Wrapping up the Iowa 2012 legislative session


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As the 2012 session begins to wrap up, the biggest remaining differences between the Iowa Senate and House involve investments in education. This includes proposals to improve early reading skills, reduce Iowa's shortage of skilled workers, and ensure college is affordable for Iowa families.

Last year, the longest session in recent memory, ended relatively quickly once conference committees were established. Conference committees comprise five legislators from the House and five from the Senate. Their task is to resolve the differences between the two chambers on key bills.

This year, Senate Democrats look forward to a side-by-side, public comparison of our differences with the House. We believe this effort will benefit educational opportunity and support job creation.

You may be happy to know that the government-efficiencies legislation we're working on may make it easier for you to renew your Iowa driver's license and other identification cards.

Typically, renewing your licenses and IDs requires a trip to a driver's license station every five years. Senate File 2299, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, would reduce in-person renewal to once every 10 years. That's more convenient for Iowans and saves taxpayers as much as $1 million.

Under the proposal, Iowans between 18 and 65 could renew their driver's licenses online within the 30-day period before their expiration date as long as they aren't updating basic biographical information, subject to driving restrictions, or changing their type of license.

Online renewal is already successfully used in 29 other states. The Senate is pushing to allow Iowans to save time and money the same way.

In other vehicle-related legislation, drivers who fail to stop for school buses now face increased penalties in Iowa.

"Kadyn's Law" was approved by the Legislature and went immediately into effect when signed by Gov. Terry Branstad. The legislation is in memory of Kadyn Halverson, a first-grader who was killed last year by a driver who illegally passed a stopped school bus.

Drivers must stop at least 15 feet away from a stopped bus whenever the red lights are flashing and slow to 20 mph when amber lights are flashing. Failing to do so could now result in fines up to $675 and up to 30 days in jail. Any driver who causes an injury from failing to stop will face higher fines, more jail time, and suspension of driver's license.

While driving, let's always keep an eye out for schoolchildren, whether we're near a school bus or not.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky

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