SEXUAL HARASSMENT-TRUCKERS Trucking company to pay $50,000 in major EEOC case IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – One of the nation’s largest trucking companies has settled a closely watched sexual harassment lawsuit for $50,000, but it could try to recoup millions of dollars in legal fees. CRST Van Expedited agreed in a Friday settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay the lone female driver remaining in what had been a class-action case the EEOC filed in 2007. The agency once sought relief for up to 270 women who were allegedly harassed by male instructors or drivers for the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company. But a federal appeals court ruled that the EEOC erred by filing the lawsuit before it identified every affected worker, investigated their claims and sought informal settlements. That ruling made it harder for the agency to bring class-action lawsuits in several states.
IOWA EDUCATION Branstad sets goal for raising student test scores DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Gov. Terry Branstad wants Iowa to be in the top 10 states for student standardized reading and math scores by 2019. Branstad laid out the goal during a news conference Monday, as he continued to push lawmakers to approve his $187 million education reform plan. Arguing that the state needs “world class schools,” Branstad noted Iowa now ranks 25th in the nation for eighth grade math and 29th for fourth grade reading. He said he wants to get those scores into the top 10 by boosting minimum teacher salaries and pay incentives to senior teachers who take on tasks like mentoring. Lawmakers are reviewing Branstad’s proposal, but there has been some conflict with Democratic legislators who want to first set a general level of school funding.
MEDICAID EXPANSION-IOWA Speakers back bill seeking Medicaid expansion DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Speakers at a packed legislative hearing spoke in favor of a Democratic proposal to expand Medicaid in Iowa. All those who testified Monday at the human resources subcommittee favored the legislation, which would broaden state eligibility requirements for Medicaid and add up to 150,000 Iowans to the program. Medicaid covers low-income residents, including children and the disabled. President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul provides funding to states that expand Medicaid. Democratic Sen. Pam Jochum, of Dubuque, says lawmakers of both parties agree that a more limited program, called IowaCare, isn’t effectively serving low-income residents. Senate Democrats have backed expansion of Medicaid, but Gov. Terry Branstad says he doesn’t trust in federal guarantees to pay the increased costs. The subcommittee will hold another hearing on the proposal later this month.
UI PRESIDENT-TUITION UI president says she supports tuition freeze DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The president of the University of Iowa says she’ll push for a tuition freeze for undergraduate students as long as the Legislature approves inflationary increases in the school’s budget. Iowa President Sally Mason told The Des Moines Register on Monday that she’ll back a tuition freeze for undergraduates as long as she’s president. In order for the University of Iowa to hold the line on increases, however, she says lawmakers must approve “modest inflationary increases in appropriations.” Mason is scheduled to appear Tuesday at a legislative subcommittee. The Board of Regents has voted to keep tuition at current levels next school year for in-state undergrads at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa, but the freeze is contingent on a 2.5 percent funding increase.
LINN COUNTY SUPERVISORS Linn County supervisors delay salary raise vote (Information in the following story is from: KCRG-TV, http://www.kcrg.com ) CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – Linn County supervisors say they’ll delay a vote on whether to increase their pay to reflect the full- time status of their jobs. KCRG-TV reports the supervisors reduced their salaries in 2009 to 80 percent of full-time after voters increased the board from three members to five. Supervisors discussed the issue Monday and planned to vote Wednesday on a proposal to increase salaries from $74,362 to $92,953. That would match the county auditor, treasurer and recorder. The board chairman opted to put off the vote by at least a week, saying he’d heard opponents of the move claim officials were rushing the vote. Some say the salary cut is justified because more board members means each official has less work, but supervisors say they’re working full time.
IOWA TEACHER-APPEAL Judge reschedules trial of former Waterloo teacher (Information in the following story is from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com ) WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) – A trial for a former Waterloo teacher charged with inappropriate conduct with a student has been delayed until March. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports the trial for 55-year-old Larry Twigg was scheduled for next week. He’s charged with lascivious conduct with a minor. Defense attorney John Bishop told the court Monday that because of a scheduling conflict with a Minnesota psychiatrist, the state hasn’t been able to arrange a deposition interview. Judge Nathan Callahan tentatively set the trial for March 12. Twigg, a Waterloo West High School computer teacher, was convicted in 2011 of five counts of lascivious conduct toward a minor. The Iowa Court of Appeals ordered a new trial, saying jurors shouldn’t have heard about alleged prior incidents. Twigg says his actions weren’t sexually motivated.
BACHMANN AIDE-COMPLAINT Ex-Bachmann aide alleges ethics violation in Iowa DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A former aide to Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has filed an ethics complaint with the Iowa Senate, alleging that during her presidential campaign she made improper payments to a state senator. Peter Waldron says in the written complaint filed Jan. 28 that Bachmann for President tried to conceal paying Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson $7,500 a month by running the money through a political action committee with ties to the congresswoman. If true, the payments would violate a Senate ethics ban on paid employment with political campaigns. In a statement released Monday, Sorenson called the claims “baseless” and “without evidence.” Waldron has made a similar complaint to the Federal Election Commission. An attorney for Bachmann has denied the claims.
SHERZAN-DEMOCRAT CONGRESS Democrat Sherzan to run in 3rd District DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – West Des Moines Democrat Mike Sherzan is announcing his candidacy for U.S. House in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. The 61-year-old financial services broker’s announcement in a Monday press statement makes him the first 2014 candidate for the district, which includes Polk County and all of southwest Iowa. Ten-term Republican Rep. Tom Latham of Clive was elected in November to the seat. Latham is considering a bid for U.S. Senate. A Latham Senate campaign would likely prompt other Democrats to consider running for his House seat. Sen. Tom Harkin’s decision to retire at the end of 2014 has already prompted 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley to give up his U.S. House seat to seek higher office. Braley, a four-term Democrat from Waterloo, announced his candidacy for Harkin’s Senate seat on Thursday.