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NEWS 5.23.23: IA auditor concerns, private school education account information, crop report, and more

Sioux City Community School District Board Director Perla Alarcon-Flory has announced that she will be relocating outside of the district in July. Check out the full story from the Sioux City Journal.

Any day now, Gov. Kim Reynolds will decide whether to sign a bill that weakens the State Auditor’s access to certain information. As part of his 99-county tour, Auditor Rob Sand has been raising the alarm.

Sand was in Sioux City and Cedar Rapids raising his concern that the governor was going to sign a bill and its passage would go unnoticed ahead of the holiday weekend.

Under the bill, the Auditor’s subpoena power would be weakened, relying on cooperation from the agencies being audited.

The courts currently resolve disagreements in an audit. Under the new law, the auditor would appeal to a new board. It would be made up of a member from the Auditor’s office, another from the audited agency and a third appointed by the governor.

“When you give people in positions of power and trust the ability to hide corruption and waste that happens. That they’re responsible for. Some of them are going to take you on it. And that’s what this bill does. Bottom line.”

Sand says if signed audits would be released with disclaimers or qualifiers based on the information available.

The company hired to manage the state’s new program to help students pay for private school held its first online meeting for parents today (Tuesday) to explain the application process.

New York-based Odyssey will use a data connection with the Iowa Department of Revenue to check a person’s tax return to verify their child is an Iowa resident and eligible for an education savings account.

Tax information will also show whether a family meets income limits that will be in place for current private school students.

Odyssey CEO Joseph Connor says if a parent did not file a tax return, they’ll be asked to upload some other evidence of their income.

"They may also provide a recent pay stub for both parents or guardians from their employer and a letter from each employer verifying annual income for the employee."

Connor says the money provided for education savings accounts must first go toward tuition and fees. Anything left over can go toward other expenses like books, software or tutoring.

Applications for next school year will be open from May 31st to June 30th.

Broadband communications provider Sparklight will begin construction this month on a $12 million upgrade the company says will increase reliability of its high-speed Internet service, while also preparing for the Sioux City area's future connectivity needs.

The U.S.D.A. crop report released Monday shows 95% of the corn crop is now in the ground.
Soybean planting moved from 69 to 84% complete in the last week. For more check out this link from Radio Iowa.

Submitted news releases:

The Sioux City Community School District is looking for bus drivers and bus assistants. Those interested in driving have two upcoming opportunities to explore open positions.

The District will host hiring events:

  • Tuesday, June 6 from 10 am to 2 pm at East High School
  • Thursday, June 8 from 1 pm to 5 pm at North High School

During the events, individuals may explore the inside of a school bus and speak with district officials about summer training opportunities, including free CDL training. Those interested may also apply during the events.
DES MOINES— Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird joined 48 other states in a lawsuit against Avid Telecom, its owner, and its chief officers for facilitating billions of illegal robocalls to millions of Americans.

Since 2019, about 9,000 of these fraudulent calls have targeted Iowa alone. Avid Telecom has helped make hundreds of millions of calls using fake or invalid caller ID numbers, including more than 8.4 million calls impersonating the government, law enforcement agencies, and private companies. They also sent or transmitted more than 7.5 billion calls on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Between December 2018 and January 2023, Avid sent or attempted to send a total of over 24.5 billion calls. The scam robocalls involved Social Security Administration scams, Medicare scams, auto warranty scams, Amazon scams, and more. The USTelecom-led Industry Traceback Group sent Avid Telecom at least 329 notifications about it transmitting known and suspected illegal robocalls, but they ignored the notifications and continued facilitating the calls.

“We’re taking action to shield Iowans from fraudulent and illegal robocalls,” said Attorney General Bird. “This company has helped connect scammers directly with thousands of Iowans over the phone, but we’re pushing back. Thanks to this bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, we are putting the full force of 49 states behind our lawsuit to hold illegal robocalling businesses accountable and protect Americans from scams.”

The 49-state coalition is suing Avid Telecom for violation of the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), the Telephone Consumer Protection Action (TCPA), and other state and federal laws.

Iowa joined 48 other states in the Arizona, Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio-led lawsuit.

Read the full lawsuit here.