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Thursday AM Daily | April 20, 2017
Grinnell Mutual
New law allows more pathways to high school completion 
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Iowa adults who never graduated from high school will have more ways to obtain a high school equivalency diploma under a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad this morning.

The legislation, House File 473, was a key legislative priority for United Way of Central Iowa and several state partners, which are working to ramp up postsecondary training options to meet the growing demand for high-skill positions. More than 200,000 Iowa adults currently do not have a high school diploma or equivalency.

"This is an incredible opportunity for more Central Iowans to achieve a high school equivalency diploma and be on a path to financial stability," said Elisabeth Buck, chief community impact officer for United Way of Central Iowa. "The additional pathways recognize the diverse needs of our adult learners, while continuing to place high standards on achieving a degree. It also benefits employers who are seeking skilled workers."

The law adopts the recommendation of the High School Equivalency Diploma Task Force to recognize Iowa community colleges' adult diploma programs. These programs offer the ability to bundle prior high school coursework with secondary or postsecondary education courses.

Forty percent of Iowans who have dropped out of high school are less than one course away from attaining their high school diploma. Currently, the only way to achieve a high school equivalency diploma is by taking HiSET classes and passing the HiSET assessments.

"Those who have a high school diploma earn significantly more throughout their lifetime than those without it," said Buck. "This law has been a key priority for United Way to support achieving our goal of increasing the percentage of Central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient to 75 percent by 2020."

Last year, United Way of Central Iowa launched Bridges to Success, an initiative to assist 10,000 adults in earning their high school equivalency diploma by 2020 through innovative solutions such as supportive coaching.

McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC

Architects report increase in billings
According to an index of billing activity, architects ended the first quarter on an upswing, the American Institute of Architects said in a release. The organization's index registered 54.3 at the end of March, up from 50.7 in February. The index reflects the approximate nine- to 12-month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. Any reading above 50 indicates an increase in billings. However, architects reported a slight decline in inquiries about new projects. On the billings front, architects in the Midwest led the nation with a score of 54.6. "We are moving into the busy season and firms are confident that they will remain busy throughout the spring," AIA Iowa Executive Director Jessica Reinert said in the release.

Iowa ranks 10th in clean energy, science group says
The nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists ranked Iowa 10th among states advancing clean energy. The group's report, "Clean Energy Momentum: Ranking State Progress," used 12 metrics. Iowa ranked first in creating an environment that is friendly to businesses that want to use clean energy such as wind power, third in the rate that renewable energy has been added, and seventh in the portion of power generation that is renewable.

Drake accepting applications for new compliance law programs
Drake University is now accepting applications for its new compliance and risk management program that begins in fall 2017. The program, offered through Drake Law School and Drake's College of Business and Public Administration, includes a professional certificate, a Master of Jurisprudence degree, and a Master of Laws degree. According to U.S. News & World Report, compliance law is one of the fastest growing legal fields today. "Regulatory requirements in many fields have expanded over the last couple of decades, and companies want employees who can help them comply with the complex web of legal and ethical standards," said Jerry Anderson, dean of Drake Law School. "We developed the program in response to that need, with the goal of preparing students to handle compliance issues in a variety of industries." The 12-credit certificate program, which can be completed in as little as one year, allows working professionals to gain knowledge and qualification in the field of compliance and risk management to advance their career opportunities and build their resumes. Students must have received a bachelor's degree to apply, but a law degree is not required.

New stage equipment at Simpson will give performances a lift
Performances at Simpson College's Pote Theatre will benefit from a newly installed stage elevator lift that will be used for both Theatre Simpson performances and the Des Moines Metro Opera. The lift, which replaces a 45-year-old lift at the theater, was made possible by a contribution from longtime Simpson faculty member Virginia Croskery Lauridsen and her husband, Nix Lauridsen. The original equipment had slowed down and gotten noisy, making it more difficult to incorporate into productions, said Jennifer Ross Nostrala, professor of theater arts at Simpson College. "The new lift will allow our theater students the opportunity to experiment with techniques and learn how something like this can really enhance a performance both practically and artistically." Located in the front of the orchestra pit, the lift occupies the semicircular area closest to the front row of the audience, a space referred to as the "playing circle." It allows scenery, props and sometimes even characters to be delivered quickly and discretely to the stage, often without the audience even noticing.

Cultivation Corridor
Iowa Lottery
Insider Notebook
Women's Insurance Networking Group giving D.M. a look
BY JOE GARDYASZ: Greater Des Moines is being considered as a chapter location for the Women's Insurance Networking Group (WING), a nonprofit group founded five years ago by two industry-leading executives. Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen, who spoke recently at an inaugural WING event hosted in Des Moines by Principal Financial Group, told me he's thrilled that the organization is interested in Des Moines. Ommen, whom I spoke with for a Closer Look profile, said he plans to be an active part of WING, which is open to men as well as women. Read more

MORE NOTEBOOK ITEMS: Read more Insider bits and bites of the finer side of Iowa business. Insider Notebook
Veridian Credit Union
Thiele Geotech

Water quality funding bill gets Iowa Senate OK; fate uncertain in House
Des Moines Register: Legislation to significantly increase state funding to clean up Iowa's waters was approved Wednesday by the Iowa Senate, although it faces an uncertain fate in the Iowa House with time running out in the 2017 Legislature's session.

U.S. weekly jobless claims up; continuing claims hit 17-year low
Reuters: New applications for U.S. jobless benefits rose slightly more than expected last week, but a drop in the number of Americans on unemployment rolls to a 17-year low suggested the labor market continues to tighten.

Verizon results miss Wall Street estimates as it loses subscribers
Reuters: Verizon Communications Inc. today reported quarterly results that missed estimates and said it lost subscribers who pay a monthly bill despite the No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier's re-launch of unlimited data plans. Shares of the company were down 1.4 percent at $48.25 in late-morning trading. 

Des Moines Wine Fest
Business Record
How Minnesota is trying to save its individual health market
BY JOE GARDYASZ: Here's an interesting summary of actions that Minnesota has taken in the past year to respond to Blue Cross and Blue Shield's exit from that state's individual insurance market, a dilemma that's now faced by Iowa with Wellmark's and Aetna's recent decisions to pull out of the individual market in 2018. In the wake of more than 103,000 Minnesotans who lost coverage with Blue Cross' individual market exit, Minnesota's legislature has initiated enrollment caps as a measure to protect its five remaining insurers from an influx of higher-risk enrollees. It also approved $312 million in state funding for premium rebates that will be paid directly to insurers that enroll individuals for coverage, with the requirement that quoted premiums be reduced by 25 percent. Read more
KCCI Top Stories

Former university administrator: Fired coaches often gay 
A former University of Iowa athletic administrator says that during her tenure she became concerned after noticing female coaches who were fired often were gay and had become more open about their sexuality. Jane Meyer testified Wednesday about Iowa coaches as her case continued in Des Moines, where jurors are considering her claim that she suffered workplace discrimination as a gay woman in a relationship with a Hawkeye coach. Meyer alleges the school also retaliated against her and paid her less than another deputy athletic director. Read more

Iowa Legislature approves most budget bills as adjournment nears 
The Iowa Legislature has approved most bills needed to finalize the roughly $7.2 billion state budget, an indication that adjournment is near for the session. The Republican-controlled chambers have voted in support of several budget bills over the span of days that address spending on everything from education to economic development. It's unclear what day legislators will finish work.Read more

MORE KCCI: Get more local news from our partners at kcci.com

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