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Journal Archives

Minnesota Power plant in Superior draws opposition

Minnesota Power plans to build a natural gas-fueled power plant in Superior. But citizen groups are questioning whether it’s a good idea, either for customers or the environment.

If all goes as planned, the $700 million power plant, to be called the Nemadji Trail Energy Center, will begin operation in 2025. It will be jointly owned with Dairyland Power Cooperative, with the two companies equally dividing the cost.

The plant is part of Minnesota Power’s “EnergyForward” plan by which renewable sources -- wind, solar, biomass and Canadian hydro -- will provide 44 percent of the energy supply by 2025. Coal will provide about 33 percent and natural gas around 23 percent. The project is estimated to create 260 construction jobs and employ 22-25 full-time workers.

The plant is expected to stabilize the energy supply for times when renewable energy capability is lower. “Natural gas is flexible, abundant, and you can call upon it when the sun’s not shining,” said Amy Rutledge, communications manager for ALLETE/Minnesota Power.

Read more: http://duluthreader.com/articles/2018/02/22/12459_minnesota_power_plant_in_superior_draws_opposition

Iowa Regents plan maximum 4 percent tuition hike

DES MOINES — In an effort to keep quality higher education accessible for Iowa students and families, the Board of Regents plans to raise tuition just once by no more than 4 percent for the upcoming academic year, its president old lawmakers Wednesday.

The regents likely will arrive at a more specific number when they meet Thursday in Ames and will finalize increases for the state’s three public universities this spring, President Michael Richards told the House Appropriations Committee.

In capping a resident undergraduate tuition hike at 4 percent, the regents are stepping back from earlier discussions that called for 7 percent increases annually at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, and 5 percent at the University of Northern Iowa, that were based on the assumption of no state funding increase in fiscal 2019.

Resident undergrad tuition is $7,486 at the UI and $7,456 at UNI and ISU, according to the regents. A 4 percent increase would be about $300 and a 3 percent increase would be nearly $225 a year.

Read more: http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/education/iowa-regents-plan-maximum-4-percent-tuition-hike-20180221

Anamosa to consider firing police chief after gender bias settlement

The Anamosa City Council on Monday will consider firing or suspending its police chief after the city and its insurer paid a $750,000 settlement last month to a former female police officer who alleged gender discrimination.

Amy Ford, who worked for the Anamosa Police Department from 2007 to 2017, claimed in her December 2015 lawsuit Police Chief Bob Simonson sent sexist emails to police department staff, discriminated against her in equipment purchases and retaliated against her when she complained about bias.

“The jokes he sent, the pictures and videos were all women-based and all discriminatory,” Ford told The Gazette earlier this month. “It’s not like he was sending pictures of women finding cures for cancer.”

Now, the city council is planning for “discussion and possible action on discrimination settlement,” according to the online agenda for Monday night’s meeting. This agenda item includes three bullet points: “Summary termination of the chief of police,” “Suspension of the chief of police” and “process for review/evaluation of chief of police’s employment.”

Read more: http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/government/anamosa-to-consider-firing-police-chief-after-gender-bias-settlement-20180223

Earlier thread:
Former Anamosa officer gets $750K settlement for sex discrimination suit


Iowa truckers worry over new federal regulations for electronic logs

Manson, Ia. — New federal rules requiring truckers to use electronic logging devices to monitor their hours of service are creating heartburn for some small Iowa trucking companies.

The electronic gear, which has replaced old-fashioned paper logbooks to record hours of service, became mandatory for most in the trucking industry in December. Truck drivers are given a 14-hour work window, but they are limited to 11 hours behind the wheel, and they have to take a break after driving for eight hours.

The switch to electronic logging devices was mandated by Congress to help create a safer work environment for drivers, and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status data. But some smaller Iowa trucking companies contend the rules have created an inflexible work environment where truck drivers' sleep patterns are being interrupted and they are driving too fast to get somewhere.

Productivity is down and profits are being hurt, says Chad Hartzler, operations manager at Peterson Transportation Inc. of Manson, which hosted U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, on Friday to discuss the issue. They were joined by officials from M S & Sons Corp. of Humboldt, and Miller Trucking and Ramthum Trucking, both of Manson, which is about 20 miles west of Fort Dodge.

Read more: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2018/02/23/iowa-truckers-worry-over-new-federal-regulations-electronic-logs/368552002/

Emoluments Suit vs. Trump Now Personal as Well as Official

Source: AP

WASHINGTON — Attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia on Friday expanded their lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of accepting gifts from foreign and state governments, suing him not only as president but in his personal capacity as a businessman.

Legal experts say the move takes the "emoluments" clause of the Constitution into uncharted legal waters, since it has been interpreted as only applying to presidents in their official capacity.

