- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - With the bipartisan approval of a fuel tax increase out of the way, Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday that he was still hoping to win approval for two other legislative priorities - an anti-bullying bill and an effort to expand broadband Internet access.

Both bills were set to advance as the Legislature approached a procedural deadline, while some other, more partisan legislation appeared dead.

“We don’t expect the Legislature is going to approve verbatim our recommendations, but we are pleased that our top priorities are in a (good) position,” Branstad said.

Under legislative rules, known as “funnel week,” Friday is the deadline for most bills to receive committee-level approval in the state House or Senate. Lawmakers were set to complete their work for the week Thursday, and most will not report back to the Capitol until Monday.

Some bills, such as the budget, are not subject to the deadline, and legislative leaders could always revive a bill later in the session. Because legislative control is divided between the two parties, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans holding a majority in the House, only bills with broad support are likely to survive.

“We’ve been able to take one issue and work together in a broadly deeply, bipartisan way,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, of Council Bluffs, “I’m hopeful we will go through that again on the other set of issues that divide us.”

The Legislature recently gave bipartisan support to a 10-cent-a-gallon hike to the state fuel to pay for road improvements. Branstad has signed that bill into law, and it took effect March 1.

Branstad has unsuccessfully sought legislation before on broadband access and bullying. This year, committees in both chambers have approved a bill that would allow school officials to address bullying outside of school grounds and expand the definition of cyberbullying. And legislation that seeks to provide incentives to help service providers build up infrastructure for broadband is moving ahead on both sides, though lawmakers are debating whether the state should fund a grant program as part of the effort. That bill has received a committee-level approval on both sides.

Bills with support in both chambers that remain alive include a plan to legalize the sale of more fireworks in the state and an effort to make changes to the state’s gun laws, including lowering age limits to when children could use guns with a parent’s supervision.

Senate Democrats have approved bills that would boost the minimum wage and curtail cases of wage theft. In the House, Republican lawmakers gave committee-level backing to a bill that would change the arbitration process for teachers in the state. They also expected to approve legislation mandating that women seeking an abortion would have to undergo an ultrasound and be offered the chance to see the image. Those proposals are unlikely to advance further.

Republican bills that did not survive include an attempt to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage, as well as a number of attempts to restrict abortion access. Unsuccessful Democratic bills include one that would have required contractors to offer better pay to workers for public improvement projects costing more than $25,000.

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