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NEWS 5.12.23: Tornado Watch, Iowa Governor COVID-19 benefit lawsuit, Siouxland News ends local news coverage, and more

The National Weather Service issued the first Tornado Watch of the season for a large portion of Siouxland. This includes the northwest Iowa counties of Woodbury, Plymouth, Ida, and Monona, all of northeast Nebraska, and Union, Clay, Yankton, and Bon Homme in South Dakota.

From the National Weather Service:

Strong to severe storms developing in Nebraska this afternoon will

lift north toward the Missouri River during the late afternoon and

evening. While the exact evolution and timing are uncertain, these

storms may be capable of very large hail up to tennis ball size,

damaging wind gusts to around 70 mph, and a few tornadoes. The most

favored window for severe storms is currently 4 pm to 10 pm, though

this window may be narrowed down further in future updates. Locally

heavy rainfall rates could produce ponding water, especially in urban

areas or locations with poor drainage.

Scattered showers and storms will continue into Saturday. While the

risk of severe weather is lower, an isolated strong to severe storm

cannot be ruled out near or east of Interstate 29.

A class action lawsuit accuses Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds of violating state law and depriving up to 55,000 Iowans of “life-sustaining benefits”.

The lawsuit filed this week in Federal Court in Iowa, cites Reynolds's decision in May 2021 to pull Iowa out of federally funded unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. Those benefits started under former President Donald Trump and included higher payments for people on unemployment and let people continue receiving unemployment benefits for an extended time. But Governor Reynolds was one of several Republican governors who opted out of the programs in 2021, arguing the extended benefits were hurting the labor market and allowing people to chose not to work.

Gov. Reynolds Statement on Unemployment Assistance Lawsuit:

DES MOINES – Gov. Reynolds released the following statement in response to a potential class action lawsuit regarding unemployment assistance:

“The federal government doesn’t get to run the state of Iowa or impose policies that damage our economy. Paying people to stay home at a time when there are more jobs available than people to fill them defies common sense. Iowans know there is dignity in work.”

The governor has signed a bill into law that’s designed to enhance the criminal charges for people arrested more than once of domestic abuse.

It will change guidelines which have prevented prosecutors from charging someone arrested for domestic abuse assault with committing a second or third offense if their previous conviction occurred more than a dozen years ago. Senator Jeff Reichman of Montrose was the only lawmaker who spoke during senate debate of the change.

“It’s sad to see these convictions and usually people do have a history,” Reichman said. “I look back at some of the deaths we’ve had in our area and a large amount of them, unfortunately, are because of domestics, so I’m glad we can do some legislation to help out.”

A prosecutor who was a key advocate for the bill told The Cedar Rapids Gazette the change was needed because violent offenders have been able to avoid felony or serious misdemeanor charges simply because 12 years had passed since a previous domestic abuse assault conviction or deferred judgment.

JOHNSTON — After signing into law a transformational $340 million program for public assistance for private school costs this year, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday she plans to address Iowa public school teacher salaries during the next legislative session.

Reynolds said she already has been working on public teacher salaries with an eye to next year, as an extension of the myriad pieces of K-12 education policy passed during the recently concluded 2023 session of the Iowa Legislature.

Reynolds said she has been told by rural school administrators that the issue of teacher salaries is especially critical in their districts.

While in Iowa on Thursday, Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy voiced support for changing the overall U.S. voting age to 25, unless younger Americans fulfill at least six months of service in the military or as a first responder — or pass the same citizenship test administered to those seeking to become naturalized citizens.

Ramaswamy’s campaign announced the biotech entrepreneur and “anti-woke” activist’s push for a U.S. Constitutional amendment promoting “civic duty voting,” which he announced in a news release and detailed during a campaign event in Urbandale.

Revising the Constitution is no simple task, requiring overwhelming support in Congress and in state legislatures. Still, Ramaswamy said in his release that the “absence of national pride is a serious threat to the future of our country” and argued his proposal “can create a sense of shared purpose and responsibility amongst young Americans to become educated citizens.”

On Twitter during his Iowa event, Ramaswamy acknowledged, “I understand not everyone will like this proposal and that it will take persuasion to convince many of its merits, but I’m ready to take that on.”

At age 37, Ramaswamy is the youngest person competing for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination in a field that already includes several candidates in their 70s, including former President Donald Trump and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

A new report has found the number of Iowa teens in foster care has dropped significantly.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report found the number of Iowa kids 14 and older has decreased 40% from 2006 to 2021.

The report found about 1,600 or 22% of Iowa’s foster kids were 14 and older in 2021.

The Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council says it’s “disappointed” in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a California animal welfare law on pigs.

California’s Proposition 12 requires breeding pigs to be housed with enough space to turn around in order for pork from them or their offspring to be sold in that state. Iowa is the country’s largest pork producer.

National Pork Producers Council president Scott Hayes says hog farmers may have to adopt new standards to raise their pigs.

An injunction on Prop 12 that was in place because of the court case ends July 1.

Statement from Nebraska Governor Pillen:

LINCOLN, NE – Today, Governor Jim Pillen joined the Nebraska Farm Bureau and other agriculture leaders in expressing disappointment over the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion upholding California's Proposition 12. The case stems from a 2018 California ballot initiative banning the sale of pork that doesn’t meet that state’s unilateral standards.

A low-level airplane will begin flying over portions of Siouxland in mid-May as part of a geophysical survey.

The Sioux City Journal reports the buried Spirit Lake tectonic zone, which is centered in the area between Sioux Falls and Omaha, is the focus of the survey.

Today is the last day for local news at Siouxland News CBS/FOX 44, a news partner of Siouxland Public Media. Sinclair plans to air a national news program instead.

A Ponca tribe chief whose landmark lawsuit in 1879 established that a Native American is a person under the law was honored with the unveiling of a U.S. Postal Service stamp that features his portrait. The release of the stamp on Friday of Chief Standing Bear comes 146 years after the Army forced him and about 700 other members of the Ponca tribe to leave their homeland in northeast Nebraska and walk 600 miles to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. A lawsuit filed by Chief Standing Bear led to a ruling that found a Native American is a person with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.