A roundup of Capitol and state government news items of interest for Monday, Nov. 13, 2017:
LEGISLATURE ADDS HR DIRECTOR: Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, issued a statement Monday that the Iowa Senate and Iowa House jointly have established a director of human resources positions to report to the Secretary of Senate and the Chief Clerk of the House – who both are political appointees. The new HR director was established to provide a clear and direct process for employees to issue sexual harassment complaints, Dix said, and will be available to employees of the Legislative Services Agency, House, Senate and the Ombudsman’s office. The director will serve a variety of human resource functions, including, but not limited to, investigating complaints of sexual harassment and recommending appropriate action. Earlier this year, the State Appeal Board authorized a $1.75 million settlement with Kirsten Anderson, a former Senate Republican Caucus Staff communications director who won a court judgment over her allegations that she was fired hours after complaining of sexual harassment on the job. GOP Senate leaders say they conducted an internal investigation following July’s jury verdict in Anderson’s favor. “As has been stated, the investigation performed as a result of the recent court proceedings related to the Iowa Senate will not be made public”, Dix said in his statement. “Employees of the Senate have an expectation of privacy in these matters as reflected by Iowa’s open records laws and court decisions and that expectation will be met. Similar practices are also common in private sector employment. The investigation is complete and appropriate action was taken,” he added. During her monthly WHO-AM radio call-in show Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds commended the legislative leaders for hiring a human resources person as “a step in the right direction.” She said the executive branch has “a zero-tolerance policy” and that “sexual harassment in any form is not to be tolerated.” However, the governor said she believed the Legislature should abide by a recent law passed that says documents revealing why state workers are fired, demoted or resign to avoid termination are public records. “We (the executive branch) have to live by those rules. It would seem that it would be fair if they would live within the same parameters that we do,” she said during the radio interview. “If there’s more information in additional to what we already know from the trial, that that should be disclosed. They don’t have to give specifics but if there’s additional information I think that they need to be transparent with the people of Iowa and they need to disclose that,” she added.
IOWA HARVEST PROGRESS: A week of generally dry weather conditions aided Iowa farmers in fall harvest work, according to a weekly Iowa Crop Progress and Condition report released Monday by the USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service. The report is released weekly from April through October. Mike Naig, Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, said the favorable conditions allowed farmers to harvest of 85 percent the corn crop and to combine 97 percent of the state’s soybean acres. The corn harvest is now only one week behind the five-year average, Naig noted. Limited precipitation during the week ending Nov. 12 allowed an average of six days suitable for fieldwork statewide, according to the USDA. Topsoil moisture levels rated 3 percent very short, 10 percent short, 83 percent adequate and 4 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 6 percent very short, 17 percent short, 74 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus.
OVERWEIGHT LOAD ALLOWANCE EXTENDED: To aid the harvest work, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation Monday extending the transportation of overweight loads of corn, soybeans, haw, straw, silage and stover. The proclamation will expire Dec. 1. The proclamation allows vehicles transporting corn, soybeans, hay, straw, silage and stover to be overweight (not exceeding 90,000 pounds gross weight) without a permit, but only for the duration of this proclamation. The action is intended to allow loads transported on all highways within Iowa (excluding the interstate system) and those which do not exceed a maximum of 90,000 pounds gross weight, do not exceed the maximum axle weight limit determined under the non-primary highway maximum gross weight table in Iowa Code § 321.463 (5) (b), by more than 12.5 percent, do not exceed the legal maximum axle weight limit of 20,000 pounds and comply with posted limits on roads and bridges.
SCAM VICTIMS SHOULD SEEK REFUNDS: Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is urging Iowans who lost money to certain types of scams through Western Union wire transfers to apply for refunds through a newly announced national refund process. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday that it has begun sending remission forms to a half-million potential victims, and has launched a website for scam victims to apply for refunds, following a $586 million settlement that the Justice Department, along with the Federal Trade Commission, reached with The Western Union Company in January. Victims have three months to submit claims. Consumers eligible for refunds must have sent a Western Union wire transfer to a recipient who committed certain types of frauds between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 19, 2017. Eligible consumers must apply for refunds by filling out a remission form available at www.westernunionremission.com or by calling 844-319-2124, according to Miller’s office. The refund request deadline is Feb. 12, 2018. Consumers eligible for a refund are not required to have previously filed a complaint with local, state or federal authorities. The settlement administrator will review each consumer claim to determine eligibility and refund amounts. Refund amounts will depend on the number of verified claims and approved losses.