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The Senate is considering President Obama's nearly two-billion dollar request to fight the Zika virus. The emergency funding will go to mosquito control programs, vaccine research, education and health care for low-income pregnant women. CDC Director Thomas Frieden is expected to testify today about the Zika virus, which has been known to cause birth defects in pregnant women.

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"Safe Routes to School," a movement to get kids to walk or bike to and from school, has been active in Iowa for the past decade. This week, the same cause got a little bit of help from a state Senate panel.

The subcommittee approved a bill to make the rules for passing bicycles on Iowa roadways the same as for passing vehicles. It's a small but important safety detail for kids on bikes, said Ashley Christensen, regional Safe Routes to School coordinator for northeast Iowa.

"The main intent of Safe Routes to School programs are to create communities where it's safe enough and accessible for students to walk and bike to school," she said. "Safe Routes to School programs incorporate parents, schools, communities and government joining forces to improve the health and well-being of our students."

The bill, Senate File 2076, now moves to the Senate Transportation Committee for consideration.

Christensen said Safe Routes to School helps establish good habits for students that can lead to better health throughout their lives.

"Our kids are not as active as they should be today, and that leads to a whole mess of health issues for them," she said. "It's up to us as a society to fix that before any more detriment happens."

She said many programs were started with federal funding passed on to state transportation departments, but lack of funding has made it hard to expand them. The American Heart Association's Healthier Iowa Coalition is one group working to secure more public funding.

According to research, 43 percent of students who live less than a mile from school are still driven there. Christensen said Safe Routes to School programs give parents peace of mind as well.

"There's a lot of fear in the world today with many different things," she said. "And so, Safe Routes to School is a great way to kind of combat those fears, and give parents a safe way for those kids to get to school and be active at the same time."

The text of the bill is online at legis.iowa.gov. More information is at healthieriowa.com.

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A move to save tax dollars by sharing services between Naperville and an associated
township is underway, but not everyone is on board.

West suburban Naperville looks to be the first municipality to take action on
reducing the number of governmental units in Illinois with a plan to takeover
maintenance of their share of roads in Naperville Township. Supporters say it’s
a work-sharing program but Naperville Township Road Commissioner Stan Wojtasiak
says it’s not a work sharing program, it’s a job killing program.



However, Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger sees it differently.


Naperville’s mayor says there could be hundreds of thousands of tax dollars saved every year in the move. 

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Farmers, ranchers, school administrators, educators, students and community leaders from the Midwest will gather in Nebraska City, Neb., on March 2 for the Midwest Farm to School Conference. 

Sarah Smith, farm to school lead worker with the Center for Rural Affairs, says making these connections can increase healthy food opportunities available to students.

"Kids being able to have access to healthy food means that they've got better academic chances, they have a decrease in behavioral issues, there's a huge opportunity to expand markets for growers," she states. "We're trying to build these connections so that the opportunities can continue."

A coalition from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas is organizing the conference, but it is open to anyone.

Those attending should get an idea of what projects will work in their specific community situation.

"What you see with these efforts is that one size doesn't really fit all, and so you have an opportunity to look at what are your assets, what are you working with, and what small steps forward can you take," Smith points out.

It may be as direct as food service workers developing recipes with local food, teachers incorporating a garden within their lesson plan or farmers producing the food products their specific schools need.

Smith says the multi-state aspect of the conference is unique, and involves a coalition of a number of private and public entities.

"Lots of different state organizations are involved with farm to school efforts," she stresses. "Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, university extension and nonprofits like the Center for Rural Affairs."

Early bird registration for the Midwest Farm to School Conference ends Monday. 

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The Quad City Mom's Blog will hold their latest Mom's Night Out event on Thusday night from 7 to 9 Pm at what is described as a Quad Cities Dream Home! There are only a few tickets left and Camy Halvorson wth the Quad City Mom's Blog joined Sean Patrick on Mid Morning in the Cities today with some last minute details to get you to join us tomorrow night in Bettendorf for Mom's Night Out.... 

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Much like today, taxes, the plight of urban areas and even labor issues were among the themes nearly 40 years ago when a U.S. president addressed the Illinois General Assembly.

