DES MOINES --- Campers spent 709,595 days in Iowa state parks in 2012, an increase from 684,417 over the previous year, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR reported the top 10 parks for camping nights were: Lewis and Clark State Park, Rock Creek State Park, Viking Lake State Park, Lake Ahquabi State Park, Clear Lake State Park, Lake Anita State Park, Ledges State Park, Brushy Creek State Recreation Area, Marble Beach State Recreation Area and Backbone State Park.

House GOP files flat tax bill: House Republicans filed five bills Tuesday, including one that would give Iowans the option of a flat income tax.

House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, called it “the start of our efforts to put the taxpayers first.”

Among the bills was House File 3 that would give Iowans the option of paying a flat income tax of 4.5 percent with no deductions or filing under the current system.

All bills filed can be found at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/Legislation/BillTracking/billTrackingTools.aspx.

Water quality funding: The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission has given the green light to a new method of funding water quality.

It’s making $15 million a year available for watershed protection practices. “Water Resource Restoration Sponsored Projects” will help cities, watershed organizations, landowners and others address local water quality problems.

The change is a result of legislation allowing utility revenues to be used not only for construction and improvements to wastewater systems, but also to finance projects, within or outside the corporate limits, that cover best management practices to keep sediment, nutrients, chemicals and other pollutants out of streams and lakes.

This program will be implemented through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a loan program for construction of water quality facilities and practices, which is jointly administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Finance Authority. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will provide technical assistance.

Information about the program and upcoming workshops for potential applicants is available at www.IowaSRF.com.

Condition of the Judiciary: Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady will deliver the annual Condition of the Judiciary address to a joint convention of the Iowa Legislature at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Iowa House chamber.

Cady will call for making “the Iowa court system the best, most advanced and the most responsive court system in the nation.”

Live video of the speech will be broadcast on the Iowa Public Television World channel and streamed live at www.iptv.org and the legislature website, www.legis.iowa.gov. The speech will be rebroadcast at 6:30 p.m. on statewide IPTV’s main channel.

Teen drivers: The new leader of the Senate Transportation Committee said Tuesday he would like to take another run at increasing safety for novice drivers.

Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, said he would like to extend the time from six months to one year that a teenager with a learner’s permit need to practice driving with a parent or guardian in the car before he or she would receive a graduated driver’s license. Requiring a full year of driving would expose a teen driver to all weather conditions and seasons they could encounter on Iowa roadways, he said.

Bowman also wants to restrict the number of passengers riding in a car operated by a driver to one during the first six months of an “intermediate” license to minimize distractions. An exception would be made for more than one sibling passenger.

A similar bill won Senate approval two years ago, but died in the House. Currently, teen drivers can get a learner’s permit at age 14 and an intermediate driver’s license at age 16, after they’ve driven at least six months with an adult in the vehicle.

Quote of the Day: “Property taxes are one of the most complex things to talk about,” Department of Management Director David Roeder, explaining Gov. Terry Branstad’s property tax relief plan to reporters

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