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NEWS 4.4.23: Nebraska death penalty decision, Iowa restructures government, porcupine visits Sioux City, and more

A judge has rejected a challenge to the death penalty in the case of a man charged in the killings of four people last summer in Laurel, Nebraska.

The judge says the lawyers representing 42-year-old Jason Jones didn’t prove that Nebraska’s death penalty law is unconstitutional, and it’s too soon to determine if that penalty is appropriate because it is still early in the process. Jones yet to officially enter a plea.

Jones is charged with arson, weapons counts and four counts of first-degree murder in the August killings of 53-year-old Michele Ebeling; 86-year-old Gene Twiford and his 85-year-old wife, Janet Twiford; and their 55-year-old daughter Dana Twiford.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed her 1500-page bill into law today (Tuesday) to reorganize the state government and give herself and the attorney general more power.

The new law will merge Iowa’s 37 cabinet-level state agencies to become just 16, and Reynolds says her goal is to have that done by July first. She says it’ll improve services for Iowans and save money.

Reynolds was asked why her projected savings of $215 million over four years appears to be more than estimates from nonpartisan analysts.

If we save anything, and I can streamline services, and have a single mom or single dad that’s trying to get some services not have to go through 14 different doors to figure out how to get an answer, then that’s a win for me.”

Democrats say the new law is a power grab by the governor and that she should’ve listened to Iowans’ concerns.

The Iowa House has passed its take on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ expansive education bill that seeks to bar elementary school teachers from covering LGBTQ topics in class.

House Republicans made changes to what came out of the Senate. The latest version (SF 496) keeps a section that effectively bans books in schools that describe sexual acts, but only if those descriptions are graphic.

The bill passed on a vote of 55 to 42 with six Republicans joining Democrats to vote against it.

It is not clear whether GOP lawmakers in the Senate will agree to all of the changes made in the House.

An Iowa Senate panel approved four budget bills Monday — without any numbers included. Read the full story from the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

A public hearing has been set for Sioux City budget that starts on July 1st. It will take place on April 17th at 4 p.m. at City Hall.

Sioux City Assessor Tyler Erickson is holding a meeting at the Sioux City Public Museum on Thursday night.

The meeting, set to start at 6:30 p.m., comes the week after assessment value notices went out to local property owners. On average, property owners in town saw their assessed values increase by about 24%. Siouxland Public Media reported on the concerns some citizens raised.

The Sioux City Journal reports the assessor is expected to address a number of topics.

The Sioux City Council also voted unanimously Monday to approve the first reading of ordinance changes that would increase sewer rates.

The rate increase would help the city rebuild an aging wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $580 million.

Iowans weighed in at a Statehouse public hearing today on a bill that would change eligibility requirements for public assistance programs.

It would put a new limit on assets households can have to qualify for food assistance, known as SNAP, and would require more frequent eligibility checks. It would allow 10 days for people to respond to a written notice if the state finds they may not qualify for food or medical assistance.

Opponents say it’ll leave people without food.

People who support the bill say it’ll help reduce fraud in public assistance programs and allow for better use of taxpayer dollars.

The monthly survey of supply managers and business leaders in Iowa and eight other Midwest states finds the economy’s numbers slipped slightly during March, compared to February.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss tells Radio Iowarecession warning signals have been flashing for three straight months, but there are now also signs of slow growth — while inflation continues climbing. “What I think we’re in right now nationwide is what we call sometimes called a rolling recession,” Goss says. “In other words, recessions in construction, and in other areas like finance, real estate, and also in certain states that specialize in banking and finance.”

Extensive story from the Association Press on weather conditions:

People still sorting through the wreckage of their homes after deadly weather hit over the weekend braced for another wave of strong storms, likely including tornadoes, that were expected in parts of the Midwest and South beginning Tuesday evening. Officials warned residents to have shelter ready before going to sleep.

“This could be a night to just set up down in the basement to be safe,” said Tom Philip, a meteorologist in Davenport, Iowa.

The storms were expected to hammer some areas hit by severe weather and possibly dozens of tornadoes that killed at least 32 people, meaning more misery for those whose homes were destroyed in Arkansas, Iowa and Illinois. Dangerous conditions Tuesday also could stretch into parts of Missouri, southwestern Oklahoma and northeastern Texas. Farther south and west, fire danger will remain high.

