DES MOINES — The split-control Legislature faces its own version of March madness this week as inactivity on many bills leaves legislative brackets in shambles for both Democrats and Republicans.
Must-do priorities like education reform, property tax relief and mental health redesign will survive.
But a host of other issues are “on the bubble” or are unseen and presumed dead when Friday’s second self-imposed “funnel” deadline sidelines any non-money measures that have failed to pass the House or the Senate and a committee of the other chamber.
Bills that would toughen penalties for illegally passing a school bus, establish a state cost-share program to help local communities deal with floods and other natural disasters, provide stillborn birth/death certificates and nullify a state Natural Resources Commission rule banning lead shot when hunting mourning doves have likely green lights to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk.
However, measures designed to expand gun rights and self-defense measures against unprovoked attacks, license naturalistic medicine and allow white emergency flashing vehicle lights for certain health-care professionals appear to have fallen off the legislative grid, while a number of issues — state regulation of legalized online poker, a ban on traffic enforcement cameras and a prohibition of job posting that discriminates against unemployed Iowans — face significant challenges this week to stay viable.
“It’s on the bubble,” said Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, of the House bill to prohibit traffic-monitoring devices. “I’m right at 50 votes. It had momentum but it lost a little bit of steam. We’ll see.”
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said last week the bill likely will die this week if more support doesn’t materialize, but issues can be resurrected as amendments to other bills or if they can become Appropriations, Oversight or Ways and Means Committee measures or become special leadership bills.
In the case of the traffic-cameras bill, Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, has attached an amendment to ban on an omnibus state Department of Transportation policy bill in hopes of forcing a debate on the issue in the Senate — a move that could doom an effort to allow certain drivers to renew their licenses online if that DOT bill falls under the weight of excess baggage.
The Senate is slated today to debate legislation legalizing online poker at state-licensed casinos under regulation by the state Racing and Gaming Commission.
However, Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, said backers have the option of making the bill a Ways and Means Committee bill if need be to keep it exempt from Friday’s “funnel” if they need to buy more time to secure the 26 Senate votes needed for passage.
There are also several bills that were passed last session but fell victim to the March 2011 funnel that appear ready to suffer a repeat this week.
Included on that list are measures seeking to amend Iowa’s Constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman, require voters to produce photo identification to cast an election ballot, and modify teen graduated driver’s license provisions to restrict passengers and extend driving time.