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NEWS 10.6.22: New Job for Senator Sasse, Grassley/Franken Debate, Former 185th Leader Promotion, Rural Iowa Grants, and More

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (NE-R)
U.S. Congress
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (NE-R)

News reports say Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is expected to resign from Congress to take a job as president of the University of Florida.

Politico reported the news Thursday afternoon. The university issued a statement naming the Republican as the sole finalist for the position. Sasse was first election to the Senate in 2014 and easily won re-election in 2020.

From the Associated Press:

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse is the sole finalist to become president of the University of Florida, the school says, and the Republican senator has indicated he will take the job. That means he would resign in coming weeks. The school said Thursday in a statement that its presidential search committee had unanimously recommended Sasse, a decision that will have to be be voted on by the school’s board of trustees and then confirmed by its board of governors. The school said he will visit the campus next week to meet with students and others.

A debate with the Iowa candidates for U.S. Senate takes place tonight on Iowa PBS. It’s the only scheduled debate between long-time incumbent Chuck Grassley, a Republican, and Democrat Mike Franken, a retired Navy Admiral of Sioux City. Listen to the debate tonight, starting at 7 on Siouxland Public Media.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem's reelection campaign is calling into question the integrity of the South Dakota State University poll after it was revealed during a radio show that the governor's race between Noem and Rep. Jamie Smith is statistically even.

During a show broadcast on South Dakota Public Media, the Poll director said that preliminary polling shows Noem leads the race against Smith 45% to 42%.

The actual results or data behind the poll about the governor's race has not yet been released.

185th Refueling Wing

The former commander of the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City has been named Deputy Adjutant General for the Iowa Air National Guard. Col. Mark Muckey, a native of Sioux City, was picked by Governor Reynolds for his military achievement and leadership skills during his nearly four decades of military service. With this appointment, Col. Muckey will be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. *More details in news release below.

COVID-19 transmission rates are low in Woodbury County, according to the latest information from the CDC.

About two-thirds of Iowa has a low risk of infection by the coronavirus as newly reported cases in the state — and nationwide — continue to fall.

COVID-19 cases also continue to trend downward in Nebraska, but the virus is still proving deadly, especially for those not protected by vaccinations.

The 35 Nebraskans were added last week to the state’s death toll of 4,542.

Medical experts say the vast majority of COVID deaths today are preventable.

Firefighters have nearly contained a large wildfire in the Nebraska Sandhills that has burned roughly 30 square miles and led to the death of a volunteer firefighter. The fire started Sunday and spread quickly because of dry conditions. The Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team said Thursday that the fire is 94% contained, with only a few short sections of the fire line surrounding the blaze still unsecure. The fire destroyed several buildings at the Nebraska State 4-H Camp and burned part of the Nebraska National Forest. Assistant Chief of the Purdum Volunteer Fire Department Mike Moody died Sunday after suffering an apparent heart attack while fighting the fire.

The Iowa Utilities Board will not require Summit Carbon Solutions to provide an environmental impact study of its proposed carbon capture pipeline. The study was requested by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska in June and subsequently by the Sierra Club, an Iowa environmental organization. The tribe argued that an independent study needed to be conducted to see the hazardous liquid pipeline’s potential impact on land that runs near the reservation.

But, the board says there are no specific regulations that require such a study. The board came to a similar ruling during the debate over the Dakota Access pipeline in 2015. The board says it will consider whether Summit has addressed environmental concerns before granting a permit.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced more than $450,000 in grants to help rural areas of the state. Several Siouxland communities and organizations will benefit. This includes Iowa Central Community College in Storm Lake, the Spirit of Okoboji project called “OkoboTree” that will turn dead trees into works of art, a trail project in Hartley, the Woodbine Community School District, and the cities of Rock Valley and Estherville.

News release from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds:

DES MOINES – Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority announced today that a total of more than $450,000 in grants have been awarded through six Empower Rural Iowa Grant Programs. The grant awards will support rural initiatives spanning from child care and housing to workforce attraction and leadership development in more than 20 counties.

“I signed the Empower Rural Iowa Act in 2019 to ensure that the rural communities that are the heart of who we are as a state have the resources needed to connect, invest and grow,” said Gov. Reynolds. “Since then, Empower Rural Iowa grants have provided support for dozens of now thriving businesses, communities and entrepreneurs in our rural communities.”

“I’m proud to serve as Co-Chair of Empower Rural Iowa and see first-hand the amount of inspiring ideas Iowans have to solve the challenges facing rural Iowa,” said Lt. Governor Adam Gregg. “The grant awards announced today will allow many of these solutions to move forward to help ensure that opportunity abounds in every Iowa community.”

For example, the IGNITE Pathways program in Woodbine will leverage Rural Innovation funding towards creation of an automotive maintenance and care training program to address the lack of local options in this field. The need was identified through the research and analysis by a local high school program that focuses on developing innovative solutions to real, rural problems.

In another example, Iowa Central Community College will use Rural Scale-Up funding to bring the successful career academies model to the western part of their region through the development of a new regional center in Storm Lake. This opportunity will enhance the learning capabilities, provide equitable access to high-quality career technical education programming, and help close opportunity gaps that exist in the region.

