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Mason City High School's Unified Cheer/Dance Team won gold at state Special Olympics this weekend. Top row, from left: Lucy Roberts, Kinzie Johanns, Bailey Erickson, Katie Lorence and Sydney Sullivan. Bottom row, from left: Candie Eliason, Lauren Lunning, Izzy Day, Emily Lunning, Emma Stiles, and Marissa Pope.

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Update: Married Shell Rock Republican lawmaker resigns after kissing video goes public

DES MOINES — Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, an 18-year veteran of the Iowa Legislature, abruptly resigned his leadership and District 25 position Monday in the wake of a video posted online that showed someone who appeared to be the Shell Rock Republican kissing a female lobbyist at a Des Moines bar.

In a short statement, Dix announced his resignation as majority leader and state senator, effective at 2 p.m. Monday. He sent a resignation letter to Iowa Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, and House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, in accordance with Iowa Code requirement. The letter didn't say why he was resigning. 

Senate President Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, declined comment after a closed-door caucus of the 29-member Senate GOP majority. But his office issued a statement confirming Dix’s departure.

“I believe he made the right decision for himself and for his district, but most importantly, I believe he made the decision in the best interest of his family,” Whitver said in his statement.

“Senate Republicans will continue to move the policies Iowans elected us to pursue,” Whitver added. “After discussions with the Republican caucus this afternoon, an election to fill the position of Iowa Senate majority leader will be held on Wednesday.”

Dix, a third-generation farmer who was born and raised on his family farm near Janesville, met with fellow Republicans for about 15 minutes behind closed doors in a Senate committee room where a farmer,  met with fellow Republicans for about 15 minutes behind closed doors in a Senate committee room where staffers had placed a large white board in front of the glass window to keep TV cameras, reporters or others from seeing in the room. Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, filled in for Dix at the start of Monday’s session and the majority leader did not make any public comments during the day’s proceedings.

“He did the right thing for himself, for his family and for Iowans today and I think as a caucus we’ll move forward,” said Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City, who attended the meeting. “As a caucus we’re going to move forward.”

Earlier in the day, Gov. Kim Reynolds expressed “extreme disappointment” and told reporters at her 11 a.m. weekly news conference she planned to meet privately with the Senate majority leader to discuss the situation and get more information concerning the video posted on the Iowa Starting Line blog.

Iowa Starting Line said the video was shared by a member of the general public who is not affiliated with a campaign or party organization but "happened to see the scene while at the neighborhood bar," Waveland Tap on University Avenue. 

“With what little I know, I’m certainly disappointed in what I’m hearing,” Reynolds told reporters.

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“I think Iowans holds their elected officials to a high standard. They expect us to lead and I expect to lead,” the governor said. “I want to know the facts. I’m extremely disappointed in what I’m hearing but until I have an opportunity to hear the story I’m not going to comment yet.”

But by early afternoon, Dix made the decision to end his Senate stay in the final year of his second term. He previously served in the Iowa House for five terms and was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010 and became majority leader after the 2016 election. He represented Butler, Grundy, Hardin and Story counties.

Sen. David Johnson, an Ocheyedan independent who left the Republican Party in 2016 over differences with now-GOP President Donald Trump, said he had not seen the video but noted he had heard similar reports about Dix prior to Monday’s posting of the video. He called for Dix to resign as majority leader.

“It’s a disgrace to the majority party caucus. I think he needs to make the decision to at least step down from leadership,” said Johnson. “We don’t need this ongoing story about where Senate Republican leadership is on these issues dealing with women.”

Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines issued a statement calling the video posted on Starting Line “a serious matter for Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix to discuss with his family, his fellow Senate Republicans and Gov. Reynolds.

Bill Dix resignation

“Because this involves Senator Dix and a lobbyist, there will be questions about the impact of this relationship on legislation,” Petersen added. “This incident follows Sen. Dix’s failure to take any responsibility for the $1.75 million settlement that resulted from the sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against former Senate Republican staffer Kirsten Anderson by Republican senators and staff.”

Iowa Starting Line reported the unidentified woman in the video "has been registered and works as a lobbyist for various municipality groups at the Statehouse for the past two years."

Reynolds said she hoped the majority party leaders could “move on” with the 2018 session in pushing plans to cut taxes, balance the budget and address other priorities would not be impacted by Monday’s development.

“I think Iowans holds their elected officials to a high standard. They expect us to lead and I expect to lead,” the governor said. “I want to know the facts. I’m extremely disappointed in what I’m hearing but until I have an opportunity to hear the story I’m not going to comment yet.”