“That could initially start as isolated supercells with all hazards possible — tornadoes, wind and hail — and then over time typically they form into a line (of thunderstorms) and continue moving eastward,” said Ryan Bunker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Hours before the biggest storms were expected to hit, strong thunderstorms swept through the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois on Tuesday morning with winds up to 90 mph (145 kph) and baseball size hail. No injuries were reported but trees were downed and some businesses were damaged in Moline, Illinois.

Northern Illinois, from Moline to Chicago, was seeing 75-80 mph (120-128 kph) winds and hail 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 centimeters) in diameter on Tuesday afternoon, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Baker said.

The tornado risk in the Upper Midwest was expected to be highest in the late afternoon and evening Tuesday with storms targeting northern Illinois, eastern Iowa and southwest Wisconsin. Areas of southern Missouri and Arkansas were most at risk overnight.

In Keokuk County, Iowa, where 19 homes were destroyed and more were damaged Friday, emergency management official Marissa Reisen worried how those cleaning up the damage will cope if another storm hits.

“All of the people who have been impacted by the storms Friday night are doing all this work, to clean up, to gather their stuff, to pile up the debris,” Reisen said. “If a storm comes through and hits them again and throws all that hard work all over the place again, it will be so deflating to those people.”

Severe storms could produce strong tornadoes and large hail Wednesday across eastern Illinois and lower Michigan and in the Ohio Valley, including Indiana and Ohio, according to the Storm Prediction Center. The weather threat extends southwestward across parts of Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas.

The fierce weekend storms spawned deadly tornadoes in 11 states as the system plodded through Arkansas and onto the South, Midwest and Northeast.

The same conditions that fueled those storms — an area of low pressure combined with strong southerly winds — will make conditions ideal for another round of severe weather Tuesday into early Wednesday, Bunker said.

Those conditions, which typically include dry air from the West going up over the Rockies and crashing into warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, are what make the U.S. so prone to tornadoes and other severe storms.

The weather pattern was expected to bring warm temperatures that would plunge after storms moved through the region. The high Tuesday in Des Moines was forecast for 79 degrees (26 Celsius) and an even warmer 80 degrees in Kansas City, followed by overnight lows in the upper 30s (around 3 Celsius).

A blizzard warning was in effect for nearly all of North Dakota and most of South Dakota through at least Wednesday night. The National Weather Service predicted parts of South Dakota could see up to 16 inches (40 centimeters) of snow and wind gusts as high as 55 mph (90 kph).

Dozens of schools in South Dakota were closed on Tuesday due to blizzard conditions. State executive branch offices were also closed in much of the state.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed off on $20 million Tuesday for emergency snow removal grants to localities. Officials reminded residents to check on neighbors and keep their homes stocked with food, water and medicine, have battery-powered radios in case of power outages and ensure gas meters and furnace vents are clear of snow.

In Minnesota, a winter storm warning was in effect in the north, while the southern part of the state expected thunderstorms that could include hail and strong winds. The expected weather this week led the Minnesota Twins to delay their Major League Baseball home opener from Thursday to Friday.

The state’s popular EagleCam captured the moment on Sunday morning in which high winds blew a 20-year-old eagle’s nest out of a tree, killing an eaglet that had hatched just days earlier. Officials believed heavy snow that fell in a weekend blizzard — coupled with the weight of the more than 2,000-pound nest — became too much for the tree to support.

In Nebraska, conditions varied drastically Tuesday, with snow expected in the northwest while residents in Omaha, on the state's eastern edge, enjoying temperatures in the mid-70s.

The threat of fire danger is expected to remain high Tuesday across portions of far western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, northeastern New Mexico and far southeastern Colorado, with low humidity, dry vegetation and wind gusts as high as 70 mph (110 kph), according to the National Weather Service.

The DNR's Facebook page says that the porcupine got himself into a prickly situation in a hotel parking lot in Sioux City recently. See post below.

Facebook/Iowa DNR

LSU’s 102-85 victory over Iowa in Sunday’s national championship game was the most-viewed NCAA women’s basketball game on record, with 9.9 million viewers on ABC and ESPN2 according to fast national numbers by Nielsen.