President
Jimmy Carter addressed the Illinois General Assembly in May 1978. After his
address, Carter took questions from members of the Legislature. Two questions
focused on the Labor Law Reform Act, a measure to set up a framework for
unionizing employees across the country. One member who supported the bill
noted the loss of manufacturing jobs to southern states with non-union wages,
while another member said the measure would be a quote “disastrous piece of
legislation for our free enterprise system,” and noted how companies not
complying would be quote “blacklisted” from getting federal contracts. Carter
said there has to be some threat of punishment.



Despite Carter’s support, the measure ultimately failed, but labor
issues are still being debated in the legislature as part of the governor’s
“turnaround agenda.” President Barack Obama will be the first President in
nearly 40 years to address the Illinois General Assembly Wednesday.

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The University of Illinois will survive without MAP grants this semester, but the head of the coalition for independent universities in the state says schools like Augustana and Knox College will have to make some changes. Dave Tretter with the schools says private, non-profit schools may soon turn down students who need MAP grants. 



Tretter says independent schools are suffering because of lawmakers' fight with state universities over pensions and spending. 
Additional audio:



Dave Tretter president of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities says private schools in Illinois are suffering as much, if not more, than the big universities. 

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East Moline will hold a vaccination and microchip clinic for pet owners on March 19th. The event, to be held March 19th at the East Moline Fire Department, is aimed at low income pet owners who want to get their pets vaccinated and micro chipped at a price they can afford. Patty Roush is organizing the event and details the vaccinations available for pets at this clinic... 

Just what is microchipping? Patty says its a convenient way to track lost pets... 

Hours for the Vaccination and Microchipping Clinic on March 19th are from 9 Am to 3 Pm at the East Moline Fire Department , 901 Avenue of the Cities. Contact Patty Roush at East Moline Animal Control for fiurther details. 

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Davenport Police announced on Tuesday that they have made an arrest regarding a Sunday shots fired incident. According to Davenport Police, 21 year old Jeramie Shorter has been charged with Going Armed with Intent and Intimidation with a Dangerous Weapon in relation to the shots fired incident on February 7th in the area of the 1400 Block of 7th Street in Davenport. No other information regarding the incident is being released at this time. Shorter is currently on Bond from the Scott County Jail awaiting further hearings on the charges. 

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The Davenport School Board has written a letter of support for Superintendent Dr. Art Tate regarding his plan to defy state school spending rules for the next fiscal school year budget. The letter, signed by the six current board members, including Board President Ralph Johanson, and intended for the Iowa Department of Education, is in response to a letter from Tom Cooley, Bureau Chief of the IDEA. Mr. Cooley's letter in December intended to inform the school board about the potential budget shortfall based on current spending. The School Board letter states that the board is aware of the potential negative balance and states that it is intentional and part of a plan by the Superintendent, backed by the board, to make up for what Dr. Tate and the Board feel are inequalities in the current state funding formula for schools. Dr. Tate's plan to dip into district cash reserves is aimed at making up for on average $175.00 per student that the Superintendent feels the district is being denied by the current spending formula. 

 

You can read the Davenport School Board letter. addressed the Director of the Iowa Department of Education Ryan Wise by clicking HERE

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More than $71,000 worth of cocaine was seized in a bust in Bettendorf on Monday. According to the Quad Cities Metropolitan Drug Task Force, members of the Joint Drug and Gang Task Force and Bettendorf Police arrested 24 year old Gerardo E. Torres of Elgin, Illinois on charges of Possession with Intent, Conspiracy, and Drug Tax Stamp Violations. Torres was arrested after Police obtained a warrant to search his vehicle and found 646 grams of cocaine. The arrest of Torres was part of a larger narcotics investigation that is still ongoing. 

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As Illinois considers long-term changes to the state's criminal justice system, a civil rights watchdog says the majority of voters want reforms now. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has released the results of a statewide poll taken before the holidays. 

It shows the overwhelming majority of voters believe the system is "broken." Ben Ruddell, criminal justice policy attorney with the ACLU, says that sentiment extends across party lines, with 76 percent of Illinois Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans agreeing that changes need to be made.

"People recognize that we're not spending our public safety dollars in a smart way," says Ruddell. "People understand that the current system is unsustainable, that our prisons are bursting at the seams."

