A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Thursday, March 10, 2016:

TIMELY PRECIPITATION AIDS IOWA: All of Iowa remains drought free and stream flows remain normal to above normal for about half of the state, according to the National Drought Monitor.

February precipitation was above normal in the northwest half of Iowa and well below normal across east-central Iowa and the far southwest sections of the state.

Statewide, average precipitation fell at slightly less than an inch and slightly less than normal.

The report at the DNR website is prepared by the technical staff from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the U.S. Geological Survey in collaboration with The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department and the National Weather Service.

EASIER MILITARY VOTING: A bill signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad Thursday will make it easier for Iowa’s overseas military members and citizens to vote, and ensuring their votes are counted.

HF 2147 gives Iowans serving or visiting overseas an extra 30 days to request, receive and return special absentee ballots, extending the time from 90 days to 120 days prior to an election.

“We should do everything possible to make sure the people defending our right to choose our elected representatives are also given the opportunity to cast their ballots,” said Secretary of State Paul Pate, whose office oversees elections.

Col. Greg Hapgood with the Iowa National Guard also applauded Pate, Branstad and lawmakers' efforts to provide greater voting access for Iowa service members.

“This law strengthens our Iowa service members’ constitutional right to vote while they are defending our freedoms,” he said.

HIGHER GAS PRICES: Rising global crude oil prices are translating into higher prices at Iowa service station pumps.

This week’s price of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $1.94 per gallon across Iowa, according to AAA. That was an 8-cent increase from one week ago and 54 cents a gallon lower than one year ago. The national average price was $1.82, an increase of three cents per gallon from last week.

Retail diesel fuel prices in Iowa were 6 cents higher with a statewide average of $1.99 a gallon. One year ago diesel prices averaged $2.80 per gallon in Iowa. Propane prices were unchanged from last week with a statewide average of $1.01 per gallon, while home heating oil rose eight cents a gallon from last week’s figures, ending with a statewide average of $1.61.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I appreciate that Chairperson Sands brought this to me yesterday – sooner than the Senate Democrats did. You can print that. Maybe they will get the damn message,” Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, talking about a tax deal approved by the committee Wednesday.

-- Compiled by the Globe Gazette Des Moines Bureau

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