Government

New concussion protocol passes; wages, salaries see an upswing; someone just won a million dollars in Nevada (Iowa): Iowa Capitol Digest, April 12

Sen.-elect Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, talks with (left to right) Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, and Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, in the Iowa Senate chambers before the start of Thursday’s session. Sweeney will be sworn-in next week as a senator in District 25 after winning a special election earlier this week. (Photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
Sen.-elect Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, talks with (left to right) Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, and Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, in the Iowa Senate chambers before the start of Thursday’s session. Sweeney will be sworn-in next week as a senator in District 25 after winning a special election earlier this week. (Photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Thursday, April 12, 2018:

WHITSON HONORED: On the 57th anniversary of the first manned space flight, the Iowa House and Senate honored Iowa native Peggy Whitson and her record-breaking accomplishments as an astronaut.

Whitson, 58, a Mount Ayr native, spent over 289 days in orbit on her most recent mission. Overall, Whitson, nicknamed Space Ninja, has spent 665 days in space during her three missions aboard the International Space Station — more time living and working in space than any other American or any woman worldwide.

Whitson, according to House Joint Resolution 112, initially was inspired to be an astronaut when she was 9 and watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take their first steps on the moon. After graduating with degrees in biology and chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1981 getting her doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University in 1985 she applied to NASA five times over the course of 10 years before being selected to be an astronaut.

Whitson thanked the House for the “fantastic honor … it’s very special.

“I never forget my Iowa roots” and the example set by her parents — “the hardest working people I know,” she said.

When people ask what made her successful Whitson tells them “learning the work ethic of a farmer was a key to that.”

“Being from Iowa has been a fantastic experience for me and one I’m very proud of,” Whitson said.

SENATOR-ELECT VISITS: Sen.-elect Annette Sweeney, R-Alden, a former member of the Iowa House, returned to the state Capitol building Thursday, but this time she spent time on the south side of the rotunda.

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Sweeney, 60, met briefly with her new Senate colleagues two days after winning a special election in Senate District 25 by garnering 4,776 votes to 3,786 ballots cast for Democrat Tracy Freese of Dike.

After the votes are canvassed and confirmed on Monday, Sweeney will be sworn in to replace former Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock.

Dix resigned his Senate seat March 12 following release of a video posted by the online political blog Iowa Starting Line in which he appears to be kissing a lobbyist at a Des Moines bar.

Iowa Senate District 25 includes all of Grundy and Hardin counties as well as portions of Butler and Story counties in central Iowa.

CONCUSSION PROTOCOL: After four years of work, legislation to protect student athletes against concussions is on its way to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk for her expected signature.

Among the provisions of House File 2442 is a requirement that a student immediately be removed from an interscholastic activity if the coach, an official or a licensed health care provider observes any signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion or brain injury.

The student would be unable to return to the sport or activity until he or she has written clearance from a licensed health care professional.

The House and Senate agreed to include a return-to-play protocol and return-to-learn plans, as well as adopting a provision whereby students who participate in two activities in the same sports season — football and cross-country, for example — would be barred from competing in either activity until they clear the concussion protocol.

The Senate gave final approval by a 46-0 vote Thursday and sent the bill to the governor.

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WAGES, SALARIES UP: The median annual salary increased $4,000 to $64,000 per year, and the median hourly wage increased $1 to $17 per hour, based on the 2017 Statewide Laborshed Study published by Iowa Workforce Development.

In addition, the study found that the statewide estimated total underemployment rate dropped from 5.1 percent in 2016 to 4.5 percent in 2017. Underemployment measures three categories: inadequate hours, mismatched skills and low income, according to Workforce officials.

The statewide Laborshed report said 61.6 percent of employed respondents indicated they have completed education or training beyond high school — a statistic that Workforce officials say has been trending upward since 2008. The percentage increased four-tenths of 1 percent between 2016 and 2017.

MILLION-DOLLAR WINNER: Iowa Lottery officials say a Powerball player bought a ticket at a central Iowa convenience story that won a $1 million prize in Wednesday night’s drawing. The winning ticket was purchased at a Casey’s in Nevada, Iowa, the county seat of Story County.

The ticket came within one number of having at least a share of Wednesday’s $89.7 million jackpot — matching the first five numbers but missing the Powerball.

No one matched all six numbers to win the jackpot, so the big prize climbs to an estimated $106 million annuity for Saturday.

The Nevada ticket was the only one in the country to win a $1 million prize in Wednesday’s drawing.

GAS PRICES IN IOWA: Regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.52 a gallon at Iowa service-station pumps, according to a Tuesday survey by AAA, but that could change given that the price for a barrel of global crude oil increased by $3.61 to $4.15 this week.

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The Iowa gasoline price was down 2 cents per gallon from the previous week but 17 cents higher than a year ago, according to information provided by the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

The national average for a gallon of gasoline was $2.66.

Retail diesel fuel prices in Iowa held steady at last week’s price, with a statewide average of $2.93 a gallon. That compares to the national average of $2.97 and the average price of $2.48 in Iowa one year ago.

State officials also reported natural gas prices in Iowa were down a penny, ending the week at $2.69/mmBtu.

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