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NEWS 1.26.21: Digging Out, School Boundary Change, Ernst on Impeachment, Lower Unemployment, & More

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Associated Press
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Some spots in Iowa and Nebraska are digging out from more than a foot of snow.

The National Weather Service reports 5.7 inches fell at the Sioux Gateway Airport. Current reports show Norfolk, Nebraska with the highest total in Siouxland with more than 7 inches. But, some area only received very little snow.  

Several schools started late or canceled all together, including Sioux City and South Sioux City. Some services locally are impacted with garbage collection delayed for one day and Sioux City Transit will only be traveling on Priority One streets until further notice.

Omaha saw the biggest daily snowfall since 1975 for the 7th day for snow on record.

Des Moines broke a daily record that stood for more than 125 years with 10.3 inches.

Test Iowa sites in Council Bluffs and Des Moines will remain closed today due to the heavy snowfall.

Sioux City police say the woman who served as a driver for the three men who fired weapons into a home during a New Year’s gathering in Morningside is in custody.

Eighteen-year-old Mia Kritis, a North High senior was killed in the attack.

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Credit Woodbury County Jail
Liliana Gutierrez

The County Attorney’s office charged 20-year-old Liliana Gutierrez with three counts of reckless use of a firearm and one count of intimidation of a dangerous weapon for her part in the murder of Kritis.

A news release says there is no evidence showing that Gutierrez fired any of the weapons involved and appears to only have acted as the driver.

The Police Department is still looking for more leads and plan to file charges against anyone concealing evidence in the case.

Three other teens have been charged with 1st degree and other charges in connection with the deadly shooting.

More minority and English language learners to East Middle and High Schools, after a vote at last night’s school board meeting.  The Sioux City School Board affirmed the recommendation of a special boundaries committee. Three middle schools will be affected.

Irving Elementary will send students to either East or West, depending on which direction they live from the dividing line, Virginia Street. 

Unity Elementary students who live north of 14th Street would go to North Middle and High schools. Currently, all 5th grade students from Unity advance to the East system.

And Crescent Park/Lincoln Elementary students, who live north of Stone Park Boulevard, will go to North, while others will go to West. The plan will be phased in over the next few years, beginning this August.

Eight more Iowans have died of COVID-19 complications with more than 800 new positive cases in 24-hours. There have been almost 4,500 deaths since the start of the pandemic and more than 314,000 positive tests.

Eight of Iowa’s 99 counties are above the 15% 14-day test positivity rate. Monona County is the only one in northwest Iowa at 16.1% for number six in the state. Woodbury has fallen again to 9.6%.

Nebraska’s unemployment held steady last month at 3% and the state is tied with South Dakota for the nation’s lowest rate. The state Department of Labor says Nebraska’s rate hasn’t changed since October and is the same as the rate from September to December 2019. Labor Commissioner John Albin says Nebraska employment has recovered significantly since April, which was the peak for employment losses due to the pandemic. Albin says the state has added more than 71,000 nonfarm jobs since April, for a total of roughly 1 million in December. The low unemployment rate is likely due to a combination of factors, including major industries in Nebraska that weren’t hit as hard by the pandemic and unemployed people who aren’t counted because they’ve stopped looking for jobs.

Iowa’s unemployment rate fell to 3.1% in December, the second-lowest rate in the country. Data released Tuesday shows Iowa’s rate fell significantly from 3.8% in November. It's now only slightly above the 2.8% rate from a year ago, before the coronavirus pandemic led to a national economic slowdown. Only Nebraska and South Dakota have a lower unemployment rate, at 3%. The U.S. unemployment rate for December was 6.7%.

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Credit Associated Press
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks during a confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin, a recently retired Army general, before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington.

Iowa U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst says she believes it’s unconstitutional to try a president for articles of impeachment after he leaves office. Ernst was a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump while he was in office. She is among several Republican senators to question the impeachment proceedings, casting doubt on whether Democrats can get the needed Republican votes to convict Trump. Ernst told reporters Trump exhibited poor leadership and has some responsibility for a Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. She says he should have more quickly told the crowd to remain peaceful. However, Ernst said she’s not sure his actions meet the definition of inciting an insurrection as alleged by the impeachment article prepared by the House.

Iowa now has two representatives on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, according to Radio Iowa.

Third district Congresswoman Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, announced earlier this month she would remain on the panel during her second term. Yesterday, fourth district Congressman Randy Feenstra announced that he’s been assigned to the ag committee, too.

Two years ago, House GOP leaders removed former Iowa Congressman Steve King from the House Ag Committee and that was a major issue in Feenstra’s primary victory over King last June.

Iowa’s public universities could no longer grant professors tenure under a bill passed by an Iowa House subcommittee. Republicans supporting the bill say it comes in reaction to alleged discrimination against conservative students on campus.

Republican Representative Skylar Wheeler of Orange City specifically mentioned an Iowa State professor who said in a syllabus last summer that student projects could not oppose abortion rights or gay marriage.

Iowa State has said there are policies that protect student expression, but Wheeler questioned whether tenure protects professors who suppress conservative views.

The state’s public universities oppose the House bill. A lobbyist for the Board of Regents said it would cause an “exodus” of the best professors and researchers, and make the system a “back water” of higher education.

Several business groups that benefit from university expertise also oppose the bill, including the Iowa Pork Producers and Iowa Soybean Association.

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Credit Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers have dealt a major blow to a proposed law that would have banned people from changing the sex designation on their birth certificates. LGBTQ advocates called the effort an attack on transgender people. A House committee rejected the bill on a seven-to-six vote Tuesday, though it could still be revived by a rarely used procedure. Bills that affect transgender people have become a perennial topic in the South Dakota legislature, although transgender advocates say they are making progress in getting their voices heard and issues understood. Advocates staged a small protest outside the statehouse Tuesday morning.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld a district judge's decision to order a full environmental impact review of the Dakota Access pipeline, but has declined to shut the line down while the review is completed. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled last year that a more extensive review was necessary than the assessment conducted earlier by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The pipeline crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. The tribe draws its water from the river and fears pollution.

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The U.S. Olympic swimming trials will be split into two meets, a striking change designed to provide safer conditions on the pool deck in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. USA Swimming says a Wave I meet for lower-ranked swimmers will be held in early June. The top finishers will advance to the Wave II meet un mid-June to determine who represents the U.S at the Tokyo Games. Both meets will be held in Omaha, Nebraska. The change is designed to reduce overcrowding on the pool deck, warmup pool and athlete seating areas.

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