KXEL Morning News for Fri. Feb. 19, 2021

KXEL Morning News for Fri. Feb. 19, 2021

Iowa House and Senate committees have each passed an election bill that would limit voting by mail and early voting, allow criminal charges against county auditors who depart from state election guidance, and remove voters from the active voter rolls if they miss one general election. The quick action yesterday makes the similar House and Senate versions of the bill eligible for floor debate as early as next week. The House is planning a public hearing on the measure at 5 p.m. Monday. Supporters say it improves election security and integrity.  

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics plans to keep trying, despite a state council denying their application Wednesday to build a $230 million hospital complex in North Liberty. The Health Facilities Council rejected the plan in a 3-2 vote, following strong opposition from other community health care providers like Mercy Iowa City. UIHC had sought permission for the new hospital because it says it is in desperate need of more beds, operating room space and emergency department capacity. UI hospital officials say they learned a lot about what they need to do to amend or resubmit their Certificate of Need proposal…and will ask for further consideration of the project.

Police in Des Moines have identified a man whose body was found inside a portable toilet outside the city’s Forest Avenue Library earlier this month. Police confirmed yesterday the body was that of 59-year-old Luis Sandoval. Police say Sandoval was homeless and that autopsy results determining the cause of his death are still pending. Police have said Sandoval’s body was discovered in the early-morning hours of Feb. 8 by a city snowplow driver who spotted a man’s legs sticking out of the portable toilet. Temperatures at the time hovered around 2 below zero, and the wind chill was double digits below zero.

A new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy is slowly improving in rural parts of Iowa and 9 other Plains and Western states, but employment remains below the level it was at before the coronavirus pandemic began last year. The overall index for the region increased to 53.8 in February from January’s 52.0. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said the number of jobs in the region is down roughly 146,000, or 3.3%, from the level it was at before the pandemic began.  

A Des Moines police officer has been placed on leave after being charged with a misdemeanor in which he’s accused of trying to interfere in a criminal investigation involving one of his friends. The Des Moines Police Department said yesterday that Officer Rodney Briggs was arrested the day before by police in nearby Altoona and charged with non-felonious misconduct in office. They say Briggs exceeded his authority as a police officer by trying to persuade Southeast Polk School District employees to give him video evidence related to an ongoing Altoona police investigation involving a friend of Briggs’. Police did not name the friend or detail the investigation at issue.

As many as 34,000 patients of Grand River Medical Group in Dubuque could be affected by a potential data breach. A letter was sent to all patients last week notifying them that an unauthorized individual gained access to an employee’s email account…potentially allowing them to view documents containing personal information of patients, including names, social security numbers, dates of birth and more. GRMG immediately terminated the individual’s access to their system and launched an investigation. They also changed all relevant passwords and isolated the compromised account from the system. There is no evidence any data was accessed or downloaded, but since it can’t be ruled out yet, patients were notified. All affected patients are being offered one year of complimentary identity theft protection.