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Do-or-die week for non-spending bills in Legislature

Rod Boshart, CR Gazette –

DES MOINES — The 2012 legislative session’s compressed schedule means time will likely run out this week on a number of issues that lack adequate support to move forward.

Members of the split-control Legislature agreed to move up by one week the initial deadline for most bills to get approved by a House or Senate committee to remain eligible for consideration this year. That first so-called “funnel” deadline arrives on Friday, and with it comes the end of the line for a host of bills that include reinstating the death penalty and ending collective bargaining for public employees.

“It’s like a death in the family,” said Rep. Jeremy Taylor, R-Sioux City, who will see several bills he introduced fall victim to the legislative Grim Reaper by week’s end. “It’s somewhat disappointing any time a legislative proposal doesn’t have legs.”

Among the bills “on the bubble” this week is a measure pushed by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and the state Department of Public Safety to require DNA samples from people convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor that could be kept in a state database similar to fingerprints. A Senate committee balked at the expansion — opposed by civil libertarians and others — that’s projected to cost $654,000 the first year and $500,000 annually thereafter.

Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said proponents have agreed to remove driving while barred and some other vehicle-related offenses from the list of

DNA-eligible crimes and to push implementation back to fiscal 2014 in hopes of garnering enough support to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

“I don’t think it’s dead,” he said, “but they’re going to have to talk to our members.”

Other bills have been modified to keep them active for consideration, such as a proposed constitutional amendment making it harder for officials to limit who can buy and carry a gun, and a separate measure that allows the state to fine elected or appointed government officials who try to ban firearms from certain public buildings. However, another weapon-related House bill aiming to offer protection from criminal charges or lawsuits to people who use “reasonable force, including deadly force” in an effort to protect themselves was able to move ahead intact.

A late-arriving bill to bring illegal online poker activities from offshore operations under state regulation is expected to get fast-track consideration in subcommittee today. Likewise, Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposed education reforms are expected to stay on track when a House education panel takes up the package this week.

But other measures seeking to expand Iowa’s “safe haven” law to a year from the current 14 days for parents who choose to give up a child for adoption, expand the state’s open meetings and open records law, or raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour likely will be relegated to the sidelines.

“There’s a myriad of bills that to a certain small segment of Iowans matter, and there’s a little bit of drama associated with that,” said Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, speaker pro tempore of the Iowa House.

The session’s priority issues of reforming education, redesigning the mental-health service delivery system, providing property tax relief and reform, and revamping the tax increment financing law all remain on track this year and will be unaffected by Friday’s deadline, he said. But otherwise, he said it appeared the compressed, election-year session has pared back the workload as lawmakers face the reality of a 100-day or less session and the prospects of post-reapportionment campaigning.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, said the level of “firing back and forth” between the House and Senate has “really whittled down” this year.

“I think moving the session up a week definitely does put a clamp on the number of bills that are out there,” he said. “… It makes you focus on the things that you think are going to pass both chambers.”

Issue updates

Here is a status snapshot of some legislative issues heading into Friday’s “funnel” deadline for non-spending bills to clear one House or Senate committee to remain eligible for debate this year:


Provide property tax reform/relief

Ban traffic enforcement cameras

Provide flood mitigation state cost-share money

Increase the state gas tax by 8 to 10 cents a gallon

Give “whistle-blower” protection in child sexual abuse cases

Nullify dove-hunting rule banning lead shot

Raise the state’s earned income tax credit

Expand law officers’ GPS tracking authority

Allow certain drivers to renew their licenses online

Toughen penalties for illegally passing a school bus

Resume regular state inspections of care facilities

Allow use of justified reasonable force

Create state tax credit reporting/tracking system

Make changes to Iowa’s child abuse registry

Extend state livestock regulations to fish farms

Bolster protections for bald eagles

Strike Iowa code references to medical marijuana

Approve state tax rebate for “Field of Dreams” project

Allow local pre-emption of state gun laws for certain public buildings

License naturopathic medicine

Create statewide health information network

Unlikely to survive

Reinstate limited death penalty

Require motorcycle helmets for minors

Create medical marijuana dispensaries

Repeal road use tax fund by July 2015

End public employee collective bargaining

Raise driver’s permit issuance to age 16 years

Strike mourning dove hunting season

Tie regent presidents’ pay to tuition increases

Bar collection of union dues from illegal immigrants

Restructure or Eliminate Frivolous, Obsolete and Redundant Mandates (REFORM) bill

Designate “Iowa Waltz” the state song

Bar weapons-grade materials at nuclear plants in Iowa

Amend Constitution to ban traffic enforcement cameras

Beef up enforcement of open meetings/records law

Expand protections for mobile park residents

Create blue alert system for public safety emergencies

Ban full-body scanners at Iowa airports

Raise state’s minimum wage

Shield cities from sledding mishap liability

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