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AARP Response to Iowa Utilities Board Staff Memo Analysis of Amended HF 561 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ann Black   
Monday, 23 January 2012 16:21

Des Moines — A recently released Iowa Utilities Board staff memo critically analyzes a proposed amended version of House File 561, a bill that would allow utilities to raise customers’ rates up front for a possible Iowa nuclear power plant before it is built.  This memo confirms many of AARP’s and other ratepayer concerns and reasons for opposing the proposed legislation.

 

In the memo, the IUB staff notes the various ways an amended HF 561 not only fails to protect consumer interests, but that the proposed changes to Iowa law would actually create incentives for utilities to behave in a manner contrary to the public interest.

 

Even with the last minute amendment, the IUB staff writes (on page 3, section 3) HF 561 “would shift nearly all of the construction, licensing and permitting risk associated with one or more nuclear plants from the company to its customers.” The legislation does this by pre-approving spending and guaranteeing utilities can recover pre-approved prudent costs, “including a profit on capital investments.”

 

The memo also notes that “some of these provisions could create incentives for the company to engage in behavior that could be contrary to the public interest in certain situations.” Among those provisions is a section that would permit the full recovery of all pre-approved expenditures, including profits, even if the utility does not complete the project.

 

Continuing on page 3, the memo presents one example of “the way the bill shifts risk form the company to its customers and creates undesirable incentives.” For example, what happens if the utility company makes a multi-million dollar construction mistake a few years and $1 billion into the project?  The changes HF 561 makes to Iowa law would “effectively create an incentive for the utility to walk away from the plant” because the utility is already guaranteed recovery and profit on all spending up to that point.

 

“This memo supports AARP concerns about shifting the high cost and risks to build an estimated multi-billion plant onto ratepayers before it is built,” said AARP State Director Kent Sovern.  “Besides highlighting the ways this bill incentivizes behavior contrary to the public interest, the memo also details ways this legislation would tie the hands of the Utility Board from protecting and advancing the public interest.”

 

Sovern also praised the Iowa Senate, which did not pass HF 561 last year. “The Senate demonstrated its leadership and its concern for consumers in its refusal last year to pass this legislation. This memo,” Sovern said, “confirms many of the ways this legislation is a raw deal for Iowa consumers.”

 

AARP is concerned about keeping utility rates affordable and accessible, which is particularly an issue for aging Iowans.  November 2011 data shows that despite the fact Iowa had a relatively mild winter, near record numbers of Iowans were still behind on their utility bills. Iowans can make their voices heard and contact their lawmakers on this issue by calling a statewide toll-free connection to the State Senate at 1-800-480-4075, or on line at www.action.aarp.org/ia.

 
Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Help Stop Meth Production PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 23 January 2012 08:58

New Law Will Continue Program to Track Pseudoephedrine Purchases

CHICAGO – January 19, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will help law enforcement officials stop meth production. Senate Bill 73 makes permanent a pilot program initially created to electronically track pseudoephedrine purchases that could be used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.

“This program is a valuable tool that helps us prevent meth from getting into our communities by stopping production,” said Governor Quinn. “Tracking the sales of items commonly used to manufacture meth has enabled us to nip production in the bud, and it is important to continue this program.”

The Methamphetamine Precursor Tracking Act took effect in 2009 and required pharmacies to track purchases of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine online through the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx). Under SB 73, initiated by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and sponsored by Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Sparta), the tracking program becomes permanent. Pharmacies will also block purchases of more than 7.5 grams of pseudoephedrine made within 30 days and purchases of 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine made in a 24-hour time span.

“Unfortunately, meth production is starting to increase again across the state,” Attorney General Madigan said.  “We have found that the PSE tracking system is the best tool law enforcement has to identify criminals who illegally buy cold pills for cooking meth.”

Since its implementation, the program has effectively blocked more than 103,319 boxes - or 230,330 grams - of pseudoephedrine from being used for methamphetamine production in communities throughout Illinois. Additionally NPLEx has assisted the Illinois State Police Methamphetamine Response Teams locate and seize 155 methamphetamine laboratories and make 231 methamphetamine arrests.

“The Illinois State Police have dedicated dozens of trained officers to investigate meth-related crimes and clandestine drug lab sites, which has resulted in the reduction of meth labs seized,” said Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau. “We are confident that the new statute will continue to help law enforcement track and monitor illegal PSE-based products in Illinois, detect criminal activity and prevent meth labs from forming.”

“The production of meth is a serious concern around the state, particularly in our rural communities,” said Sen. Haine. “I would like to thank Governor Quinn for signing this law to continue tracking PSE products that can be used to manufacture meth.”


“We must do everything we can to keep dangerous drugs like meth out of our communities,” Rep. Costello said. “This new law gives us an edge on shutting down meth labs by helping us find the individuals who are making frequent purchases of meth-making products.”

The legislation passed the Illinois General Assembly unanimously and goes into effect immediately.

 

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Police Officer Testing PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by John Thorson   
Monday, 23 January 2012 08:54
Police Officer testing for the City of Rock Island is open and accepting applications on line. Applicants must have completed a City of Rock Island Police Officer Application by the required deadline to be eligible to take the agility test. Applications must be completed online at www.rigov.org in order to be considered. Applications will be accepted through February 24, 2012 at 5pm. Any questions, please call 309-732-2058.

