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Capitol Digest, 3-28-2012

Rod Boshart, CR Gazette –

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Wednesday, March 28, 2012:

JUDGE BOWER INVESTITURE: Iowa Appellate Court Judge Thomas N. Bower of Cedar Falls will take the oath of office in a public ceremony at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Supreme Court courtroom in the Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines. Bower, 51, fills the vacancy on the Iowa Court of Appeals that occurred when Chief Judge Rosemary Sackett retired. Bower was appointed as a district associate judge in 1993 and as a district court judge in 1995. He was appointed chief judge of the First District in 2010. He received his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University in 1984 and his law degree from Drake University in 1987. Before becoming a judge, he served as an assistant city attorney for the city of Ames and as an assistant Black Hawk County attorney. Judge Bower helped to establish the Black Hawk County Adult Drug Court program in 2006 and a mental health court program in 2009. Judge Bower is a member of the Iowa State Bar Association, Black Hawk County Bar, and the Iowa Judges Association.

HIGHER GAS PRICES: The price of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $3.82 across Iowa – up 30 cents from a year ago, according to AAA. Unleaded gasoline prices continued to climb, increasing by another two cents to $3.82 in Iowa, according to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The mid-grade blend with 10 percent ethanol rose two cents to $3.74. Retail diesel fuel in Iowa averaged $4 per gallon, a one-cent increase over the past week and 14 cents from a year ago. Iowa prices were below the national averages of $3.91 a gallon for gas and $4.16 a gallon for diesel.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION REPORT: Prices paid for medical professional services for injured workers were higher and were rising faster in states without fee schedules compared with states that have them in place. That according to the latest medical price index for workers’ compensation issued by the Workers Compensation Research Institute — a not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, Mass. WCI Executive Director Dr. Richard Victor said the study found that six states in the 25-state study — Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, and Wisconsin — had no medical fee schedules as of 2011. The prices paid for professional services in Virginia, Missouri, New Jersey, Iowa, and Indiana were 27 percent to 51 percent higher than the median of the study states with fee schedules and the prices in Wisconsin were more than twice the median of the study states with fee schedules, the highest of all the study states. States without fee schedules also saw more rapid price growth over the 2002-2011 study period, with prices in Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Virginia, and New Jersey rising 32 percent to 38 percent, compared with the median growth rate of 14 percent for the study states with fee schedules. The prices in Wisconsin experienced the most rapid growth among the 25 study states, rising 50 percent. The study also found that changes in fee schedules were an important factor driving changes in actual prices paid for professional services. Victor said his group’s study was designed to help public policymakers and system stakeholders understand how prices paid for medical professional services for injured workers in their states compare with other states and know if prices in their state are rising rapidly or relatively slowly.

WINDOW SAFETY: Officials from the Hannah Geneser Foundation and Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines are spearheading an effort to educate parents and other child caregivers about the dangers posed by windows and the actions that can be taken to prevent window accidents involving children. Noting that the first week in April is Window Safety Awareness Week, organizers of the outreach effort said the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that each year falls from windows account for about 12 deaths and 5,000 injuries among children age 10 and under in the United States. Officials say preventative actions, such as placing furniture away from windows, locking unopened windows and teaching children to play a safe distance away from windows, are a few ways to help reduce the risk of window accidents. Caregivers should remember window screens do not prevent falls and to always supervise children at play. For more information about window safety, visit

PRESCRIBED BURNS: The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is conducting prescribed burns when conditions allow on parks, forests and wildlife areas throughout the state.

The burns are conducted on thousands of acres each year to reduce the hazardous fuel loadings and the potential for a problematic wildfire. The burns also help control exotic and woody species, and weeds and restore native prairie. Before a prescribed burn is performed, a plan must be approved, including a “contingency plan” in case the burn gets out of control. All DNR burn crews have at least 32 hours of training from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. For questions regarding any aspect of the prescribed burning program administered by the DNR, contact the local DNR office.

FINDING FISH: The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has new online trout maps that include roads, streams, rivers, township, section and range, a district-wide fishing report, species commonly encountered in the stream and special regulation information. “These new maps allow us to update the information in real time, and you can print off individual stream maps on your home computer,” said Mike Steuck, supervisor of fisheries in northeast Iowa. The new maps are listed by stream at Paper map are available at northeast Iowa fisheries offices or by calling (563) 927-3276.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Now I’m not an ag guy, but I’m a guy who likes anything from hot dogs to lean finely textured beef, but I get that they were once a different form.” – Rep. Jeremy Taylor, R-Sioux City, speaking of lean, finely textured beef, a product that has been labeled as “pink slime” by social media critics.

–Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau

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