Johnson, Sheldon Mayor Greg Geels, SCDC’s Shantel Oostra. (Back row) Mark Brown, Justin Jonas, Trevor Gottula, Sheldon Economic Development Director Curt Strouth.

 

CFE Award recipients Steve Peterson and Rob Jacobs with presenter Dennis Dokter

 

MFG Sector Partnership Award: Stephanie Neppl presenting to Don Van Den Top & Chuck Sjogren

 

Statewide Iowa — The president of the state teachers union says some Iowa school districts plan to require that students and staff wear face coverings if state law banning mask mandates is overturned.

That’s Iowa State Education Association president Mike Beranek. He says masks can help prevent the recent increase in COVID cases among Iowa students.

Late last week, a state judge declined to temporarily block Iowa’s ban on mask mandates in schools. A federal judge has yet to rule on a similar request to at least temporarily block the law. The U.S. Department of Education also is considering action against Iowa’s mask ban. Some school officials in Florida have implemented mask mandates, contrary to Florida policy, but Beranek says that’s unlikely here.

The Iowa Department of Public Health is updating COVID case numbers on Wednesdays. Last Wednesday’s data showed 29 percent of the Iowans who had tested positive for COVID in the previous week were under the age of 18.

Statewide Iowa — Fourth district Congressman Randy Feenstra of Hull has joined his Republican colleagues on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee in voting “no” on ag-related elements of the infrastructure package House Democrats are proposing.

The panel began reviewing amendments Friday. Democrats defeated the four that Feenstra offered. One dealt with taxes and could have partially blocked a proposal to change the way inherited property, like farmland, is taxed.

The Biden Administration proposes taxing inherited property as if it were a sale, with an exemption for the first one million dollars of inherited property for an individual. Feenstra proposed freezing all spending outlined in the bill until the U.S. Ag Secretary confirms no farming operation with an annual income below $400,000 would see its taxes raised under the plan. The House Ag Committee took a vote on the package Monday morning and it passed on a party-line vote.

The $3.5 trillion infrastructure package House Democrats are proposing includes about 90 billion in ag related spending. Congresswoman Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, is also on the House Ag Committee. She voted “yes” on the ag committee’s portion of the infrastructure plan, citing the one billion dollars included for biofuels infrastructure and the 18 billion for USDA Rural Development.

September 13, 2021 - 11:01 am - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — The weekly COVID numbers for the four-county area of O’Brien, Sioux, Osceola and Lyon Counties have taken another jump, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

In last week’s report, 87 area residents had tested positive for COVID. That number has jumped to 95 for the past seven days. Sioux County reports 41 positives, down two from the last report; Lyon County reports 26, up five; O’Brien County had 17, up three; and Osceola County had 8, up two from last week’s report.

Thankfully, this week’s report shows no additional COVID-related deaths in the four-county area over the past seven days…a statistic we’re happy to report. However, 189 of our friends and neighbors have perished from COVID-related illnesses since the pandemic began; 74 in Sioux County, 57 in O’Brien County, 41 in Lyon County and 17 in Osceola County.

Statewide, 64% of Iowans have been vaccinated, while here in the four-county area the numbers are somewhat lower. O’Brien County has the highest vaccination rate in the four-counties at 55.9%, Osceola comes next at 50.7%, 47.5% of Lyon County residents have been vaccinated, while just 47.2% of Sioux County residents have received the COVID vaccine.

As of Monday morning there were 554 patients in Iowa hospitals with COVID and 153 in ICU’s across the state. Of those hospitalized, 78.7% are not fully vaccinated, with 89.5% of ICU patients not fully vaccinated.

Also as of Monday morning, there were COVID outbreaks at 20 long-term care facilities across the State of Iowa.

September 11, 2021 - 8:55 pm - Posted in News

Washington, D.C. — 4th District U.S. Congressman Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, says NASA research on what’s called “sustainable aviation fuel” should examine the use of biofuels for airplanes and spacecraft.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel — sometimes called biojet fuel — is a crop based alternative to jet fuel made only from petroleum.

During a U.S. House subcommittee meeting on Thursday, Feenstra proposed and the panel approved adding language to House Democrats’ infrastructure plan that will require NASA research and development of “sustainable aviation fuel” to include biofuels. Also Thursday, the White House invited representatives of the ethanol and biodiesel industry to a discussion about wider use “sustainable aviation fuel.”

September 10, 2021 - 3:14 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Harvest season is almost on top of us and Iowa State Trooper Kevin Krull says we need to keep an eye out for farm implements on the roadway to avoid crashes.

He says a No Passing Zone means that you cannot pass…even if you’re stranded behind a piece of slow-moving farm equipment.

Trooper Krull says during harvest season we all need to slow down, watch for farm implements, and expect the unexpected And remember, you’ll close fast on any slow moving vehicles in your path. And you’ll close even faster if you’re exceeding the speed limit.

September 10, 2021 - 3:13 pm - Posted in News

Sioux City, Iowa — A Melvin man entered a guilty plea in federal court earlier this week to possession with intent to delivery methamphetamine.

According to federal prosecutors, at a March plea hearing, 50-year-old Todd Gruis admitted that in March of this year he received multiple packages by mail, each containing methamphetamine. Gruis planned to use some of this methamphetamine and the remainder he planned to distribute to another.

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Gruis was taken into custody by the United States Marshal after the guilty plea and will remain in custody pending sentencing. Gruis faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a possible maximum sentence of 40 years’ imprisonment, a $5,000,000 fine, and four years up to life of supervised release following any imprisonment, according to officials.

The case was investigated by United States Postal Inspection Service, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, Clay County Sheriff’s Office, and Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement.