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Bills die in Des Moines as procedural deadline passes

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | FEBRUARY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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A number of bills died in Des Moines late last week as a procedural deadline narrowed the spectrum of topics remaining for the session.

The first “funnel,” a rule that requires a majority of bills to pass subcommittee level approval, ended on Feb. 21 after lawmakers spent the beginning of the week pushing for last-minute approval of key issues.

Representatives and senators left with dead bills do have some remedies at their disposal — those include a bipartisan leadership bill in either the House or Senate or inserting proposals into appropriations bills not subjected to the deadlines.

The funnel means medicinal marijuana and a large initiative for solar panels at the state’s regent institutions are unlikely. But legalizing fireworks, restricting drone use, and making texting while driving a primary offense move on for more debate until the next deadline, which requires bills to pass one of the two chambers in a couple of weeks.

STILL ACTIVE

Texting While Driving

Senate Study Bill 3191 would allow police officers to pull over drivers who are texting — regardless of if they had broken any other laws or not. Currently, officers can only stop someone when they have violated another law, which includes running a red light. The bill passed a Senate committee late last week.

Fireworks

Iowans would be able to buy and use fireworks for the first time in decades if Senate Study Bill 3182 continues its progress. The bill would allow county supervisors and city councils and the state fire marshal to make their own decisions on the issue even if it is passed. The proposal makes selling or letting anyone under 18 use fireworks a simple misdemeanor — punishable for no more than 30 days in jail and at least a $65 fine but not more than $250.

Minimum Wage

Iowa’s minimum wage would be raised to $10.10 by 2016 if Senate Study Bill 3194 passes. The proposal raises the minimum 75 cents by July 1 and 70 cents more at three intervals ending in 2016.

Gas Tax

The state’s gas tax — other than biofuels — would be raised 6 cents over the next two years under House Study Bill 514. The additional money would be put into a special fund until 2028 when they would be put into the road-use tax fund.

DEAD

Marijuana Decriminalization

House File 2313 would have changed criminal penalties related to marijuana offences of less than one kilogram. Those changes include making possession of at least 42.5 grams, but no more than one kilogram, a simple misdemeanor. But if the violation were less than 42.5 grams and not near a school it would have been punishable by a scheduled fine of $300. The bill also would have changed penalties for manufacturing or delivering marijuana as well — provided the violation were less than one kilogram.

Medicinal Marijuana

Senate File 2215 would have legalized medicinal use of marijuana provided a qualified patient obtains and uses a state issued card. Patients would have to follow regulations for how they use cannabis and would not be exempt from uses not covered by the bill — such as driving after using marijuana. A board of state medical experts would also have been set up by Aug. 15 to look at expanding the covered medical conditions. Conditions covered by the bill to start out would have been cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, AIDS or HIV, and spinal-cord damage with intractable spasticity.

Increase Drunk-Driving Penalties

House File 2220 would have increased the minimum prison sentence for first-, second-, and third-offense OWI. Currently, a first-offense OWI means a minimum 48-hour sentence and a $1,250 fine. This would have been upped to seven days in jail and a $3,750 fine. Second offense OWI would be increase to 35 days in jail and a $10,00 fine — instead of the current minimum of seven days and minimum fine of $1,875 with a maximum of $6,250. Third offense OWI would mean at least five years in jail, which is the current maximum, and a minimum $25,000 fine.

Solar energy at regent universities

An $18 million solar-energy project at the state’s three regent universities would have been started under House File 2203 and Senate File 2005. The two bills would have required the three institutions to have systems that would produce no less than 2,000 kilowatts. For comparison, 750 kilowatts powers roughly 100-200 residences. The bill further required only equipment manufactured in the United States to be used for the installation. Universities would also have to file an annual report with top Statehouse members each year for five years to update on the progress and benefits of the construction.


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