This is the end of the eighth week of this session and it was our first funnel week. I have mentioned before that a funnel means in order to stay alive, a bill must pass from a standing committee. As you can imagine, there was a lot of activity at the Capitol as sub-committees and committees met to get legislation moving.
Some bills will die, and most will not even get considered. Those that advance are generally either non-controversial clean-up bills, or they are the major pieces of legislation that we see in the papers or hear about on radio or television.
As we move into next week, I will be able to give you a better report as to what has fallen by the wayside and what is still being considered. As this is being written, I do know that several major bills have made it out of committee, and I will mention a few of them here.
I should mention from the get-go that we have not moved anything concerning the state budget other than school aid. In a couple of weeks, lawmakers will get a new revenue estimate from the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC). That is why we are not really moving too fast with our budget bills. When we get that report, we will start finalizing the budget. My fear is that the REC will give us numbers that are lower than we would like to see. If that happens, more cuts will be made.
Our goal is to adjourn in about 45 days. If we can accomplish this, that is a good thing. But it also means a lot of late nights, and a lot of number crunching crammed into a short period of time.
I serve on the House Transportation Committee and on Wednesday we advanced a bill that will prohibit the use of any electronic communication device while driving. The legislation allows a peace officer to stop or detain a person for using a cell phone. The aim is to especially deal with texting, but it goes beyond that. It is called the “hands-free” bill, and as it moves on through the process, it could change. We have seen a dramatic increase in traffic accidents and the consensus is that most of this can be attributed to distracted driving.
I also serve on the Natural Resources Committee, and on Wednesday, we voted unanimously to allow the Department of Natural Resources to increase fees for hunting, fishing and trapping. This is an $800 million industry for Iowa, and these fees have not been increased for quite a few years. In order to keep up with increasing costs, the committee members felt it was time to raise more revenue. The bill that advanced will bring in an additional $25 million per year.
I do not like to raise taxes and fees, but I did vote for the bill because I know and appreciate the need for recreational opportunities in Iowa.
Another bill that will move forward deals with the “bottle bill”. The proposal would repeal the current law and replace it with a broader recycling and litter reduction program. I have to admit that I do not know the details of this proposal, but my guess is that most Iowans are satisfied with the current law. We will watch this one closely, as it may die in the end.
Gun legislation also moved forward with a watered-down version when compared to the original bill. I will know more about this next week, as well as legislation dealing with medical marijuana. This is just an example of what is going on here. When the dust settles on Friday afternoon, we will have a better idea as to what has survived.
There are bills dealing with abortion, school vouchers, workman’s compensation and water quality. So if you have an interest in any these issues, please let me know what you think the Legislature should do.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319. My home address is P. O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.