State bills hit 2nd funnel

BY SHAWN GUDE | MARCH 30, 2009 7:40 AM

With revenue at paltry levels and budget concerns dominating headlines and lawmakers’ time in the Iowa Legislature session, non-appropriation bills have largely taken a back seat.

March 27 provided yet another hurdle: the second funnel deadline of the session, in which House bills must be reported out of their Senate committees, and vice versa.

A select few bills advanced, including a health-care expansion bill that proponents say would extend coverage to 30,000 uninsured Iowa children.

The Senate measure would increase the eligible income level for families with children 18 or under looking to apply for the state’s Hawk-i health-care program. When the House Human Resources Committee approved the bill, though, they axed provisions creating a commission to help small businesses and adults with health care coverage.

Insurance interest groups and our opponents chafed at the provisions, decrying them as overly bureaucratic.

Slamming such groups, Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, said “some day we have to break their hold.”
Hatch, who drafted the original version of the bill, remained optimistic the two chambers could reconcile their differences on the bill.

Here’s a look at other noteworthy bills and their statuses post-funnel deadline.

Bills still alive

• The House Public Safety Committee approved a Senate bill that would lower the legal blood-alcohol concentration for boaters from .10 to .08. Long championed by Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, it is now eligible for debate on the House floor, the chamber in which the proposal has been stymied in the past.

• Lawmakers in both chambers have passed a Senate bill that would attempt to curb pay discrimination based on sex, but the House amended the original bill. Consequently, the bill will likely go to a joint conference committee in the coming weeks. Its prospects are good, having passed the House by wide margin and the Senate by a comfortable — albeit largely partisan — one. Indeed, Rep. Vicki Lensing, D-Iowa City, said at a legislative forum over the weekend that the bill “should make it to the governor’s office.”

Halted bills

• A Senate measure aimed at protecting bicyclists didn’t receive approval by its House subcommittee, much to the consternation of some avid cyclists. “Many Iowa drivers are unaware of the rules of the road when it comes to dealing with bikers,” UI graduate student Jessie Grafenberg — vice president of the UI’s Tri-Hawk’s Triatholon — told the DI earlier this month. “These protections are needed for future bikers because several accidents happen every year.” Opponents derided the bill as unnecessary and essentially legislating common sense behavior.

• A bill that would have placed the hallucinogen Salvia on the state’s list of controlled substances failed to pass out of the House, its original chamber.

• A House bill that would have raised the compulsory age for high-school students from 16 to 17 didn’t gain enough traction to pass out of the House either.

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