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Daily Audio Newscast - February 29, 2024

News from around the nation.

Proposed Indiana law prohibits US adversaries from buying farmland; SCOTUS to hear Trump Immunity case, Mitch McConnell says he will stand down; the University of Arkansas tackles affordable housing crisis with a prototype; Texas teachers say they're burned-out, the majority want to leave public education.


[MUSIC] The Public News Service Daily Newscast on this leap day, February 29th, 2024.

I'm Mike Clifford.

Legislation aimed at stopping US adversaries from owning farmland in states like Indiana will be argued before the full Senate in that state today.

Our Joe Ulori reports.

>> GOP representative Kendall Culp of Rensselaer authored House Bill 1183.

If approved, it would bar citizens and companies from China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela from buying or leasing agriculture land in the state.

Any property located within 10 miles of military armories or within 50 miles of military bases.

Culp represents House District 16.

>> Chinese interests, for example, own about 400,000 acres in the US.

2.2% of Indiana's farmland is owned by foreign entities.

>> Culp says Indiana's Attorney General would be tasked with enforcing the law, opponents argue the bill goes too far, and punishes Hoosiers, who fled one of the six targeted countries to legally become US citizens.

>> A national security expert, Brian Kavanaugh, warned the Senate Ag Committee that our adversaries are strategic, and they do their homework.

The Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to decide whether former President Donald J.

Trump is immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

New York Times reports the justices scheduled arguments for the week of April 22nd, and they said proceedings in the trial court would remain frozen while they considered the matter, raising concerns about how quickly Trump could go to trial.

Meantime, the Associated Press reports Mitch McConnell, the longest serving Senate leader in history, who maintained his power in the face of dramatic convulsions in the Republican Party for almost two decades, will step down from his position in November.

McConnell, who just turned 82, announced his decision in the well of the Senate.

And the dream of home ownership may not be far away in Arkansas.

Daniel Smith has more in this KUAF, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Arkansas News Service collaboration.

>> Students and faculty at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design are creating housing prototypes that can be built in higher densities and on smaller pieces of land.

Department Chair Professor John Folin says the homes are customized to meet their owners needs while also being environmentally friendly and perhaps most important, affordable.

Folin notes one third of all Arkansas households fall under what's known as ALICE threshold.

>> I think the recognition of ALICE is probably one of the most significant moments in understanding the contemporary housing crisis.

>> ALICE stands for Assets Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, meaning people who earn income above the poverty line but not enough to afford basic necessities.

>> This is public news service.

Two thirds of those who make the public schools function in Texas say they want to leave according to a new survey.

And the teachers union there says parents should be alarmed.

>> Nicole Hill with the American Federation of Teachers in Texas says the percentage of people dissatisfied is inching up in each survey.

A large education funding package failed in the legislature last year and Governor Greg Abbott has said he won't support it unless lawmakers also agree to voucher programs that can be used to subsidize students private education.

Hill says the impasse has left many school employees burned out.

>> Teachers and nurses and counselors and bus drivers, everybody who works in a school say that they are actively considering leaving their jobs and not just their job at that school but the whole profession.

>> I'm Roz Brown.

>> A bill introduced to address workload in the schools did not receive a hearing by lawmakers last year.

South Dakota once again at the center of a debate about the future of direct democracy.

A legislative plan would shake up signature rules for citizen led ballot initiatives.

>> The plan now making its way through the state senate would create a process for residents who want their signature removed from a petition for a statewide ballot question.

Bill sponsor Republican Representative John Hanson testified at a Senate committee hearing this week.

He views it as a pro-democracy attempt to help residents if they feel misled by a person or group circulating petitions.

>> For petitioners, the reality is if you've been an honest broker, you got absolutely nothing to worry about with this bill.

>> But skeptics note this comes amid a petition effort to bring back abortion rights in South Dakota, and Hanson is a leading opponent of that plan.

The Republican led legislature has made previous attempts to limit the scope of ballot initiatives following proposals like marijuana legalization and Medicaid expansion.

Lawmakers are pursuing work requirements for the Medicaid expansion even after voters endorse that idea.

I'm Mike Moen.

>> The organization leading the abortion petition has suggested legal action is possible if the bill is adopted.

Finally, from our Eric Galatis, Colorado lawmakers are considering ways to address a projected $24 million funding shortfall in the Healthy School Meals for All program.

>> And grants to help districts purchase food from local farmers and ranchers could be at risk.

Mesa County School District Nutrition Services Director Dan Sharp says serving fresh locally sourced foods as opposed to highly processed foods shipped across country gives kids the fuel they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

>> There's evidence based research that the more locally sourced our food supply is, whether we get it at the grocery store through our school meal programs, is a higher quality and better nutritious product for our students.

>> This is Mike Clifford for Public News Service, member and listener supported.

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