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Safer roads

Traffic fatalities in Iowa fell from 402 in 2016 to 330 in 2017, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

We have to believe a new law passed by the 2017 Legislature under which texting while driving became a primary offense rather than a secondary offense (meaning law enforcement officers can issue a ticket for texting while driving without another traffic violation taking place) was a factor in making Iowa's roads safer.

According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette story in Thursday's Journal, Iowa State Patrol officers issued 174 citations for use of an electronic communication device while driving in 2016, but issued more than 660 such citations in 2017. The new law  took effect on July 1.

Safer entertainment events

Tyson Events Center and the Orpheum Theatre this month will begin using walk-through metal detectors at events

"Providing a safe environment is the most important service we can offer," Erika Newton, Tyson and Orpheum general manager, said in Tuesday's Journal. "There may be some additional time at the doors, but we want to make sure that people who come to our facilities feel comfortable and know that security is being taken seriously."

A prudent step, indeed.

New Heelan chapter begins

Heelan High School opened the $10 million academic wing of its new school on Jan. 5 (the fine arts wing opened in 2014).

The new academic building, which replaces a 1949 building, includes 29 classrooms, technology upgrades, administration offices, a counseling center and chaplain offices in more than 55,000 square feet of space.

"We're thrilled with the building," Principal Chris Bork said in last Saturday's Journal. "It is such an upgrade ... It is fabulous."

We extend our congratulations to the Heelan family for this impressive contribution to our community.

185th receives honor

We offer our congratulations, as well, to the 185th Air Refueling Wing for receiving the Outstanding Unit Award for meritorious service from the Air Force for the ninth time.

"We would not be able to do this without the support of our communities, our family members, employers and civic leaders," Col. Larry Christensen, 185th commander, said in last Saturday's Journal. "Our members serve proudly and they are a great reflection of the communities they come from. Their commitment, as well as the commitment of our communities, is crucial to our success."

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Another difficult budget year

Before crafting a budget for next year, which will be a difficult task, Iowa lawmakers will have to cut this year's budget by at least $36 million because tax collections didn't meet projections, The Journal's Des Moines bureau reported on Jan. 2.

In December, the Revenue Estimating Conference lowered its fiscal 2019 estimate in growth of tax collections by $9.3 million to nearly $7.416 billion. That estimate will be used by the Legislature to set the state budget for next year.

"Iowa revenues, while still growing, are disappointing for the first five months of the fiscal year," REC member Holly Lyons said last month. "There is nothing, however, to indicate that the revenue growth will turn negative, but growth is very slow, slower than the Revenue Estimating Conference forecasted last October."

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