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NEWS 5.1.23: Vigil for Flora Lee, Legislative update, and more

A community vigil is planned tonight to honor the life and legacy of Flora Lee. The local leader died unexpectedly, on Thursday, at the age of 69. Lee supported education in Siouxland, as a staff member of the Northwest Area Education Agency, and a dozen years on the Sioux City School Board. She led the local chapter of the NAACP for many years, and at the time of her death was Executive Director of Woman Aware.

The vigil for Flora Lee starts at 6:30 at the Rudy and Flora Lee Celebrating Community Project at 509 Nebraska in Sioux City. The project was renamed in Rudy and Flora’s honor to celebrate their lifelong dedication to equality and justice. The project features bronze busts of people who worked to provide equality for overlooked groups in our community and is located near the Martin Luther King Jr. Transportation Center.

A funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre. Rev. Dr. Albert Mosley, the President of Morningside University will be officiating. Visitation with family will be held Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Meyer Brothers Colonial Chapel.

Republican leaders have reached an agreement on how to provide property tax relief for Iowans.
A Senate committee advanced a compromise bill Monday that would combine previous House and Senate proposals. It would require certain local governments to lower their property tax rates based on a new formula.

The bill would also cut property taxes for veterans and seniors. And it would require cities and counties to provide more detailed information to taxpayers about how their property tax dollars are being used. Most Senate Democrats support the bill, saying it’ll provide relief for those who need it most.

Iowa lawmakers returned to work today, even though Friday, April 28th was the official last day for this year’s legislative session. This means senators and representatives will work without pay.

The Iowa House has finalized a bill that would require schools to review their discipline policies for students who are violent or threatening.

The original House proposal would have required school districts to suspend students who are removed from class.

The final version (HF 604) says suspension must be one option in a school’s policy, along with possible expulsion or a change of classroom. The bill says the consequences must escalate for students who are repeatedly removed from class.

Under the bill, the Iowa Office of Ombudsman could investigate complaints from educators about districts mishandling incidents of violence in schools.

The bill passed unanimously, sending it to Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The Iowa legislature is planning to spend an extra $750,000 to prepare for a possible outbreak of African Swine Fever. The virus, which causes severe bleeding and death, has killed pigs in the Caribbean Islands.

Radio Iowa reports the Senate has already approved a budget for the Iowa Department of Agriculture that includes $250,000 toward development of a vaccine and $250,000 to buy equipment to euthanize pigs.

The House is expected to approve the budget bill for the Ag Department this week. It includes another $250,000 boost to the state’s program for responding to an outbreak of a foreign animal disease.

According to the Iowa Pork Producers Association, on a typical day there are about 24 million hogs in Iowa. African Swine Fever is not a threat to humans, but once a pig is infected it is highly contagious to other pigs — and the mortality rate is at least 95%.

The competition between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis is intensifying as the former president is scheduling a return trip to Iowa on the same day that the Florida governor was already going to be there. The state kicks off the Republican contest for the White House. DeSantis is slated to headline Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra’s annual summer fundraiser in northwest Iowa on May 13 and is expected to speak at a party fundraiser later that evening in Cedar Rapids. A Trump campaign official says the former president now plans to be in Iowa on the same day to headline an organizing rally at a park in downtown Des Moines.

Outspoken abortion provider LeRoy “Lee” Carhart has died. Clinics for Abortions & Reproductive Excellence in Nebraska says Carhart, who was the medical director, died Friday. He was 81. A cause of death was not released. Carhart began focusing on abortion at his clinic in Nebraska after retiring from the Air Force in 1985. He was one of just a handful of late-term abortion providers in the U.S. He also was a public voice for abortion rights. He went before the U.S. Supreme Court twice to challenge restrictions on abortion procedures. Carhart was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He earned his medical degree from Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, now Drexel University College of Medicine.

A vote to ban abortion in Nebraska at about the sixth week of pregnancy failed on Friday.

The rising Mississippi River is testing flood defenses in southeast Iowa and northwest Illinois as it nears forecast crests in the area Monday, driven by a spring surge of water from melting snow. The peak water levels this spring will likely rank in the top 10 of all time in many places, but the National Weather Service said river levels will generally remain well below past records. That should help most towns along the river withstand the floodwaters. Nonetheless, officials will be keeping a wary eye on floodwalls and sandbag barriers over the coming days. Weather Service meteorologist Tom Philip said it's fortunate the region has had relatively dry weather as the river crests.

Submitted news releases:

Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska

Sioux City, IA, May 1, 2023 : During the Month of May, the Mental Health Roundtable of Siouxland will join communities across the country in celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a time to shine a spotlight on spreading helpful mental health resources and to raise awareness about mental health. Mental Health is an important part of your overall health with 1 in 5 people experiencing some kind of mental illness in a given year.

The Mental Health Roundtable was formed in 2019 as part of the Community Health Needs Assessment process facilitated by Siouxland District Heath Department. The Roundtable consists of various agencies working together to destigmatize mental health in the Siouxland area and to improve the mental health referral process and training opportunies offered locally.

The Mental Health Roundtable of Siouxland is promoting Mental Health Awareness month in various ways this year including:

  • City of Sioux City will be issuing a Proclamation today, May 1st during their council meeting.
  • Woodbury County Board of Supervisors will read a Proclamation Tuesday, May 2nd.  
  • City of South Sioux City will be issuing a Proclamation on Monday,  May 8th.
  • South Sioux City Community Schools along with Western Iowa Tech Community College, Bishop Heelan and various other businesses will be participating in Wear Green Day on May 8th. Other organizations are encouraged to do the same. Please take pictures and use hashtag #makeitok
  • Warrior Hotel and Winnebago will be changing their lights to green
  • Pierce Street Coffee Works, Sweetwater Café and Code Brew will be featuring a drink menu during the month of May to bring awareness to Mental Health.

If you or a loved one would benefit from mental health services, please reach out to your local medical provider or local mental health facility.

For media interviews on this topic, please contact Jennifer Jackson with Heartland Counseling at 401-494-3337 or Amy Bloch at Catholic Charities at 712-252-4547