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Capitol Digest 3-12-12

James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, March 12:

IT’S NATIONAL FIX A LEAK WEEK: The Iowa Utilities Board issued an alert Monday promoting consumer awareness of water conservation by reminding Iowans that it’s “fix a leak’ week through March 18. IUB officials say their effort to partner with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to promote water efficiency and conservation hopefully will raise consumer awareness concerning water wasted by U.S. homes each year.

Nationwide, more than one trillion gallons of water is wasted each year from minor household leaks, according to state officials. The IUB encourages all Iowans to check their home plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems for leaks. Fixing minor leaks will save money on utility bills and reduce the use of valuable water resources. Information on how to find and fix water leaks, or find water efficient products and services, is available at

ST. PATRICK’S DAY WARNING: The Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau is warning Iowa drivers not to let their luck run out this upcoming St. Patrick’s Day weekend. According to bureau officials, about 250 law enforcement agencies from around the state will be on the roads beginning March 15 and continuing through March 18 for this year’s second special traffic enforcement program. They will be looking for all traffic violators, not only for drunk drivers and safety belt violators.

Iowa law officers will be stepping up their enforcement activity in hopes of slowing down a trend that saw a record number of 59 traffic fatalities in January and February – a total that included at least 17 victims who were not wearing seat belts, officials said. Special enforcement coordinator Randy Hunefeld said last year there were 242 agencies (167 city police departments, 72 counties sheriffs’ offices and three state agencies) that were involved in a special March enforcement effort that resulted in 18,284 traffic citations and warnings being issued.

MURDER SOLICITATION: A House subcommittee voted Monday to approve a Senate-passed change sought by the Iowa County Attorneys Association to create a criminal offense relating to the solicitation to commit murder. Under current law, the offense is included with other criminal solicitations that are classified as Class D felonies. Prosecutors say a situation where someone commands, entreats or otherwise attempts to persuade another person to commit murder should carry a tougher penalty than soliciting another person to steal property. SF 2296 would establish the crime of solicitation to commit murder as a Class C felony punishable by confinement for no more than 10 years and a fine of at least $1,000 but not more than $10,000.

State Public Defender Mark Smith expressed concern the bill would broaden the solicitation statute to cover situations where someone hired another person to do an illegal act which then resulted in a death even though that was not the intent of the solicitor. However, proponents argued the wording clearly targeted the new law for murder solicitations where prosecutors would not be able to impose an attempted murder charge that carries a 25-year prison term upon conviction.

SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS: Gov. Terry Branstad is urging Iowans to be prepared year-round for emergencies. Branstad said the recent tragic tornado outbreaks in the Midwest and South, and a forecast by that predicts 2012 will see above-normal tornado numbers, is reason for everyone to increase their awareness of services available to them. The Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is encouraging all Iowans to take the following three steps to ensure proper precautions are taken in case of emergencies or natural disasters: be aware of the hazards that may affect you; make an emergency plan; and make an emergency supply kit that includes items such as water and food, medication, a first aid kit, a flashlight, batteries, a radio, copies of important documents such as insurance policies and driver’s licenses, and blankets and sleeping. More information about these three simple steps can be found at HSEMD’s preparedness

N11 CODES PROMOTED: Most people are familiar with dialing 911 for emergency help, but state officials want Iowans to also be aware of the seven other “N11” codes that could be helpful. N11 is a three-digit shortcut to reach special community resources. The numbers are set aside by the Federal Communications Commission and operated by the community service provider. For example, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) operates the 511 service describing road and traffic conditions. To assist in the awareness of these N11 codes, Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration has directed the creation of a website containing the information (

The following N11 codes are available for Iowans to use: 211 – Community information and referral services, including food, shelters, clothes, health insurance programs, support groups, counseling, financial assistance, meal services, child care, legal services, etc. There are 2-1-1 call centers serving all 99 counties in Iowa; 311 – Nonemergency police, fire and municipal business. Local and municipal governments administer 311 calls; 411 – Local telephone directory assistance (Landline 4-1-1 service is provided by local telephone companies. Wireless services are provided by your wireless phone carrier. Some telephone companies and wireless carriers charge for this service.); 511 – Travel information, including the status of roadway construction, accidents, detours and winter road conditions. Iowa information is provided by the Iowa DOT. (511 services are available in most other states. The information you receive is based on the location from where you are calling. 511 is the abbreviated number for 800-288-1047 — available nationwide); 611 – For customers of some telephone companies, 611 is used to report a problem with telephone service (Many wireless phone providers also use 611 as a general customer service access number); 711 – The Telecommunications Relay Service that allows people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-disabled to place calls to standard telephone users via a keyboard or other assistive device; 811 – This “Call before You Dig” number arranges for utilities to be located and marked, preventing damage that can interrupt service and place the public at risk; 911 – Emergency response.

TRANSPORTATION PLANNING: The Iowa Department of Transportation will have two public information meetings regarding the update of Iowa’s long-range transportation plan.

The meetings will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 20 at Iowa DOT District 5 Materials Office, 301 W. Briggs Ave., Fairfield, and March 22 at Hiawatha City Hall, Multipurpose Room, 101 Emmons St., Hiawatha.

At each meeting, a presentation will be made at 5:15 p.m. Personnel will be available between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. to individually discuss the plan.

The DOT will be accepting public comment on the plan through March 30. To view information concerning the plan, visit the Iowa DOT’s website

IS THERE A BADGE FOR THAT: Someday, Gov. Terry Branstad said as he introduced Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds to a gathering of Girl Scouts at the Capitol, “we’re going to have a woman governor.”

It wasn’t clear from the governor was talking about Reynolds or the Girl Scouts who were observing the 100th anniversary of the organization’s founding.

Branstad noted that 69 percent of women in the U.S. Senate, 67 percent of the women in the U.S. House and all of the female astronauts who have flown in outer space were Girl Scouts.

Eighty percent of female business owners are former Girl Scouts, he said. “They caught the business bug from selling those wonderful Girl Scout cookies. I’ve bought a lot of them over the years.”

Referring to the current emphasis on encouraging girls to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields, Reynolds noted that the first STEM-related badges were issued in 1913 for projects involving electricity and fire.

CHALLENGING CALIFORNIA: Gov. Terry Branstad has joined an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opposing California’s fuel standards law that he said discriminates against Iowa’s corn farmers.

Branstad and other Midwest leaders argue allowing the California Air Resources Board’s unconstitutional fuel standards to take effect would hurt our corn farmers and ethanol markets. The brief was filed by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and co-signed by the attorney generals of Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. It argues the court should rule against the request for a stay because California is unlikely to prevail on the merits, the fuel standards violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and a stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction and judgments will substantially injure the economies of the Amici States and it’s the public interest.

It’s estimated ethanol production boosts the price of corn by $0.05-0.10 per bushel. A May 2011 study by Iowa State University found that the past decade of growth in ethanol production reduced gas prices in the Midwest region by $0.39 per gallon.

To read the full amicus brief, visit

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’ve got so much fear of change. Oh my God, we’ve got to do things the way we always did them. This is not 1950. It is a new era and we do need to work at what works best and most effectively for each individual student.” – Gov. Terry Branstad in promoting the use of online education and other technologies to make bold reforms to Iowa’s school system that would improve student performance.

–Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau

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