- Associated Press - Sunday, April 27, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Legislature is poised to finish its work Tuesday as lawmakers approve final budget bills and complete negotiations on several measures backed by Gov. Terry Branstad.

If legislators adjourn as planned, it will be a week after expense payments for lawmakers ran out and jobs ended for many staffers.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal and Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen said Friday that in the last couple days, staffers would complete final paperwork and lawmakers would approve the remaining budget bills and policy priorities.

“Everything that needs to be negotiated is in final form or very close to final form,” Paulsen said.

The Legislature began the year with a modest list of priorities from Branstad, including expansion of high-speed Internet to rural areas, anti-bullying policies for schools, initiatives to encourage veterans to move to Iowa, and an apprenticeship program that allows students to make money while they learn a trade.

The high-speed Internet broadband bill was unexpectedly rejected in the House on Friday when nine Republicans joined all but two Democrats in opposing the measure. Some Republicans said the bill gave too many tax breaks to telecommunications companies.

The anti-bullying bill remains alive in a pared-down version the House sent back to the Senate on Friday. If the Senate rejects the House amendment the bill will end up in a conference committee to work out differences.

The House amendment removes funding for training of teachers and administrators and says the training should be part of their professional development. It also requires districts to establish notification procedures for bullying.

Gronstal said he intends to get a bill to the governor.

“There’s too much bullying in this state and we need to figure out ways to make sure school districts are responsive to it and that they investigate it and they deal with it quickly and stop it from happening. We’re going to continue to work toward that goal,” Gronstal said.

Lawmakers also were working on a bill increasing benefits to veterans, including an exemption of military retirement pay from income taxes. The goal of the bill is to encourage Iowa veterans to remain in the state and for others to move here.

“We believe this bill will help,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls.

The apprenticeship bill remains on the agenda, but the Senate has approved job training funds that House leaders oppose.

The session began with a degree of bipartisan cooperation and a shared to desire to end quickly so lawmaker and Branstad could turn toward campaigning before the June primary election, but it took a dramatic turn in March when former state workers reported they had been paid to remain silent about their dismissal. The settlement agreements, confidentiality clauses and so-called “hush money” created a hyper-political environment and embroiled Branstad’s administration in controversy that led him to fire the director of the Department of Administrative Services.

The Senate Government Oversight Committee plans to continue investigations into the summer into who authorized the payments and other executive branch issues, including a do-not-hire list of former state workers, hiring and firing policies, and contract issues.

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