NEWS 1.14.21: Blizzard Ahead, NE State of the State, IA Capitol Mask Push, Missing Man Update & More

Jan 14, 2021

Credit National Weather Service

Siouxland is gearing up for the second Blizzard Warning in three weeks.  The warning starts tonight at 6 and extends until 6 p.m. tomorrow.  The forecast calls for 3 to 8 inches by tomorrow afternoon, with wind gusts as high as 60 miles per hour.

On social media, the National Weather Service says the severity of the storm will depend on how much snow falls. If we see more than an inch on the group with additional blowing snow, conditions will be more significant, especially for portions of Iowa and Minnesota.

Nebraska voters could get to decide whether to restrict local government spending next year under Gov. Pete Ricketts’ new property tax proposal that he presented to lawmakers during his state of the state address today.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts delivers the annual State of the State Address to lawmakers in Lincoln, Neb., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021.
Credit Associated Press

Ricketts says he wants to build a new state prison to replace outdated facilities, expand broadband service and provide a tax exemption for military retirement pay.

Ricketts is also continuing his push to bring U.S. Space Command Operations to Offutt Air Force Base, hoping that the incoming Biden administration will overturn the Trump administration's decision to place it in Alabama.

The Iowa Public Health Association has sent a letter to state lawmakers asking them to require and wear masks at the Iowa Capitol. The legislative session began Monday, and some visitors and Republican lawmakers have not been wearing masks.

The letter says the association is, quote, “gravely concerned about events at the Capitol contributing to the spread of the pandemic.”

Credit IA Public Health Association

Governor Kim Reynolds has a very limited mask mandate in place for the state, but says she doesn’t control the legislature. Republican leaders claim they can’t really enforce a mask mandate. Democrats are criticizing them for not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the statehouse.

South Dakota lawmakers are finalizing rules aimed at pushing the session forward amid the pandemic, but acknowledged that their plans to meet in Pierre could be upended by virus infections. As the session reached its second day, the state Capitol was marked by close-quartered conversations, many lawmakers without masks and concerns about what a virus outbreak would mean for the process of forming the state’s laws and budget. One of the Legislature’s first tasks was amending rules to allow for flexibility during the pandemic.

South Dakota Chief Justice Steven R. Jensen is using his first State of the Judiciary address to argue for higher pay for judges in the state’s court system. Jensen took over the helm this month after former Chief Justice David Gilbertson retired from a 20-year tenure at the post. Jensen’s speech focused on promoting court system employees who have continued to perform difficult work, even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The head of the Iowa National Guard says 250 additional soldiers and airmen will be deployed to Washington, D.C. to help with security around the presidential inauguration.

Adjutant General Ben Corell says they’re expected to travel to the U.S. Capitol area this weekend. He says before the Capitol attack, they had planned to send 15 airmen. 

Gen. Ben Corell, the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard
Credit State of Iowa

“Over the last couple days, based on a request from General Hokanson at the National Guard Bureau, they’ve asked for increased support from all national guards. So in communication with the governor yesterday, we came to the number of 250 additional Iowa national guard that will move to the capitol region.”

Corell says the Iowa National Guard will also be ready to respond if the Department of Public Safety asks for help with security at the Iowa Capitol building in Des Moines. The FBI warns of plans for armed protests at state capitols this weekend and into next week. 

Eleven students from Brazil and Chile have filed a federal lawsuit against Western Iowa Tech Community College, a recruitment company, a pet food maker and a packaging company of human trafficking and involuntary servitude.

The lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Iowa says Western Iowa Tech and the companies conspired to lure the students to Iowa under a work- and study- based visa exchange program only to push them into unskilled labor positions with less pay and unlawful deductions from paychecks.

The college denies the allegations calling them malicious, untrue, and offensive.

WITCC owns the license to Siouxland Public Media and staff members are employees of the college.

Bruce Vanmatre
Credit Facebook/Mapleton Mayor Brent Streck

An investigation into the death of a missing man from Mapleton, Iowa is underway. The mayor of the Monona County community says someone found the body of Bruce Vanmatre in their backyard partially covered in a snow bank yesterday afternoon. The 54-year-old had been missing since early December.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska lawmaker is proposing a state takeover of K-12 public education funding as a way to lower property taxes. Sen. Tom Briese, of Albion, introduced a constitutional amendment that would require state government to pay for local schools. Currently, public schools are financed through a combination of state aid and local property taxes. Briese says rising property taxes are driven by the state’s unwillingness to adequately fund schools. His proposal would place the issue on the 2022 general election ballot, where voters would decide whether to approve it. The measure could face an uphill battle in the Legislature because of the cost to the state.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is criticizing the decision to impeach President Donald Trump a second time, saying it “serves no good purpose” and will further divide the nation. Ricketts, a fellow Republican and Trump supporter, says the president’s time in office is nearly over after his loss to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden in November. He says the country should be focused on healing and ensuring a smooth transition of power. The U.S. House impeached Trump for inciting an insurrection after the deadly mob siege at the U.S. Capitol. Pro-Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol after the president called on them to “fight like hell” against the election results.

Wednesday night’s Powerball jackpot was worth at least $550 million and grew to an estimated $640 million without a winner. Numbers for Wednesday night’s Powerball were: 4-19-23-25-49 and a Powerball of 14, with

A billboard advertises the jackpots of the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries, in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Lottery players will have a shot Friday night at the fifth-largest jackpot in U.S. history after no tickets matched all the numbers in the latest Mega Millions drawing. The big prize for Powerball, the other national lottery game, is $550 million for Wednesday night's drawing.
Credit Associated Press

the next drawing Saturday. The Powerball prize drawing was only a day after no one won a $625 million Mega Millions jackpot, causing that prize to grow to $750 million ahead the next drawing on Friday night. It’s been months since anyone has matched all six numbers and won either jackpot. The odds of winning jackpots are 1 in 292.2 million for Powerball and one in 302.5 million for Mega Millions. Both games are played in 45 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Powerball also is offered in Puerto Rico.