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25 million Blacks, Latinos missing from voter databases; major news organizations urge Biden and Trump to commit to presidential debates; NM gun-control advocates praise federal rule closing 'gun show loophole; Arkansas group raising awareness during Black Maternal Health Week.

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House Republicans want citizenship proof for federal election voting, under White House pressure Israel shows restraint after Iran's attack and Trump's hush money trial starts.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

Iowa Legislature Approves Gas Tax Hike for Roads, Bridges

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015   

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Iowa Legislature has approved a 10-cent hike in the state's gas tax to fund roads and bridges, and residents and organizations speaking out after the bill's passage say the initial focus must be on repairing existing infrastructure.

Laura Belin, a 1000 Friends of Iowa board member, said the group didn't take a stance on the gas tax itself, but added that the funding priority for roads and bridges must be "Fix It First" instead of adding new roads or lanes.

"If the lion's share of new revenue goes toward building new roads or adding new lanes to existing roads," she said, "we'll be no closer to maintaining the decaying infrastructure that has been used to justify the gas tax increase."

The gas tax hike was approved Tuesday by the Iowa Senate and House and now awaits the signature of Gov. Terry Branstad, who says he'll announce his decision after a careful review of the legislation. If the bill is signed, the new tax would begin Sunday and raise about $200 million a year.

The latest research on Iowa's transportation troubles shows that about half of all of the state's rural roads, major urban roads and highways are in mediocre condition or worse. Belin said upgrading and maintaining that infrastructure as a top priority is key to the state's economic future "because the 'Fix It First' strategy is a way to reinvest in our communities, and it maximizes the value of our past investments, and it stretches the tax dollars we have."

The last time fuel taxes were raised in Iowa was in 1989.

The text of the bill, SF 257, is online at coolice.legis.iowa.gov. Road data is at tripnet.org.


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