In its inaugural year, the Rural Enrichment grant is funding eleven projects across the state, including “OkoboTree”, a visual art tree preservation project; a live music venue in an alley off Polk City’s main square; and downtown lighting project in Osceola.

More information about the Empower Rural Iowa Grant programs is available at iowaeda.com/empower-rural-iowa

News release from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds:

DES MOINES -- Governor Kim Reynolds announced today the appointment of Colonel Mark A. Muckey as Deputy Adjutant General for the Iowa Air National Guard. Muckey, a Sioux City native, was selected by Governor Reynolds for his outstanding military achievements and leadership capabilities demonstrated through nearly four decades of military service.

“Like the Iowa National Guard itself, Colonel Muckey has proven ‘always ready’ to protect and serve,” said Gov. Reynolds. For almost forty years, he has served our nation with distinction all over the world, and his highly decorated military resume speaks to the courage and skill he brings to every deployment. I want to congratulate Colonel Muckey for his coming promotion to Brigadier General and thank him for once again answering the call.”

Muckey is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours primarily in the C-130H Hercules and KC-135R Stratotanker. He has numerous deployments including Operation Joint Forge, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He joined the military in 1984 through the Academy of Military Science and most recently has served as the commander of the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City.

Muckey has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma State and is also a graduate of the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College.

His significant military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, Aerial Achievement Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

With this appointment, Col. Muckey will be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Muckey replaces Brigadier General Shawn Ford who retired in early August. Colonel Muckey and his wife Susan live in Ankeny.

News release from the Iowa Utilities Board:

(Des Moines) – The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) issued an order today that denies a request for an environmental impact study (EIS) regarding the proposed carbon capture pipeline by Summit Carbon Solutions LLC (Summit Carbon), which is pending before the IUB in Docket No. HLP-2021-0001. The request for the EIS was filed by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska (Winnebago Tribe) on June 2, 2022.

The order stated that the IUB will consider specific environmental issues raised by the IUB and the parties in the Summit Carbon docket as part of the public evidentiary hearing and in consideration of whether to grant Summit Carbon a hazardous liquid pipeline permit. The IUB considers the proposed project under Iowa Code chapter 479B and the IUB’s rules at 199 Iowa Administrative Code chapter 13, and the IUB will consider whether Summit Carbon has addressed the environmental concerns sufficiently. The IUB stated in the order that it does not consider a separate EIS, as required by federal regulations, to be necessary to fulfill its statutory requirements in considering whether to grant the permit requested. 

Today's order referenced a similar request made with regard to the Dakota Access pipeline in Docket No. HLP-2014-0001. In the IUB’s Final Decision and Order issued March 10, 2016, in the Dakota Access docket, the IUB found “there is no explicit legal requirement, in statute or in rule, for an independent environmental impact report as a part of this proceeding.”

On June 17, 2022, Summit Carbon filed a response to the Winnebago Tribe's filing, and on June 21, 2022, Sierra Club filed comments addressing the EIS request. Since Sierra Club's filing, numerous members of Sierra Club also have submitted comments requesting an EIS be conducted. 

Documents regarding the proposed Summit Carbon pipeline are available for review in the IUB’s electronic filing system under Docket No. HLP-2021-0001.

News release from the Sioux City Community School District:

Sioux City, Iowa – A search for the next superintendent of Sioux City Community Schools is underway. The District has announced a series of in-person input sessions to engage district staff, students’ families, and community members in the search process for the District’s next superintendent.

Facilitated by executive search firm GR Recruiting, the community input sessions will provide individuals with an opportunity to voice their feedback on the qualities most important in the next leader of the Sioux City Community School District.

The community is encouraged to attend one of the following sessions:

  • Tuesday, October 11: 6 pm at East High School Media Center (3200 S. Cypress St.)
  • Thursday, October 13: 6 pm at West High School Media Center (2001 Casselman St.)
  • Saturday, October 15: 10:30 am at North High School Media Center (4200 Cheyenne Blvd.)

During the 90-minute input sessions, individuals will be asked to provide their input on the leadership qualities, communication strategies, and management traits most important in a new superintendent. Feedback gathered during the sessions will be used to identify the right candidates for the superintendent position as part of the nationwide search process.
In addition to the input sessions, the community may also provide feedback through a superintendent search survey, available until 10 am on Friday, October 14. To access the survey, please visit https://bit.ly/3xY1bGU or the District’s website at www.siouxcityschools.org.

An announcement on the new superintendent is anticipated in early 2023, with the individual assuming the role for the 2023-2024 school year.

More information about the superintendent search process at the Sioux City Community School District is available at www.siouxcityschools.org.

News release from Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts:

Gov. Ricketts, AG Peterson Criticize President Biden’s Announcement on Marijuana

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson issued the following joint statement in response to President Biden’s announcement on marijuana:

“The President’s announcement today on marijuana reveals once again that he is both misinformed and ill-advised regarding the issues surrounding marijuana. There is no one in our state correctional system who has been incarcerated simply because they possessed marijuana. Furthermore, the legalization of marijuana in other states has demonstrated an increase in drug cartel activity, increased driver impairment, and with far higher THC levels, greater risk for permanent mental health impairment, especially for adolescents. This is exactly the wrong direction for our country.”