Barrel Drive-In, a landmark to many Clear Lakers and North Iowans, demolished Monday (with photos)

CLEAR LAKE | Just before 9:15 a.m. Monday morning, an excavator from McKiness Excavating of Mason City started to tear down the rear section of the Barrel Drive-In.

Besides the typical morning hustle and bustle of Casey's next door, and a few passersby witnessing its last moments, the start of demolition of the landmark restaurant — one that has served Clear Lakers and North Iowans since 1958 — was relatively quiet.

That stands in contrast, however, to the memories the drive-in generated for scores of people throughout the region. A few hours after the Globe Gazette posted on Facebook that the demolition had started, dozens of North Iowans had commented, and the post had been shared more than 200 times.

Matt Deardeuff, who now lives in Charles City, had been eating at the drive-in for more than 30 years. He said he is a lifelong friend of Seth Thackery, the restaurant's last owner.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

McKiness Excavating Inc. employees use machinery to demolish the Barrel Drive-In building in Clear Lake on Monday.

He commended Thackery for running the Barrel for an extended period of time, and was a fan right away when he visited as a kid: from servers skating out with food to cars parked out front, to the phones at the booths inside where customers could place their order.

Deardeuff believes financial instability is what caused the landmark restaurant to close.

"I just wish that all the online support translated into actual people walking through the door for a delicious meal," he said. "All the good sentiments, and memories do not help the bottom line."

During the past several years, there had been efforts from the community to try to save the Barrel. In Aug. 2014, the entire outside of the building received a fresh coat of paint from volunteers.

Earlier that year, Thackery won $75,000 for a business makeover. Community members helped create a "Save the Barrel" website, and the resturant was busy enough that Thackery was able to keep his doors open a month later than usual in 2014.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

McKiness Excavating Inc. employees use machinery to demolish the Barrel Drive-In building in Clear Lake on Monday.

The following year, thanks to donations and a lot of volunteer hours, the Barrel opened with new lights, a new sound system and renovated bathrooms, among other improvements.

Then, in April of last year, Thackery announced he was putting the business up for sale. Casey's, which has a gas station next door, bought the property for $342,500 last November.

Thackery could not be reached for comment via email Monday.

Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory said Casey's doesn't have any immediate plans to build an addition. James Pistillo, vice president and treasurer for Casey's, could not be reached for comment via email Monday morning.

The Barrel's popularity extended far and wide outside of Clear Lake's city limits, especially considering one of the volunteers who painted the building in 2014 is from Virginia.

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

McKiness Excavating Inc. employees use machinery to demolish the Barrel Drive-In building in Clear Lake on Monday.

Terance Fink, who lives in Sheffield, said he visited the Barrel frequently with his dad when he was growing up. He was a fan of its '50s atmosphere and how the restaurant allowed him to take a break from what can be a fast-paced life.

"I am just sad to see the old good stuff disappear, and all for a store that is around every corner, Casey's," Fink said. "But so be it, (it's a) fast pace life and no time for the good old days."

And like many who drove up to the drive-in or walked through its front door, both Deardeuff and Fink will miss the Barrel's signature meal.

"First and foremost, the chicken was excellent," Deardeuff said.

Photos: Barrel Drive-In through the years

Trump's strong words on guns give way to political reality

WASHINGTON — Not two weeks ago, President Donald Trump wagged his finger at a Republican senator and scolded him for being "afraid of the NRA," declaring that he would stand up to the powerful gun lobby and finally get results on quelling gun violence following last month's Florida school shooting.

On Monday, Trump struck a very different tone as he backpedaled from his earlier demands for sweeping reforms and bowed to Washington reality. The president, who recently advocated increasing the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon to 21, tweeted that he's "watching court cases and rulings" on the issue, adding that there is "not much political support (to put it mildly)."

Over the weekend, the White House released a limited plan to combat school shootings that leaves the question of arming teachers to states and local communities and sends the age issue to a commission for review. Just two days earlier, Trump had mocked commissions as something of a dead end while talking about the opioid epidemic. "We can't just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees," he said, adding that all they do is "talk, talk, talk."

Seventeen people were killed in last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, prompting a national conversation about gun laws, fierce advocacy for stronger gun control from surviving students and, initially, a move from Trump to buck his allies at the National Rifle Association.

In a televised meeting with lawmakers on Feb. 28, Trump praised members of the gun lobby as "great patriots" but declared "that doesn't mean we have to agree on everything. It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18."

He then turned toward Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, and questioned why previous gun control legislation did not include that provision.

"You know why?" said Trump, answering his own question. "Because you're afraid of the NRA, right? Ha ha."

