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NEWS 3.7.23

National Weather Service/Sioux Falls Office

The National Weather Service is keeping an eye on a winter storm that could impact parts of the region. A Winter Weather Advisory kicks in for north central Nebraska tonight through tomorrow morning with 3 to 6 inches of snow and a light glaze of ice expected.

A Winter Storm Watch remains in effect Thursday for northwest Iowa, including the Iowa Great Lakes Region. Travel could be tricky. The Storm Watch includes Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Sioux, O’Brien, Clay, Cherokee, and Buena Vista Counties. Between 5 and 8 inches could fall.

The forecast for Sioux City calls for drizzle and snow likely for tomorrow with potentially 3 inches falling on Thursday and a total of 5 from Wednesday through Thursday night.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate have scheduled debate today on the governor’s bill to reduce the number of state agencies from 37 to 16 and give Governor Kim Reynolds authority to set the pay for her top administrators.

Among the 16 state departments, the bill creates one new agency — the Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services. Radio Iowa reports the move would bring together the Divisions of Insurance, Banking, Credit Unions.

According to the Iowa Economic Development Authority, there are more than 7000 finance and insurance companies in Iowa, and more than 95,000 Iowans work in the industry.

Radio Iowa reports Reynolds touted her government realignment plan this morning during a speech to members of the Iowa Bankers Association.

There are no layoffs outlined in the bill, but Reynolds says her plan will reduce the number of full-time employees by more than 500 as long unfilled positions are eliminated. Critics have been saying the plan shifts too much authority from the legislature to the governor.

The South Dakota House of Representatives voted 55-14 to not agree with Senate amendments made to remove the 4.5% overall sales tax on groceries Tuesday. Gov. Noem has threatened to veto the overall budget bill if she does not agree with whatever tax cut is included. For more on the story check out the Argus Leader: https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/politics/2023/03/07/south-dakota-house-votes-not-to-cut-overall-sales-tax-on-groceries-kristi-noem-sd-legislature/69980734007/

Thirty-four Tyson Foods employees, former employees, and family members filed a lawsuit against the company Monday, saying it failed to take appropriate precautions at its meat-packing plants during the early days of the COVID pandemic.

In the lawsuit, filed in Tyson’s home state of Arkansas, the plaintiffs said Tyson’s negligence and disregard for its workers led to emotional distress, illness and death. Several of the plaintiffs are the spouses or children of Tyson workers who died after contracting COVID.

Meat-packing facilities were early epicenters of the COVID epidemic in the U.S., with employees working closely together on the production line. At least 59,000 meat-packing workers contracted COVID-19 and 269 workers died in 2020, according to a U.S. House report issued in 2021.

The lawsuit claims Tyson knew about COVID as early as January 2020, when the virus was spreading through its facilities in China. On March 13 of that year, the lawsuit said, Tyson suspended all business travel and mandated that all non-critical employees at its corporate office work remotely.

But at the five Arkansas plants where the plaintiffs or their family members worked, Tyson didn’t provide masks or allow work modifications to allow for social distancing until late April 2020, the lawsuit said. The company also didn’t perform contact tracing or quarantine infected workers, the lawsuit said.

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages.

The lawsuit isn’t the first to target Tyson over its COVID protocols.

In late February, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition by Tyson to move a case in Iowa to federal court. Tyson argued that federal officials wanted it to keep the company's plants running, citing an executive order signed by former President Donald Trump designating meat processing as essential infrastructure.

But a federal appeals court judge ruled last year that Tyson can’t claim it was operating under the direction of the federal government. The case filed by family members of Tyson employees who died of COVID has been sent back to Iowa state court.

A district court judge has denied a request from a carbon dioxide pipeline company to grant it access to private property in Woodbury County without holding a trial, according to court records. As such, a trial scheduled for Tuesday is set to proceed. For the full story check out the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

A state senator is calling for the dismissal of the Director of Athletics at the University of Iowa. Radio Iowa reports Republican Senator Annette Sweeney of Alden said the more than $4 million legal settlement to former black players who alleged there was racial discrimination in the football program is a boondoggle.

Prosecutors are filing additional charges against Kingsley's police chief for his alleged stalking of his ex-girlfriend using official police resources.

Siouxland News CBS Fox 44 reports 54-year-old James Dunn is now facing 19 criminal charges including 14 felonies surrounding accusations he stalked a former girlfriend. Those additional charges were filed by the Plymouth County Attorney ahead of a preliminary hearing in the case scheduled for March 20th.

The Sioux City Police Department received City Council approval Monday to submit an application for a $240,000 homeland security grant, which would fund the purchase of an armored rescue vehicle for SWAT. For more on the story from the Sioux City Journal click here.

A trio of northwest Iowa school districts are holding special elections Tuesday. For coverage from Siouxland News CBS Fox 44 click here.

MidAmerican Energy is going green with its newest fleet of vehicles. The company rolled out three all-electric bucket trucks this morning in an effort to electrify. The trucks can drive up to 135 miles on a full charge. The trucks can be found here in Sioux City, plus Des Moines and the Quad Cities. The all-electric trucks add to the company’s fleet of 100 vehicles that are partially or totally electrified. More information can be found at the bottom of this page in a news release issued by MidAmerican Energy.

Submitted news release:

MidAmerican first utility in Iowa to add all-electric bucket trucks

Company adds three emissions-free utility trucks to help service electric system

DES MOINES, Iowa – (March 7, 2023) – MidAmerican Energy is rolling out three all-electric utility bucket trucks in Iowa, becoming the first utility in the state to take the first step toward electrifying its heavy-duty service fleet.

The all-electric trucks can drive up to 135 miles on a full charge and will operate hydraulic equipment for a full day's range of work. Each truck’s aerial lift and bucket can lift crews and equipment up to 55 feet for line repair, maintenance and construction work. They feature separate battery sources for the vehicle and lift mechanism.

The all-electric trucks add to the company’s fleet of 100 vehicles that are partially or totally electrified, including general purpose company electric vehicles and hybrids, utility trucks outfitted with electric booms, and other pieces of equipment.

“One of our company’s core principles is environmental respect,” John Guy, MidAmerican vice president of electric delivery, said. “We’ve already added more than two dozen electric vehicles to our light-duty fleet, which includes cars and minivans, and this is our first step in electrifying our medium-and heavy-duty utility vehicles.”

All-electric trucks in Sioux City, Des Moines and Quad Cities areas MidAmerican will deploy its first all-electric trucks to operations centers in Sioux City and the Quad Cities, and the company’s training center near Adel, which will be used for indoor and outdoor training in addition to Des Moines-area line work. The truck assigned to the training center will enable crews to train indoors without experiencing engine noise or emissions.

When not in service, the trucks will recharge at select company facilities equipped with fast chargers.

“A bucket truck is a line crew’s workhorse, and our line crews are eager to roll out these all-electric trucks,” Guy said. “These all-electric trucks drive, idle and operate quietly without emissions, which is good for the environment,” he added. “Our customers and crews will notice a difference, especially when they’re working at night in quiet neighborhoods.”

The three all-electric trucks are part of a company pilot program to test their performance in working conditions. If the trial is successful, MidAmerican plans to expand its all-electric heavy-duty vehicle fleet.

“This pilot project exemplifies MidAmerican’s commitment to respecting our environment and is now helping drive us on our journey to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” Guy continued.

About MidAmerican Energy Company MidAmerican Energy, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, serves 813,000 electric customers in Iowa, Illinois and South Dakota, and 789,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. Information about MidAmerican is available at MidAmericanEnergy.com and company social media channels.