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NEWS 2.17.22

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Gov. Pete Ricketts said Thursday that Nebraskans should be allowed to “return to normal” as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to fall in the state. Ricketts’ comments came a day after local health officials eliminated a temporary mask mandate in Omaha. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska continued to fall sharply over the past two weeks, going from about 1,000 cases per day at the beginning of the month, to more 350 per day on February 15th. In January during the surge of the omicron variant there were more than 4,000 new cases added per day.

There has been one more COVID-19 related death in Yankton County, South Dakota for 53 since the start of the Pandemic. There are currently 223 people hospitalized with the virus in South Dakota.

The Iowa Senate Education Committee is advancing its own version of a bill (SSB 3146) that would forbid transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports.

Unlike a similar bill passed by a House committee, the Senate proposal includes community colleges and public universities.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has indicated she supports limiting girls’ and women’s sports to those who are female at birth.

For more on the story from Radio Iowa click here: https://www.radioiowa.com/2022/02/17/bill-to-ban-vaccine-mask-mandates-eligible-for-iowa-house-debate/

Republicans on a House committee have voted for a bill that would ban mask mandates and any future vaccine mandates in schools — including colleges, as well as in businesses, non-profits and government agencies.

Republican Representative Jon Jacobsen of Council Bluffs said the bill prevents discrimination and protects personal medical information.

The bill would forbid employers from firing a worker because of their vaccination status. All the Democrats on the panel voted no. Representative Bruce Hunter, a Democrat from Des Moines, called it a dangerous bill.

The bill is now eligible for debate in the full House.

South Dakota won’t be switching to single license plates any time soon. The Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday rejected a proposal for a rear-only plate for passengers cars, vans and pickup trucks. Republican Sen. Jim Bolin, of Canton, says he offered the proposal because some of his constituents in Union County requested it. Thomas Frisch, of North Sioux City, testified in favor of the change. Frisch said newer vehicles are more aerodynamic with rounded fronts that have fewer places for mounting license plates. He said manufacturers often provide only rear mounts for plates. The committee voted 5-1 to kill the bill.

The South Dakota House has approved a pair of proposals initiated by Gov. Kristi Noem that would ban university trainings and public K-12 school curricula that make students feel “discomfort” on account of their race. Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bills, which would apply separately to higher education and K-12 public schools, though a few joined Democrats to cast dissenting votes. Noem has championed the bills this year, casting them as a way of ensuring so-called “critical race theory” does not enter classrooms, though House lawmakers struck any mention of the lightning rod concept from the bills. They will next be considered in the Senate.

A small group of protesters gathered at the Statehouse today (Thursday) and asked lawmakers to keep a bill alive that would restrict the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines.

A Senate panel advanced the bill earlier this week, but then a committee chair declined to bring it up for another vote. With a funnel deadline tomorrow (Friday), that means the bill is likely dead for the year.

Jess Mazour (muh-ZOOR) of the Sierra Club Iowa chapter says a coalition of rural and urban Iowans, Democrats, Republicans, farmers and environmentalists is asking for protections against eminent domain use.

“And when unlikely allies can come together and unite around this common mission to stop these pipelines, we know this isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. This is a right or a wrong issue. And these projects are wrong.”

Lobbyists for the pipeline projects say they will increase demand for ethanol and help Iowa’s farmers.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is endorsing former attorney general Marty Jackley, her one-time political rival, as he campaigns to unseat the current Republican attorney general. Jackley returned the favor for Noem’s reelection bid. The mutual endorsements represented a potential political alliance between the two Republicans. In 2018, they competed for their party’s nomination in a bitter primary. Jackley eventually endorsed Noem late in the 2018 general election campaign. Jackley is running for his old job as attorney general as current Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg faces a House impeachment investigation for his conduct surrounding a 2020 fatal car crash.

Attorneys for U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry argue that they should be allowed to present allegations to a jury that the Nebraska Republican was “set up” by federal authorities, while prosecutors countered that attacking their investigation was inappropriate. A judge’s ruling on the matter will determine what jurors are allowed to hear in his trial, now scheduled for March 15 in Los Angeles. Fortenberry faces charges alleging that he lied to federal authorities who were investigating an illegal 2016 contribution to his campaign from a foreign national. Prosecutors have also accused him of failing to properly disclose the donations from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian businessman of Labanese descent.

Officials say firefighters found deadly levels of carbon monoxide inside a Waterloo event complex that was hosting a monster truck rally where dozens of people were sickened. The Courier reports that levels of more than 300 parts per million were detected Saturday inside the National Cattle Congress grounds' Hippodrome. Waterloo Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Bill Beck said levels higher that 50 ppm would warrant an evacuation. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission says sustained exposure to levels over 200 ppm could cause death. Television station KWWL reports that local hospitals reported that 77 people from the event were treated in their emergency rooms. Another battalion chief, Ben Petersen, said he assumed exhaust from the trucks was the cause of the high levels.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.