MEDICAL MARIJUANA-IOWA Iowa Senate Democrats back medical marijuana bill DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Some Democrats in the state Senate want to make marijuana available to critically ill Iowans. Legislators on Wednesday introduced a bill that allows some use of medical marijuana in the state. Under the bill, a patient with a qualifying condition, such as cancer, could get a prescription for medical marijuana. The law also allows for the creation of nonprofit dispensaries to provide marijuana to eligible patients. Sen. Jack Hatch, one of the bill’s sponsors, says the proposal would help those with chronic pain. He acknowledged the legislation has little chance of becoming law because of opposition by Republican lawmakers, but he says the bill increases public awareness of the potential benefits of medical marijuana. Marijuana is legal for medical use in 18 states and Washington, D.C.
DOCTOR-DRUG CHARGES Iowa doctor faces more charges in drug case (Information in the following story is from: Muscatine Journal, http://www.muscatinejournal.com) DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) – A Muscatine doctor accused of prescribing drugs in exchange for sex faces more federal charges. The Muscatine Journal reports David Gierlus pleaded not guilty Monday to 95 individual drug charges in U.S. District Court in Davenport. The new counts were filed Jan. 16. Gierlus previously was charged with several counts of distributing certain controlled substances. Prosecutors say Gierlus prescribed powerful controlled substances to more than 30 women and often in exchange for sexual favors. The 59-year-old had a family practice in Muscatine. The newspaper reports he is no longer seeing patients. His trial is scheduled for April 16.
STATE COMMISSIONER-BRANSTAD LAWSUIT Iowa commissioner sues governor in federal court DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The state’s workers’ compensation commissioner is suing Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, and members of the governor’s staff in federal court alleging discriminating for political reasons and because he’s gay. Christopher Godfrey’s lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Wednesday says Branstad and some of his staff violated his constitutional rights by cutting his salary and by trying to push him out of his job. Branstad wants Godfrey to resign from the job which oversees cases involving injured workers. Godfrey refuses. Last year Branstad cut his salary, reduced the office budget, and eliminated an assistant. Godfrey has a similar lawsuit on hold in Polk County District Court until the Iowa Supreme Court rules on whether state officials have immunity against defamation. Godfrey seeks monetary damages.
PREGNANT WOMEN-DRUGS Iowa lawmaker backs bill focused on pregnant women DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A Republican lawmaker wants to make it a felony for a mother to pass illegal drugs to a fetus. The bill would make passing illegal substances from a mother to a fetus a Class B felony, punishable by up to five years in prison or up to a $7,500 fine. Republican Rep. Clel Baudler of Greenfield says his bill sends the message that “using illegal drugs will not be tolerated” and that incarceration is an effective means to force drug-using pregnant women to get clean. The bill was introduced Wednesday to the House Public Safety Committee, which Baudler heads. Baudler, a former state trooper, says he expects opposition from Democrats.
BUDGET DIRECTOR HOSPITALIZED State budget director released from hospital DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – An aide to Gov. Terry Branstad says the state’s budget director was taken to a Des Moines hospital for complications from a kidney stone. Spokesman Tim Albrecht says Department of Management Director Dave Roederer was taken to the hospital Wednesday morning after he felt faint and laid on the floor of his Capitol office. He then apparently fainted. Albrecht says when an emergency team arrived, Roederer was able to get on a stretcher. He then was taken to a hospital. Roederer was later released and was home Wednesday afternoon and doing well. The 62-year-old Roederer is a key aide to Branstad and oversees many state budget issues.
IOWA SCHOOL FUNDING Iowa Senate approves boost to school funding DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The state Senate has approved a plan to boost funding for Iowa schools in the coming school year, though it’s not clear the bills will get backing from the rest of the Legislature or the governor. The proposal would increase state school support by 4 percent, or $135 million. Legislators in the Democratic-majority Senate on Wednesday also approved a plan to provide additional money from a budget surplus fund to prevent local property tax increases for schools and to reduce the property tax rate in some districts. Sen. Herman Quirmbach, who sponsored the plan, says districts need to know what funding to expect. Gov. Terry Branstad opposes setting funding until lawmakers approve his education reform plan, which raises minimum teacher salaries and provides incentive bonuses to some educators.
BROKERAGE COLLAPSE-RESTITUTION Victims jockey to maximize refunds in PFGBest case IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – The judge overseeing the bankruptcy of an Iowa-based brokerage that was looted for years by its founder is faced with an unusual decision in divvying up the company’s remaining assets. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Carol Doyle must decide whether customers who traded foreign currency through Peregrine Financial Group, Inc., are entitled to getting some or all of their money back even though they may have known going in that such trades were less protected. Company founder Russ Wasendorf Sr., is expected to be sentenced to prison on Thursday for embezzling up to $215 million in funds. Customers who traded in commodities through the company say they should be repaid first, even though Wasendorf looted their accounts.
IOWA SENATE-HARKIN’S SEAT Open Senate seat presents GOP rare chance in Iowa DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The announcement that veteran U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin would not run for re-election came as such a shock that neither his own party nor the Republicans had given any thought to who might succeed him. Harkin and his Republican counterpart, Charles Grassley, have been an Iowa institution in the Senate since the 1980s. Now, the Republicans hope to use the race to show they can attract Hispanic voters, who are increasing here and throughout the Midwest. Democrats hope to show they can elect a candidate other than Harkin, a household name in the state. Iowa will be a key battleground in the struggle for control of the Senate in the 2014 election. No candidates have declared for the race, but several, including Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, are exploring the possibility.