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Iowa News

February 20, 2020

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — An April 14 trial start has been scheduled for a Dubuque man charged with the crash death of his motorcycle passenger. Dubuque County court records say Shannon Katka pleaded not guilty Monday to vehicular homicide while under the influence. Investigators have said Katka was driving the motorcycle the night of Aug. 29 in Dubuque when he lost control on a highway entrance ramp and crashed. His passenger was thrown from the bike and died at the scene. She’s been identified as 43-year-old Shelly Brenke. Police say a blood sample taken at a hospital showed Katka’s blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit to drive.


DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — A Davenport business owner has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for tax crimes. Federal court records say Jonathan Folker also was ordered at his sentencing Thursday in Davenport to pay restitution of nearly $257,000. He’d pleaded guilty to two counts of tax evasion and one of filing a false tax return. A plea agreement says Folker didn’t file individual returns for 2001 through 2011 or 2013 through 2017. It says that when he filed a return for 2012, he reported less income than he earned. The agreement also says Folker didn’t file some returns for his company, Nerdwerx.


JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — Two Iowa Army National Guard units are being deployed to Africa as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Col. Michael Wunn said Wednesday that about 90 troopers from a Le Mars unit have already started training with around 40 based at Camp Dodge in Johnston. Send-off ceremonies are scheduled for June, and then the soldiers will head to Fort Bliss in Texas for six to eight weeks of training. Wunn couldn’t say where the troopers will be stationed after they leave the United States, but he expects they’ll end up somewhere in the Horn of Africa. The deployments typically last a year.


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Court of Appeals has refused to let a group of lawmakers and attorneys move forward with two lawsuits challenging a law passed last year that gave the governor more power over the selection of supreme court and appeals court judges. The cases filed by a group of Democratic lawmakers and lawyers were dismissed by a divided appeals court on Wednesday in a 3-2 decision. It says the court is hesitant to interfere with legislative branch decisions. An attorney representing the plaintiffs says he will ask the Iowa Supreme Court to review the decision.


Illinois News

February 20, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker is proposing a $40.7 billion state budget. He dressed it up Wednesday by dangling the prospect of a $1.4 billion revenue boost if voters approve a radical income-tax overhaul this fall. The second-year Democrat presented a fiscal outline with virtually no spending increase. It purports to boost spending in key areas such as education. But Pritzker is holding $1.4 billion “in reserve,” to be used only if a graduated income tax is OK’d. Republicans complained Pritzker is holding the tax question over taxpayers’ heads to secure the additional spending.


CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the state’s most restrictive permanent rules that ban the use of locked seclusion rooms and prohibit schools from using prone restraint. The new rules approved on Tuesday specify that seclusion may not be used “as discipline or punishment, convenience for staff, retaliation, a substitute for appropriate educational or behavioral support, a routine safety matter, or to prevent property damage.” The vote comes after a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation in November revealed extensive misuse of isolated timeout and restraint in Illinois schools. The new rules ban locks on rooms and employees from holding the doors shut.


O’FALLON, Ill. (AP) — Authorities say a southern Illinois woman is facing charges she planned to asphyxiate her three young children with carbon dioxide. The St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s office says 29-year-old Emily Sparks of O’Fallon, is being held in the St. Clair County Jail on three counts of attempted murder. O’Fallon police Lt. Nicholas Schmidt says her two sons and daughter, ages 3, 5 and 7, are being cared for by relatives. Schmidt says police received a tip that Sparks had planned to kill her children Dec. 4 and learned that Sparks had purchased a canister of carbon dioxide. She changed her mind at the last minute.


DEPUE, Ill. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an administrative order to those responsible to clean up contaminated soil at a site near the northern Illinois town of DePue, where a zinc smelter and fertilizer plant was once located. The city of DePue on Tuesday announced the issuance of the order by the EPA to TCI Pacific Communications and CBS/Westinghouse. The order requires what the EPA calls “potentially responsible parties” to clean up a portion of the New Jersey Zinc/Mobil Chemical Corp. site. The site is contaminated with elevated levels of zinc, lead, arsenic, cadmium and other metals.

Wisconsin News

February 20, 2020

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Assembly is set to pass a bill that would raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.  The bipartisan proposal would bar anyone younger than 21 from buying cigarettes as well as any tobacco or nicotine products. An initial version of the bill also barred anyone under 21 from purchasing vaping products but the bill’s chief Assembly sponsor, Republican John Spiros, deleted that language. The Assembly is set to take up the measure Thursday, the chamber’s last floor period before its two-year session ends.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Assembly plans to vote on a $250 million income tax cut and allowing bars to stay open until 4 a.m. during the Democratic National Convention. The bills are among dozens the Assembly is taking up Thursday, its last planned session day of the year. Lawmakers are making a mad dash to the finish of the session, giving final approval to bills that already passed the Senate or making proposals available for the other chamber to vote on next month. Anything passed by the GOP controlled Legislature must be signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers before becoming law.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate have temporarily blocked a vote on passing a Republican-authored $250 million income tax cut proposal. The bill debated Wednesday could be on a crash course with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers who wants the Legislature to spend more money on schools. Republicans were moving swiftly to pass the tax cut in an election year. Both the Senate and Assembly were scheduled to vote on the measure Thursday. Evers has not said yet whether he would sign or veto the measure.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Senate did not vote as planned on a Republican-authored proposal that would strip the state agriculture department of its authority to regulate factory farm siting and expansion and hand oversight to agricultural groups. The unusual move of pulling the bill from the agenda just before it was to be debated Wednesday signals that it was at risk of not passing this session. The Assembly was to vote on it Thursday, its final day in session this year. Even if it clears the Legislature, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was likely to veto the measure.