The poll findings come as Gov. Bruce Rauner's State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform prepares to release a second round of reform suggestions next week.

The Commission has already recommended that probation be used instead of prison time for nonviolent drug offenders. According to the ACLU poll, there's substantial bipartisan agreement on such changes as reclassifying some drug-possession offenses to lower-level charges.

To Ruddell, this shows that voters are ahead of lawmakers on many of these issues.

"We've incarcerated people for a longer and longer period of time, and that hasn't lowered their recidivism rates," he says. "That hasn't stopped crime from happening. But it's come at great cost to the State of Illinois."

The commission meets again next Thursday, Feb. 18, and is expected to release more details on plans to reduce the state's prison population by 25 percent over the next decade.

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Senate File 508 would allow Iowa residents to possess and use fireworks, such as firecrackers and Roman candles. Currently, only novelty items such as sparklers are legal in the state. 

The bill passed a Senate committee last week, but one group says the effort poses a threat to Iowa's veterans and others who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. 

Bob Krause is president of the Veterans National Recovery Center, a group that focuses on the health of returning veterans.

"They can be quite debilitating," he says. "Some PTSD veterans that I know, if they hear a loud retort, like a muffler backfiring or something like that, they will actually fall into a fetal position."

He says the chance of getting PTSD from the first combat-zone experience is now between 20 and 25 percent, but that likelihood jumps with the second and third combat tours to between 90 and 95 percent.

Krause notes the problem is extensive, and involves more than just combat veterans.

"We've got 5,000 veterans in Iowa that have PTSD just from the wars that have occurred since 9/11, not counting our Vietnam veterans," he says. "There's a lot of them, and that doesn't even include the police and fire and other people that have been around gunfire."

He says PTSD is a chronic excitement of the amygdala, the "fight or flight" center of the brain. If the condition lasts too long, it can cause scarring and a permanent short circuiting of the brain.

Krause says expanding sale and use of fireworks in Iowa means those suffering from PTSD will have to be in a heightened state of paranoia year-round, not just around the Independence Day holiday. 

"We don't need that," says Krause. "These veterans are being ignored enough. It's like kicking a guy in a wheelchair. You just don't want to do that, even if it's unintentional, and that's kind of what you're doing with this bill."

Both the Iowa House and Senate passed separate bills expanding fireworks in Iowa last session, but the chambers could not agree on a single version to send to the governor for signature.

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The City of Bettendorf will hold information meeting regarding the City budget on February 18th. Bettendorf residents are invited to Bettendorf City Hall, in the council chambers, for the meeting which will lay out elements of City budget and individual department budgets. Get more information about this information meeting by contacting Bettendorf City Hall at 563-344-4033. 

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An independent investigation by the Auditor's Office of the State of Iowa has tuned up allegations of improper use of bank accounts by members of the Davenport Fire Department. According to a release from the Auditor's office the investigation stemmed from concerns raised by members of Davenport City Government regarding private bank accounts that were controlled by the DFD with funds that were not properly monitiored. The report claims that more than $4000.00 dispersed from these accounts went for purchases of food or clothing items that could not be verified by Auditors. The investigation of records dates back to January of 2009 and tracks through October of 2014. You can read the Auditor's finding here.  

 

The City of Davenport released this statement regardin the matter... 

 

"In October of 2014, the Davenport Finance Department was made aware of 13 accounts set up at The Family Credit Union utilizing the City's Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) by Fire Department employees for their own private and personal use. During the City's investigation, no public funds were unaccounted for and the unauthorized accounts were either closed or had the City's FEIN removed. The February 5, 2016 report completed by the State Auditor's Office confirms that "the City did not disburse funds to any of the 13 accounts." After identifying these accounts and prior to the involvement of the State Auditor's Office, the City of Davenport instituted new controls to prevent the opening of unauthorized accounts. The City instituted Administrative Policy 4.8 that prohibits City employees or elected officials from setting up financial accounts without proper authorization. Additionally, the City began confirming with area banks during its audit process that the City's FEIN is not associated with any accounts at their institutions. The 2015 verification confirmed that no unauthorized accounts existed. The City cooperated fully with the State Auditor's Office during their review and appreciates the agency's efforts to produce this report."

