Branstad Signs Laws Restricting Distracted Driving in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad has signed into law enhanced penalties involving the use of cellphones while driving.

Branstad signed the bills Monday surrounded by law enforcement. Both pieces of legislation take effect July 1.

One law determines that a driver who uses a cell phone and causes the death of another person has shown evidence of reckless driving and could face a felony conviction that includes up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The law also establishes a 24/7 sobriety and drug monitoring program for drivers.

The other law will allow officers to pull over drivers specifically for texting. It was previously a secondary offense, which meant an officer needed another reason to make a traffic stop.

Texting drivers would face a $30 fine.

Legislature To Tackle Education, Water Quality

DES MOINES (AP) — The Iowa Legislature is expected to tackle K-12 education and water quality initiatives in the session that convenes Monday.

The Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-led House have long been at odds over how much money funding to school district funding to to spend on K-12 education, and the 2016 session will likely continue that pattern. Legislative leaders differ on how much new state revenue is available, and that will impact how much they’re willing to increase base funding to school districts.

Gov. Terry Branstad will also seek support for his proposal to fund water quality initiatives with the help of an existing 1-cent sales tax for school infrastructure improvements. Lawmakers may question whether to touch the money.

Story provided by The Oskaloosa Herald

Branstad Pardons 2 Turkeys As Part Of Thanksgiving Tradition

(Information in the following story is from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad has pardoned two turkeys as part of an annual Thanksgiving tradition in Iowa.

Branstad issued the special proclamation Monday outside Terrace Hill in Des Moines for two turkeys named Zoey and Spike.

Branstad noted during brief remarks that the birds had survived bird flu this year. The disease killed more than 1.1 million turkeys in the state. Branstad says he’s encouraged by producers going back to work.

The Des Moines Register reports (http://dmreg.co/1Na16CF ) Branstad’s grandchildren were present during the pardon. They chased the birds through the snow.

Iowa’s Medicaid Privatization Draws Scrutiny

Gov. Terry Branstad’s plan to privatize the state’s Medicaid program is moving forward, though critics are raising questions about how the shift will impact patients.

Earlier this year, the state began an effort to shift Medicaid administration to two or more managed care organizations, to which Iowa will pay a fixed amount per enrollee to provide health coverage. State officials predict cost savings and say patients will still have access to quality health care.

But Democratic Senate President Pam Jochum, of Dubuque, said this week that she is not convinced, raising concerns about the quality of care for patients.

Amy Lorentzen McCoy, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said the new system would save the state money by avoiding duplication of services and by offering better preventative care.


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