The total audience is a 103% jump over last year, when South Carolina defeated UConn and averaged 4.85 million on ESPN and ESPN2. The audience on Sunday at one point peaked at 12.6 million.

Submitted news releases:

Suspended Exhibit in City Hall Museum

The City of Sioux City has partnered with the African American Museum of Iowa to host the traveling exhibit Suspended: Systemic Oppression in Our Schools.

The exhibit examines the role public schools play in funneling students into the prison system. Elements of the criminal justice system have entered public schools around the country, resulting in zero tolerance policies and student policing that disproportionately effect children of color. Suspended helps you learn more and explore ways to dismantle systems that feed the school to prison pipeline. An original exhibition developed by the African American Museum of Iowa, Suspended features three 8’x8’ double sided panels.

A grand opening for the traveling exhibit will be held Thursday, April 13 at 12:00 p.m.

The free exhibit will be located in the City Hall Museum, 405 6th Street, main floor clocktower space, through June 31, 2023. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Contact Sioux City Community Inclusion Liaison Semehar Ghebrekidan with questions at sghebrekidan@sioux-city.org or by phone at 712-203-7738.

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Department of Public Safety is proud to announce the graduation of the 46th Basic Academy on Friday, March 31, 2023, at the Holiday Inn Airport Conference Center in Des Moines, Iowa . The ceremony recognized a graduating class of 18 recruits who previously served as certified officers in law enforcement agencies across Iowa before entering the Academy on January 20, 2022. Lieutenant Matthew Struecker served as Camp Commander.

Conducted at Camp Dodge, the 10-week Academy training focused on completing law enforcement coursework on laws of arrest, search and seizure, defensive tactics, arrest techniques, precision driving, firearms, emergency management services, fair and impartial policing, criminal law, accident investigation, human relations, physical fitness, human trafficking, motor vehicle law, domestic violence, crisis intervention for mentally ill and several other courses in law enforcement. 

The 48th Certified Academy graduates are assigned the following badge numbers, and will serve Iowans in these districts: 

Thomas Allen #27 - District 12 Devon Baumgartner #48 - District 10 Lucas Darby #107- District 2 Jesse Drahos #99 - District 11 Dillon Faas #76 - District 6 Benjamin Goerdt #106 - District 10 Coby Hoff #69 - District 16 Austin Little #263 - District 2 Samuel Magana Cisneros #62 - District 5 Zacariah Milliken #283 - District 3 Nicholas Popp #160 - District 12 Christopher Raymer #407 - District 13 Jacob Riley #429 - District 13 Anthony Salato #403 - District 2 Cameron Theilen #282 - District 8 Codi Thompson #398 - District 8 McKenna Whitehill #405 - District 8

Recruits who received special recognition for their performance include: 

•    Lance Dietsch-Stanley Gerling Valedictorian Award: Cameron Theilen •    Top Gun Award: Jacob Riley •    Sergeant Jim Smith Meritorious Peer Leadership Award: Jesse Drahos •    Distinguished Graduate Award: Lucas Darby •    Earnest Baty, Jr. Physical Fitness Award: Nicholas Popp, Thomas Allen, Cameron Theilen

“We are extremely proud of these graduates and grateful to them for choosing to answer the call with the State of Iowa,” said Stephan K. Bayens, Commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety. “At this point in history, I believe it is the most important time to be a law enforcement officer. There’s divisiveness, brokenness, and crime is on the rise. I cannot think of a more significant time for men and women to step up and bridge that gap, and I thank them for it,” Bayens added.

To view photos from the event, click here to visit the 48th Certified Academy Photo Album.

For more information about DPS law enforcement careers and the 10-Step Process, visit DPSCAREERS.COM.  


The Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the largest law enforcement agency in the state. It includes six divisions and several bureaus, all working together with local, state and federal government agencies and the private sector, to keep Iowa a safe place by following our core values: leadership, integrity, professionalism, courtesy, service and protection. Divisions within the Iowa DPS: Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Iowa State Patrol, Iowa State Fire Marshal Division, Iowa Division of Intelligence and Fusion Center, and Administrative Services Division. The Department of Public Safety is led by the Commissioner who is appointed by the Governor.

