Parents could face fines up to $1,000 and as much as 30 days in jail if their children engage in harassment or bullying under House File 143 introduced by Reps. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, and Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia. The bill holds parents responsible if their children younger than 18 from engaging in bullying. H.F. 143 calls for schools to work with a child who bullies another and the parents to prevent further bullying. Cases may be referred to mediation. County attorneys also could file civil actions against the parents of bullies.
CRITICAL JUNCTURE: Four Iowa community college presidents made their pitches for more state money Wednesday during a hearing before the House-Senate education budget subcommittee. Barbara Crittenden of Southwest Community College expressed concern that flat property tax revenue and “lagging” general aid from the state have placed higher debt burdens on students attending Iowa’s 15 community colleges. She said the schools have taken “every step on the cut side” to hold down tuition increases that threaten to price community colleges out of the market at a time when the schools are providing important technical training to address the state’s work force skills gap. “We’re at a critical juncture for our institutions,” she told the legislative panel. Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College, said Gov. Terry Branstad’s fiscal 2014 budget proposed a $10 million increase in general aid to community colleges but reduced career education and other work force programs by $11 million. He said the schools are asking lawmakers for up to $15 million in increased general aid and another $17 million for work force training, adult education and other programs that will help Iowans to enter or re-enter the job market.
HEATING OIL, FUEL PRICES SURGE: Home heating oil rose 8 cents from last week, closing at $3.54 per gallon, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Natural gas prices in Iowa also were up 15 cents from last week’s report, ending the week at $3.34/MMbtu, while propane prices held steady at last week’s figures with a statewide average of $1.41 per gallon. Meanwhile, motor fuel prices at Iowa pumps for regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.48 per gallon across Iowa, according to AAA. That was up 14 cents from both the previous week and the previous year. The national average on Tuesday was $3.55 a gallon, up 16 cents from last week’s price. The price of 10 percent blended ethanol unleaded gasoline stood at $3.40 per gallon, also up 14 cents from last week and last year. U.S. average unleaded retail gasoline showed the biggest increase in fuel prices — up 16 cents from last week, closing at $3.55 a gallon. Retail diesel fuel prices in Iowa were up seven cents in the latest weekly report with a statewide average of $3.88 per gallon. One year ago diesel prices averaged $3.75 in Iowa. The current Iowa diesel average is 12 cents per gallon lower than the national average of $4.00.
FARM RECOGNITION: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is encouraging eligible farm owners to apply for the 2013 Century and Heritage Farm Program. The program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Farm Bureau and recognizes families that have owned their farm for 100 years in the case of Century Farms and 150 years for Heritage Farms. Applications are available on the Department’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov by clicking on the Century Farm or Heritage Farm link under “Hot Topics.” Applications must be postmarked by June 1, 2013, to be recognized at the Iowa State Fair. Applications may also be requested from Becky Lorenz, coordinator of the Century and Heritage Farm Program at 515-281-3645, email at Becky.Lorenz@IowaAgriculture.gov or by writing to Century or Heritage Farms Program, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Henry A. Wallace Building, 502 E. 9th St., Des Moines, IA 50319.
FLAG RESTRICTIONS: Iowans would not be free to buy American flags manufactured outside of the United States under House File 147, a bill sponsored by seven Democrats and a Republican. Buying a flag not manufactured in the U.S. would be a simple misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in jail and a fine of at least $315 but not more than $1,875. Previous attempts to ban the sale of foreign-made flags have failed.
NEW OVERSIGHT: House File 145 sponsored by Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn, would create the Iowa State Board for Blind and Deaf Education to oversee the operation of the Iowa School for the Deaf and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton. The schools now are overseen by the Board of Regents, which is exploring offering educational services to the blind and deaf at five regional centers rather than the current schools in Vinton and Council Bluffs. Opponents to that plan say the two populations have diametrically opposed needs and require separate administrators and distinct services.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Our worst days are the best days in the media, unfortunately. – Nick Ludwick, warden of the Iowa State Penitentiary, discussing prison issues with a House-Senate justice systems and an upcoming move of 585 maximum-security prisoners from the current penitentiary to a new facility slated to open in January 2014.