At the close of Thursday’s work in the Iowa House and Senate the first funnel in the legislative calendar has been reached and all policy bills that did NOT make it out of their committee of origin are no longer eligible for consideration this year. However, the subject matter in those bills could certainly find a home in other legislation in the form of an amendment or in the form of policy language that is inserted into a budget bill. So, when we say a bill is dead, it should always be with the qualifying phrase: “well, sort of”.
What Lived. What Died. And What is Still to Come.
Lived: Final committee action on a number of items is not known at the time of newsletter publication and there might be additions to this list. Major policy bills that move to the next step include:
- Broadband expansion. Bills in both the House and Senate addressing elimination of hurdles to, and incentives for, broadband expansion moved forward.
- Cell tower siting. The House Commerce Committee on a 22-1 vote passed a bill designed to streamline the application and approval process for getting more cell towers built in Iowa as part of the rural broadband deployment solution.
- Anti-bullying. This is a Governor Branstad priority and it received approval from the House Education Committee and moves to the full House for consideration.
- Fireworks legalization. Hopes for legal fireworks purchase and use in Iowa by July 4th remain high as this legislation remains alive and sparkling.
- Raise the top speed limit from 70 to 75 mph.
- Raise the legal age to purchase of tobacco products from 18 to 19.
- Deregulation of voice services on the Internet (IP networks).
- Raise the amount of surety bonds that must be posted by companies wishing to build pipelines in Iowa.
- Additional curbs on the use of eminent domain for pipeline and transmission line projects.
Yet to Come: Taxes and Spending start taking center stage once the calendar clears the first funnel deadline. In particular, the 10 different bills that constitute the entirety of the state budget have yet to begin their journey in either the House or Senate. At this point, coming to terms on the final state budget faces significant obstacles that could keep this General Assembly working late into May (or perhaps even June):
- The House and Senate remain deadlocked on the amount of supplemental state aid to our K-12 schools. The House insists on a growth rate of 1.25% and the Senate is demanding growth at 4%. As this budget item is the single largest in the entire state budget, resolution of the budget hinges on first finding agreement on this line item.
- In addition, there is no agreement between the House and Senate on setting joint budget targets. Before deciding how to divide up the budget pie, House and Senate leaders must first agree on its size and they are far from arriving at a number acceptable to both sides (let alone the Governor’s office).