"The conventional understanding is that once the president is sworn in ... everything he does is official, so he doesn't have a personal capacity any longer. That's kind of the assumption, but that could be wrong," said Mark Brown, a constitutional law expert at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, is one of several recent cases challenging Trump's ties to his business ventures and his refusal to divest from them. The suits allege that foreign governments' use of Trump's hotels and other properties violates the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bans the president's acceptance of foreign gifts and money without Congress' permission. The clause has never been fully tested in federal court and Trump's Justice Department attorneys have argued that hotel room stays do not represent "foreign gifts."

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2018/02/23/us/politics/ap-us-trump-foreign-payments-lawsuit.html

Missouri House votes to restrict child marriages

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri House has passed a bill to ban marriages of children under 15 years old.

House members voted 95-50 Monday to send the bill to the Senate. Backers say it would help stop abuse through coerced marriages, while opponents argue it would take away parents' rights to decide whether to allow their children to marry.

Children ages 15-17 now can get married with a parent's permission. Those younger than 15 need approval from a judge.

The bill would require 15- to 17-year-olds to get a judge's approval following a court hearing. Children 14 years old or younger couldn't marry.

Read more: https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/politics/2018/02/19/missouri-house-votes-restrict-child-marriages/353758002/

Hawley's office says it retains secure texts; Curbing Greitens' college cuts

Hawley's office: "We retain all text messages that are required by law"

Attorney General Josh Hawley's office has used an messaging application that encrypts text messages in compliance with the state Sunshine law, a spokeswoman said.

Hawley launched an investigation of Gov. Eric Greitens and his staff after the Kansas City Star reported that the governor's office was using an application, Confide, that deletes messages after reading. Greitens has been sued for allegedly violating the Missouri Sunshine Law by using Confide, and he is trying to have that suit dismissed.

Greitens' office has since updated its policies to forbid Confide use, though the governor still has an account, as do many of Greitens' allies outside the Capitol.

Asked by the News-Leader on Thursday, a spokeswoman for Hawley's office said the attorney general's staff has a similar policy against using apps like Confide.

Read more: https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/politics/2018/02/22/significant-restorations-greitens-higher-ed-cuts-missouri-house-budget-leader-says-higher-education/362598002/

Burrell increases minimum wage to expand mental health care access

Burrell Behavioral Health announced Thursday that it raised compensation for employees and outpatient providers in an effort to increase access to mental health care.

The Springfield-based provider raised the organization's minimum wage by $3.15 to $11 an hour for all current and new employees, according to a news release. Missouri's current minimum wage is $7.85 per hour.

The wage increase affects 21 percent of Burrell's employee base, mostly the lowest paid employees, the news release states. Burrell describes itself as the second-largest community mental health center in Missouri.

Additionally, Burrell increased compensation for outpatient clinical providers to exceed industry standards, impacting 52 percent of the organization's provider base. This move to get in line with industry standards is part of Burrell's strategy to recruit and retain "the most qualified and passionate employees," the news release states.

Read more: https://www.news-leader.com/story/marketplace/2018/02/23/burrell-increases-minimum-wage-expand-mental-health-care-access/363201002/

Hawley blames McCaskill for campaign's high legal spending

WASHINGTON -- Top GOP Senate recruit Josh Hawley has spent more than $110,000 on lawyers since he launched his campaign four months ago —about 20 percent of his total spending so far in the race, and a sum that experts say is unusually high.

His campaign blames Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democrat Hawley hopes to oust in November, for the high legal expenses.

“Claire McCaskill and her allies have a deliberate strategy to smear Josh and his wife, Erin,” said Hawley campaign spokeswoman Kelli Ford in a statement.

Ford pointed to what she said were “multiple frivolous” campaign finance complaints filed against Hawley by the American Democracy Legal Fund, a creation of influential Democratic operative David Brock. The complaints allege that Hawley illegally paid Senate consultants with state campaign funds.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article201655609.html

Kansas can't cut off Medicaid money to Planned Parenthood, appeals court rules

Kansas acted improperly when it tried to cut off Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood under former Gov. Sam Brownback, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Brownback, who has now taken a position in President Donald Trump’s administration, sought to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding for breast exams, birth control and other services in 2016.

Brownback’s objection to sending Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood stemmed from the fact that the organization also provides abortion services, but those procedures are not paid for with Medicaid dollars. A federal district judge blocked Kansas from cutting off payments to the women’s health care provider in 2016.

Two years later and less than a month after Brownback left office, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the state lacks the authority to prevent Medicaid recipients from obtaining services from Planned Parenthood.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article201386559.html
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