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Iowa News

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – An Iowa commission has rejected a proposal from two environmental groups to adopt stricter standards for the state’s nearly 160 recreational lakes, saying the effort would be too expensive. The Des Moines Register reports that the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission rejected the proposal Tuesday because of the $205 million estimated cost. The Environmental Law & Policy Center and Iowa Environmental Council filed the proposal in November.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Nationwide Insurance has more than doubled the number of Des Moines job cuts it announced last fall. Nationwide said in November that about 80 workers in Des Moines would lose their jobs as part of a company effort to eliminate about 1,100 positions across the country. The company issued 191 layoff notices this month, however.

MANCHESTER, Iowa (AP) – The state auditor found more than $250,000 in questionable travel-related expenses at a northeast Iowa hospital that prompted the CEO to resign two years ago. State Auditor Rob Sand issued a report Wednesday about its investigation into spending at the Regional Medical Center in Manchester, Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – An Iowa Court of Appeals judge has been named by Gov. Kim Reynolds as the newest justice on the Iowa Supreme Court. Judge Christopher McDonald said Wednesday he will move to the state’s highest court in the next few weeks. Born in Thailand to a Vietnamese mother and a Scottish/Irish father, McDonald says he embraces the expectations placed on him as the court’s first minority.

Wisconsin News

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin Republicans say Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ veto of an income tax bill shows that he’s not interested in working with GOP lawmakers who control the Legislature. Evers vetoed the bill Wednesday. It was the first bill passed by the Legislature with Evers as governor. Evers says he is “troubled and disappointed” that Republicans introduced the bill without bipartisan support and cooperation. No Democrats supported it.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A powerful Wisconsin legislator has demanded a review of the state National Guard’s sexual harassment and assault policies after meeting with a soldier who alleges she was sexually harassed and the man wasn’t punished. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s demand comes as the Air Force is already investigating allegations of sexual assault and harassment within a Wisconsin Air National Guard security unit at the urging of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) – A Wisconsin school district official says a local high school will no longer hand out cheerleading awards that are based on a girl’s physical attributes, including largest breasts or buttocks. The American Civil Liberties Union says an annual banquet has been held at Tremper High School in the Kenosha Unified School District that recognizes the most improved or hardest working cheerleaders.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Tony Evers’ pick to lead the state Department of Transportation says that “by every measure the condition” of Wisconsin’s transportation system “is declining.” Craig Thompson testified Wednesday before the state Senate’s transportation committee. Republicans have been leery of Thompson’s background as a lobbyist for the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, which has advocated for raising taxes and fees to rebuild Wisconsin roads.

Illinois News

CHICAGO (AP) – The whispers of suspicion about “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s claim he was attacked in a hate crime have been given full throat in the form of a felony charge. The once seemingly sympathetic victim was charged Wednesday with making a false police report, a charge that could bring up to three years in prison and force the actor, who is black and gay, to pay for the cost of the investigation. He claimed two men shouted racist, anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck.

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) – A Republican in the Illinois General Assembly says all elected officials in the state should be required to wear body cameras while conducting government business. Rep. John Cabello of Machesney Park tells the Register Star in Rockford the intent of the bill he introduced is to reduce corruption at the state and local levels. He points to the corruption of public officials in Chicago and state lawmakers getting into trouble “with bribes and so on and so forth.”

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) – A western Illinois man has made his first court appearance in connection with an October house fire that killed two children. William G. Brewer of Quincy is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of endangering the life of a child in connection with the deaths of his son, 8-year-old Toby Brewer, and 5-year-old Emma Kramer. The Herald-Whig in Quincy reports Brewer said he understood the charges read to him Wednesday in Adams County Circuit Court.

CHICAGO (AP) – Metra has approved a nearly $71 million contract to buy 15 locomotives and begin replacing the commuter rail agency’s aging fleet. The contract approved Wednesday includes the option to buy up to 27 additional locomotives from Progress Rail Locomotives of La Grange if funding is available. Metra CEO Jim Derwinski says the goal is to increase reliability. The agency has 147 locomotives, about 70 percent of which are rated in poor or marginal condition.