Gov. Reynolds Signs SF 445 & SF 514 into Law  

DES MOINES – Today, Governor Kim Reynolds signed the following bills into law:

SF 445: A bill for an act relating to protests considered by local boards of review and including effective date and applicability provisions.

SF 514: A bill for an act relating to the organization, structure, and functions of state government, providing for salaries of appointed state officers, providing for penalties, making appropriations, providing Code editor directives and transition provisions, and including applicability and effective date provisions.


6 Divisions, 1 Mission: To serve the people of Iowa by providing public safety services with leadership, integrity and professionalism. Protection All Ways

Gov. Reynolds Issues Disaster Proclamation for Six Additional Counties

DES MOINES - Today, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for six additional counties in response to the March 31 severe weather. The governor's proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe weather in Appanoose, Davis, Iowa, Jackson, Lucas, and Monroe counties.

In addition, the proclamation activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for qualifying residents, along with the Disaster Case Management Program, for those counties. The Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and temporary housing expenses. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services website at https://dhs.iowa.gov/disaster-assistance-programs. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim.

The Disaster Case Management Program addresses serious needs related to disaster-related hardship, injury, or adverse conditions. Disaster case managers work with clients to create a disaster recovery plan and provide guidance, advice, and referral to obtain a service or resource. There are no income eligibility requirements for this program; it closes 180 days from the date of the governor's proclamation. For information on the Disaster Case Management Program, contact your local community action association or visit www.iowacommunityaction.org.

On April 1 the governor issued a disaster proclamation for these 12 counties impacted by the March 31 severe weather: Cedar, Clinton, Delaware, Des Moines, Dubuque, Grundy, Johnson, Keokuk, Linn, Mahaska, Wapello, and Washington. This proclamation also activated the Iowa Individual Assistance Program and the Disaster Case Management Program.

A copy of the proclamation can be foundhere.

UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network 2023 Mediathon raises $118,155 to enhance health care for children in Siouxland

(Sioux City, Iowa – April 4, 2023) Siouxland made miracles happen for local children during the UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network 2023Mediathon event from March 28 through March 30. The three-day event was broadcasted live on KG95 and KTIV as the community pledged their support to our local Children’s Miracle Network. A total of $118,155 was raised by our community, supporters and sponsors for the kids of Siouxland.

“We’re thrilled at the success of this year’s Mediathon event,” says Stacey Selk, Director of the UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network. “All of the proceeds will stay here locally to help improve the outcomes of our pediatric patients and their families. It is truly amazing to see the outpouring of support we have for our Siouxland area children.”

The generosity of the Siouxland community helps change the lives of over 22,000 pediatric visits at UnityPoint Health - Sioux City each year. Mediathon pledges will be used for a new ultrasound machine in our Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic, as well as some new dental equipment for our surgery department. Stories of Siouxland children and families who have been impacted by gifts to Children’s Miracle Network were shared throughout the event.

This event has raised more than $1.4 million in the first 20 yearsthrough sponsorships, personal pledges, donated items and gift basket raffles. This year’s basket raffle included 50 creative baskets with most valued at around $300.

Mediathon was sponsored by the following: Title Sponsor: Siouxland OBGYN; Miracle Maker Day Sponsors: State Steel, Scheels; Power Hour Sponsors: CNOS, CMBA Architects, Great Southern Bank, Curry Flooring & Acoustics, Empirical Foods; Family Moment Sponsors: Century 21 Pro Link, AC & R Specialists, Hy-Vee, Telco Triad Community Credit Union, Fibercomm, PepsiCo, Mpire Heating and Cooling, Dunes Dental 4 Kids, Juliana Mayne; Giggle Break Sponsors: Kalins Indoor Comfort, All Power, Inc, Pierce Street Same Day Surgery, Schuster Co., F & M Bank, Woodhouse Auto Family, Family 1st Dental, Jensen Dealerships, Jebro, Blankenship Paint & Glass, Availa Bank, Delta Dental Foundation.

Donations are still being accepted for the UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network 2023 Mediathon event. To donate, text Mediathon2023 to 41444 or call 712-279-3900.