The physical agility test will be March 3, 2012 at the Pepsico Recreation Center, 1025 – 30th Street, Rock Island, Illinois between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Registration will begin at 8:00 a.m. A valid driver’s license must be presented the day of the agility test. The written test is scheduled for March 3, 2012 at 1pm - location will be announced upon successfully completing the physical agility test. Applicants must have completed a Police Officer application by required deadline to be eligible to take the agility test. A valid driver’s license must be presented at the agility test and written test.

 
Land Contract Guarantee Program Launched Nationwide PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Elisha Smith   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 08:42

Center for Rural Affairs Offers Farm Bill Help Line to Assist Producers


Lyons, NE - The Farm Service Agency recently announced that the Land Contract Guarantee Program is now available nationwide.
The Land Contract Guarantee Program provides federal loan guarantees to retiring farmers and landowners who self-finance the sale of their land to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

“With land values continuing to escalate, beginning farmers and ranchers face ever greater challenges in gaining access to land,” said Traci Bruckner, Assistant Director of Rural Policy at the Center for Rural Affairs. “The program is designed to encourage private land contract sales by providing a degree of protection to the retiring farmer whose retirement savings is often in the land and farm.  This protection may be the incentive some need to take that step and self-finance the sale of their land to a beginning farmer and rancher.”

In order to be eligible for this program, a farmer needs to self-finance the sale of their land, and sell to either a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer.

The buyer of the farm or ranch must be a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher;  not be larger than a family farm (in which most of the management and labor is provided by family members); have an acceptable credit history demonstrated by satisfactory debt repayment; be the owner or operator of the farm or ranch when the contract is complete; and be unable to obtain sufficient credit elsewhere without a guarantee to finance actual needs at reasonable rates or terms.

Under this program, the seller of the farmland has two guarantee options:

  • A “prompt payment” guarantee that covers three amortized annual installments or an amount equaling three amortized annual installments; or
  • A standard asset guarantee that covers an amount equal to 90 percent of the outstanding principle of the loan provided that the seller obtains a servicing agent.

For either option, the loan guarantee stays in effect for 10 years.  The purchase price or appraisal value of the farm or ranch that is the subject of the contract sale cannot be greater than $500,000.  The buyer of the farm and ranch must contribute at least 5 percent as the down payment for the land.

Farmers and ranchers interested in this program should contact their local Farm Service Agency office.

Bruckner also encourages farmers, ranchers and others to call the Center for Rural Affairs' Farm Bill Helpline with questions about the application process as well as other farm and conservation program options that beginning and established farmers and ranchers can access.  Producers can call (402) 687-2100 and ask for the Farm Bill Helpline or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Retiring land owners looking to find the right beginning farmer or rancher to sell or transfer their land to can also register for the Land Link Program.

The Center’s Land Link program matches beginning farmers looking for land with established landowners, increasing opportunities for new farmers while promoting good stewardship. The process includes retirement planning, new farmer financing, farm business, and environmental assessment in order to ease transitions of family operations from the retiring generation to the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Parties specifically interested in participating in Land Link should call Virginia Wolking with the Center for Rural Affairs at (402) 687-2103 ext. 1017.


 
Governor Quinn Announces Nearly $19 Million in Federal Funding for Local Infrastructure Projects PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Nafia Khan   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 08:31

Community Development Assistance Grants Will Support Needed Improvements in 59 Small, Rural Communities Statewide

SPRINGFIELD – January 18, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced nearly $19 million in federal funding to address the infrastructure needs of 59 small and rural communities throughout Illinois. Awarded through the Community Development Assistance Program (CDAP), the funding will be used to make improvements to water and sewer lines, including replacing water mains, upgrading storm water systems and repairing sewer lines.

“This funding will help make much needed infrastructure improvements in many of our smaller communities that were hit hardest by the economic downturn,” Governor Quinn said. “These infrastructure projects will help revitalize the local economy and create jobs.”

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) administers Illinois’ CDAP program, which is known nationally as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and provides federal funding for a variety of community-based projects. Communities with populations of 50,000 or less can apply for CDAP grant funding to support a variety of projects.

“Through the state’s CDAP program, we are building up the infrastructure of our smaller and rural communities,” said Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Warren Ribley. “These improvements will help provide safe drinking water and reliable water supply and sanitation systems while creating construction jobs to support the needed infrastructure upgrades and improvements, and will set the stage for future economic development.”

On behalf of Governor Quinn, DCEO Director Warren Ribley visited Herrin yesterday to announce the city’s $350,000 grant that will be used to replace water mains in the community. The nearly $19 million in competitive public infrastructure grants will be distributed to 59 small and rural communities throughout the state.

Illinois' CDAP program supports communities with populations of 50,000 and fewer that are not located within a US Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-designated “entitlement community,” or one of the eight designated "entitlement" urban counties. The complete list of Illinois communities receiving 2011 CDAP-Public Infrastructure funding is attached.

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