His words rattled some Republicans in Congress and sparked hope among some gun control advocates that, unlike after so many previous mass shootings, meaningful regulations would be enacted. But Trump appeared to foreshadow his change of heart with a tweet the very next night.

"Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!" the president wrote.

White House aides said Monday the president was focusing on achievable options, after facing significant opposition from lawmakers on a more comprehensive approach. Trump will back two modest pieces of legislation, and the administration pledged to help states pay for firearms training for teachers.

Seemingly on the defensive after his about-face, Trump tweeted Monday of the age limit that "States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly)."

The White House insisted that Trump remained committed to more significant changes even if they are delayed.

"We can't just write things down and make them law. We actually have to follow a process," said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "Right now the president's primary focus is pushing through things we know that have broad bipartisan support."

She placed blame for the inaction on Capitol Hill. But Trump has made little effort to marshal the support of congressional Republicans or use his popularity with NRA voters to provide cover for his party during a contentious vote.

Democrats and gun control advocates were quick to pounce on the president's retreat from previous demands, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., tweeting that Trump "couldn't even summon the political courage to propose raising the age limit on firearm purchases — despite repeated promises to support such a step at a meeting with lawmakers."

Television personality Geraldo Rivera — who had urged the president to consider tougher age limits during a dinner at Trump's Florida club — tweeted that Trump had "blinked in face of ferocious opposition from #NRA."

Still, Trump argued that this was progress.

"Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House," he tweeted. He added that an effort to bar bump stock devices was coming and that "Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!"

Without strong advocacy from the White House, an ambitious gun package was unlikely to even get off the ground, given most Republicans' opposition to any new restrictions. The two measures backed by Trump — an effort to strengthen the federal background check system and an anti-school violence grant program — both enjoy bipartisan support, though some Republicans object and many Democrats say they are insufficient.

Trump drew some Republican backing, with Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who wrote the school safety bill, tweeting he was "grateful" for the White House backing and calling the measure "the best first step we can take" to make students safer.

Separately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday directed the FBI to identify localities that are not fully reporting information about arrests and mental health records to federal authorities. Such information could prevent someone from purchasing a gun if discovered during a background check.

Sessions told the FBI that people who can't legally own guns shouldn't be able to pass background checks "simply because information was not available to you."

No deadline was set for recommendations from Trump's planned commission, but officials expected them within a year.

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Swaledale man charged for possessing meth, cocaine, psychedelic mushrooms


MASON CITY | A Swaledale man detained for an OWI investigation early Monday morning has been charged with possessing meth, cocaine, psychedelic mushrooms and marijuana.

A Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s deputy stopped Chris Bruce, 45, in the 500 block of South Carolina Avenue about 1:53 a.m. Monday for an equipment violation.

The deputy observed a torch in plain view, charging documents said, and Bruce allegedly admitted to recently using meth, marijuana and alcohol, as well as having meth pipes in the vehicle.

Field sobriety tests determined Bruce was likely under the influence of narcotics, according to court documents.

Before the vehicle was towed, a deputy located a box with a “large quantity of marijuana in a built-in tool box attached to the vehicle,” according to the Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Department criminal complaint. The exact quantity was not specified in court documents.

“Further probable cause search yielded a large quality of meth (over 5 grams), cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms and a large amount of cash hidden within a natural void of the vehicle,” court documents said. A search also yielded a scale and baggies law enforcement said are typically used for narcotics sales.

Bruce had a “lack of convergence,” or the inability to focus on an item as it neared the bridge of his nose, the deputy noted in court documents, and was drowsy on the way to the jail and during the pre-booking process.

“Mr. Bruce also could not keep his eyes open while on the way the Sheriff’s Office, which indicated he was probably coming down from his ‘high,’” the deputy wrote in charging documents.

Bruce refused chemical testing, according to court documents.

He has been charged with:

• Possession with intent to deliver – methamphetamine.

• Possession with intent to deliver – marijuana.

• Possession of a controlled substance – cocaine – third or subsequent offense.

• Possession of a controlled substance – psilocybin mushroom – third or subsequent offense.

• Operating while under the influence – first offense.

• Failure to affix a drug tax stamp.

• Possession of drug paraphernalia.

He is being held without bond in the Cerro Gordo County Jail. A court date hasn’t been set.

Bruce pleaded guilty to two drug-related offenses in Cerro Gordo County in 1996 and 2000, court records indicate.

He was sentenced to five years in prison in 1996 for furnishing controlled substances to inmates, and 10 years in prison in 2000 for a controlled substance violation.

Updated: Psychedelic mushrooms, child endangerment and shoplifting: This month in North Iowa crime and courts (with mugshots)