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Regional News

January 22, 2021

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Labor unions representing state workers have filed a complaint with the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration, arguing the lack of a mask mandate at the Iowa Capitol threatens the safety of everyone who enters the building.. The Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO President Charles Wishman says in a letter sent to House Speaker Pat Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver on Thursday that their refusal to enact or enforce a mandatory mask policy shows a lack of concern about the coronavirus pandemic. The union and representatives from six other Iowa labor unions filed a complaint Thursday with Iowa OSHA. Whitver and Grassley say they believe they’re taking the needed precautions.

JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — Officials say Iowa will expand the groups who can get a coronavirus vaccine to people ages 65 and older, among others, starting next month. Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday that vaccination eligibility will expand to that group, K-12 teachers and staff, first responders and law enforcement personnel in early February even though the federal government hasn’t made good yet on promises to send the state more doses. The expansion can’t come soon enough for Iowa, which is struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The state on Thursday reported another 1,708 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 51 more deaths from the disease, pushing its pandemic death toll to 4,445.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa is asking the U.S. House to dismiss an election contest filed by her Democratic challenger that argues the six-vote race was wrongly decided. Miller-Meeks argues in a legal motion that the Democratic-controlled chamber should not consider Rita Hart’s appeal because Hart did not contest the outcome under Iowa law. An attorney for Miller-Meeks says that Hart “should have raised her claims before a neutral panel of Iowa judges rather than before a political process controlled by her own party.” Hart claims that she has identified 22 votes that were wrongly excluded and would change the outcome if counted.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Democratic National Committee has formally elected Jaime Harrison of South Carolina as chair, signifying an early alignment between President Joe Biden and state party leaders around the country. The party’s post-inauguration meeting Thursday took place virtually, reflecting continued concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The former chair of South Carolina’s Democrats has proved his mettle as a fundraising powerhouse in his 2020 challenge to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. And Harrison already has been anointed by Biden, a continuance of the tradition of sitting presidents choosing their own party’s chair.

 

Here is the latest Wisconsin news from The Associated Press 

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers is defending Wisconsin’s vaccination efforts in the face of increasing Republican criticism while urging patience as the number of people eligible to be inoculated will exponentially expand next week. Everyone over age 65 will be eligible for the vaccine starting Monday, about 700,000 people. The state Department of Health Services is considering a recommendation that teachers, grocery store workers, transit workers and others be added to the priority list. That would make more than 40% of Wisconsin’s total population, or about 2 million people, eligible to be vaccinated. But the state is only getting about 70,000 doses of vaccine a week.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Tests have revealed elevated levels of man-made chemicals known as PFAS in Madison-area lakes. The Department of Natural Resources collected samples last year from lakes Mendota, Monona, Upper Mud, Waubesa and Kegonsa, as well as along sections of the Yahara River between the lakes. Department officials said Thursday that levels in those water bodies are higher than in Lake Mendota, which lies upstream from all of them. They say the results show PFAS are present throughout the chain. The department is working to establish safety standards for PFAS but in the meantime plans to sample fish from the chain for PFAS, which could lead to consumption advisories.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — More than a third of Wisconsin law enforcement agencies that responded to a new survey said they don’t use body cameras. The state Department of Justice released findings Thursday from a survey of 553 agencies conducted in November. Of the 434 agencies who responded to the request, 160 said they do not use body cameras. Another 274 said they did. Three-quarters of those agencies reported they have enough cameras so that every officer has a dedicated device. Other departments said officers exchange cameras during shift changes and not every officer uses one. Twenty-six departments said their body-camera policy is not available to the public. Another 22 departments said they didn’t have any policy on body camera use.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A state appeals court has rejected arguments from a transgender teen that she shouldn’t be forced to register as a sex offender because she has to register using her male name. The teen, identified as Ella in court documents, was adjudicated delinquent after she sexually assaulted a half-blind autistic boy in Shawano County in 2016. She was ordered to register as a sex offender using her male name. She argued that requirement violates her First Amendment right to freedom of expression as a woman so she shouldn’t have to register. The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Ella can identify herself with any name she chooses as long as she includes them on the registry.

 

Here is the latest Illinois news from The Associated Press 

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago teachers have started voting on whether they’ll return to in-person class next week ahead of elementary students’ return. The Chicago Teachers Union has opposed reopening plans over safety concerns, saying Chicago Public Schools isn’t doing enough to protect educators. The union’s House of Delegates approved a resolution for teachers for kindergarten through 8th grade to stay home Monday and teach remotely. Union members started voting on the plan Thursday, the first of a three-day vote. But officials in the nation’s third-largest school district say failure to show up for class as expected amounts to “an illegal strike.”

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police officials say they will put a stronger focus on prosecution and increased collaboration with other police agencies to combat a spike in carjackings. Authorities said Thursday carjackings in Chicago rose about 135% last year, to 1,415 and have continued at a high pace this year. Police Superintendent David Brown said Thursday the youngest robber in recent attacks was about 12 years old and the “average” age of the robbers is between 15 and 20. Brown says the perpetrators often work in crews and are motivated either by joyriding or using the stolen vehicle to commit other crimes.

CHICAGO (AP) — An Illinois man was ordered held without bond for allegedly threatening the lives of President Joe Biden and other Democrats before the inauguration.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes on Thursday rejected a defense argument that there was no evidence Louis Capriotti had any real plan to act on the threat. The 45-year-old Capriotti of Chicago Heights is accused of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. In rejecting bail for Capriotti, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes said it was concerning that Capriotti continued to make threats of violence to members of Congress even after the FBI told him a year ago to stop making the threats.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois House spent $187,000 in taxpayer money to rent out Springfield’s downtown convention center last week after the coronavirus pandemic forced lawmakers from the Capitol. Lawmakers met at the Bank of Springfield Center in downtown Springfield, the second time the House has conducted business outside the Capitol since the pandemic began. Combined with a similar stay last May, the cost to taxpayers has been $330,000.  The state is already deep in debt, but alternatives are few and the House has 56 days of legislative work scheduled before the May 31 adjournment. That has raised questions about the economics of continuing the arrangement with the center.