Authorities in southeast Iowa investigate riot
FAIRFIELD, Iowa (AP) - Authorities in southeast Iowa say they're investigating why dozens of people at a campus that practices meditation allegedly attacked a county sheriff inside a car.
The Jefferson County Attorney's Office says a group of at least 70 people surrounded Sheriff Gregg Morton while he was in his marked patrol vehicle Tuesday morning at a pandit campus near Fairfield.
Morton says the group pushed the car back and forth and threw rocks at it. Morton and responding officers were not injured in the incident.
The Fairfield Ledger reports (http://bit.ly/1oKeSfs ) authorities were assisting personnel in escorting a pandit leader off the property. The large group gathered as the leader was put into a van and driven away.
Morton says no charges are pending because he cannot identify who threw the rocks.
Drone bill alive though significantly changed
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A bill to place restrictions on the use of unmanned aerial drones in Iowa continues to move through the Legislature after approval of an amendment by a Senate subcommittee.
The House passed a much more restrictive bill last week. The Senate's version makes operating a drone in a way that violates one's privacy a violation of the state's trespassing law.
The bill considers use of a drone trespassing if it "intrudes upon the legitimate privacy interests in, on, or around private property that is not normally open to the public" or places where the public is not typically invited.
The bill is likely to be considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and is expected to pass the Senate and move back to the House for reconsideration.
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING
Iowa Senate approves texting while driving bill
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate want to crack down on texting while driving, but some legislators worry the bill doesn't do enough to address the larger issue of distracted driving.
The measure was strongly challenged during debate Tuesday, but it easily cleared the Senate in a 41-7 vote. It now goes to the House.
Texting while driving is now prohibited, but it is only enforced if a driver is pulled over for a different violation. Under the bill, officers could pull drivers over specifically for this offense.
Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, says Iowans should use "common sense" when driving. But Democratic Sen. Tod Bowman, who sponsored the bill, says sometimes common sense isn't enough, and further restrictions are crucial for safety on Iowa roads.
DRUNKEN DRIVING RESTRICTIONS
Iowa Senate OKs changes to drunken driving rules
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa lawmakers are attempting to change the state's law dealing with drunken drivers.
The Senate voted 28-20 Tuesday to approve a measure that would change current law, particularly dealing with devices that require drivers to show they haven't had alcohol before their vehicle ignition will unlock.
Under the bill, offenders could begin driving more quickly than under current law if they install an ignition lock device.
Sen. Chris Brase, a Democrat from Muscatine, says the legislation is meant to create incentives to help offenders get back on the right track.
But Senate Minority Leader Bill Dix, of Shell Rock, says in a statement that he's concerned offenders would be too easily let back on the road.
The bill now goes to the House.
Judge rules in favor of Iowa inmate over diet
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A judge has ruled in favor of an Iowa inmate who argued the state violated his religion by serving him food prepared with cookware that had previously touched meat.
The ruling means the state Department of Corrections will give 46-year-old Mahendrakumar Patel prepackaged food. An approved settlement means the state must pay $12,000 for Patel's attorney fees.
Patel claimed in a lawsuit that state officials failed to take his dietary requests seriously. Prison officials said staff tried to provide him with meals that met his religious beliefs.
The Des Moines Register reports (http://dmreg.co/1cRE1iS ) Patel has practiced a form of Hinduism since birth. Followers believe no animal should die for a meal.
Patel was sentenced in 2006 to 25 years in prison for stalking and attempting to kill his girlfriend.
Over 15,000 Iowans get health plans from exchange
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A new report says more than 15,000 Iowans have signed up for private health insurance plans using the federal enrollment website.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says Tuesday that in the first five months of enrollment under the health care law, 15,346 people in Iowa signed up for private health insurance between Oct. 1 and March 1.
That is a 30 percent increase in the total number of people who have selected an insurance plan during February, similar to the national trend of 29 percent.
Nationally, about 4.2 million people have enrolled in plans using the federal website.
Thirty-five percent of the Iowa enrollees are between the ages of 55 and 64, compared with 24 percent who were between 18 and 34.
Iowa teen gets life term for killing grandparents
MANCHESTER, Iowa (AP) - A judge says an Iowa teenager who pleaded guilty to killing his grandparents should never get another chance at freedom.
District Judge Michael Shubatt said Tuesday that Isaiah Sweet will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole in the May 2012 shooting deaths of Janet and Richard Sweet at their home in Manchester.
Sweet pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his legal guardians.
Those charges normally carry automatic prison sentences of life without parole. But because Sweet was 17, he may qualify for a lesser sentence under rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme Court that require judges to consider whether juvenile offenders can be rehabilitated.
Shubatt says Sweet is "extremely dangerous" and unlikely to be rehabilitated.
LEVEE PROJECT-COUNCIL BLUFFS
Council Bluffs hires firm to oversee levee work
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Council Bluffs officials took a step toward improving the city's levee system by hiring an engineering firm to oversee the effort.
The Daily Nonpareil reports (http://bit.ly/1i9Dhe7 ) the City Council on Monday night approved the hiring of JEO Consulting Group, of Lincoln, Neb., to oversee improvements.
City Engineer Matt Cox estimates it will cost $50 million to make improvements to Council Bluff's river and creek levees needed to abide by federal standards.
If Council Bluffs doesn't make improvements, Cox says the Federal Emergency Management Agency could take action indicating the city's west end is prone to flooding. That would lead to higher flood insurance rates for property owners.
The city could pay the $50 million over a period of years, with the money coming from various sources.
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