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Representative Cheri Bustos is in Rock Island today (Friday) meeting with students at Rock Island Academy and encouraging constituents to write Valentine's Day cards. These aren't just any Valentines however, they are specialized Valentine's intended to honor our best and bravest, our military veterans. If you would like to participate simply pick up an appropriate Valentine's Day Card, sign it with love for our local military veterans and send it to Representative Bustos' offices in either Rock Island, Peoria or Rockford by February 10th. Representative Bustos will then distribute the Valentine's Cards to area veterans on Valentine's Day, Sunday, February 14th. 

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Illinois' longtime budget impasse means hundreds of senior home-care workers could see their paychecks cut in half as soon as Friday.

The state owes about $1 million in payments to Family Home Service in Chicago. Since the impasse began in July, FHS office manager Marsha Holmes said, she's been partly relying on loans to pay employees, who make about $10 an hour. That line of credit has run out, however, and now her options are limited. Holmes is asking Gov. Bruce Rauner to end the budget battle with state lawmakers.

"We're looking twofold," she said. "We have employees that may be in threat of losing their jobs or not having a job at all. Then, we have a threat of seniors not having essential services for their everyday existence."

Holmes said her employees serve about 500 Chicago-area seniors who need in-home assistance. At least one home-care service in Peoria was forced to shut down last fall when the state failed to make its payments.

Some state lawmakers also are urging Rauner to lighten his stance on the budget impasse. In addition to Family Home Service, said Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, the budget problems are affecting hundreds of agencies and companies that rely on state funding. As a possible solution to the budget shortfall, he is urging his colleagues to explore new revenue options including a tax hike on Illinois' highest earners.

"The very wealthiest people in our state, the 'Bruce Rauner class,' and the biggest corporations in our state are paying next to nothing in taxes," Guzzardi said, "and working families are getting squeezed awfully hard already."

Rauner, however, is sticking by his decision to not consider any new revenue until state lawmakers agree to a property tax freeze and limits on union bargaining. This comes just days after state Comptroller Leslie Munger said Illinois will spend about $6 billion more than it takes in this coming fiscal year.

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Singer Don McLean dubbed February 3rd 1959 "The Day the Music Died." That was the day that legendary performers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper perished in plane crash just hours after a concert in Clearlake, Iowa at the Surf Ballroom. Jeff Nicholas from what is now the Surf Ballroom and Museum joined Sean Patrick on Mid Morning in the Cities on Wednesday to remember that fateful day in 1959 and the legend that has grown since that night. The Surf Ballroom will be celebrating all weekend long with a series of performances to commemorate Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper...

 

 

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Davenport Police are investigating a late night shots fired incident. At approximately 12:48 Pm Davenport Police received a call about shots fired in the area of the 1900 Block of East 38th Street. At the scene Davenport Police found shell casings and property damage indicating the shooting incident. No one was harmed in the incident. No other information is being released at this time. Davenport Police are continuing to investigate and are asking anyone with any information to please contact Davenport Police at 563-326-6125. 

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A study found surgery patients fared just as well when junior doctors worked longer than mandated hours. It was first major rigorous test of regulations many physicians say hurt medical education. Nationwide limits on work hours were established more than a decade ago because of concerns that sleep-deprived medical residents were a threat to themselves and their patients. To test that, researchers randomly assigned 4,000 surgery residents to regulation hours or a more flexible schedule that allowed them to continue with a case after their shifts ended. The researchers looked at how many patients died or had serious complications in the month after surgery and found the same low rate, about 9 percent, in both groups. The study was published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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National News Correspondent Jim Roope joined Sean Patrick today on Mid Morning in the Cities live from Santa Clara, California home of Super Bowl 50. Jim had the inside scoop on the halftime show (#Beyonce!), the big game commercials, and the storylines headed into Sunday's match up between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. Jim Roope was Sean's guest on Mid Morning in the Cities on Thursday... 

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A Davenport man has been arrested on charges that he sexually assault 6 children over a period of 12 years. According to Davenport Police 54 year old Donald Lee Sims of Telegraph Road in Davenport has been charged with three counts of 2nd Degree Sexual Assault and three counts of Indecent Contact with a Child. The charges stem from an investigation last November that turned up evidence that Simms had such contact with 6 different children over a period of more than a decade. If convicted Simms faces up to 25 

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