- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Legislative leaders hope to finish their session next week after work slowed the past few days over disagreements on the budget and a few remaining policy bills.

“We are hopeful we have most pieces near resolution,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Friday.

The buzz for a few days has been lawmakers could try to finish work for the 2014 session by spending a long Saturday at the Capitol, but a few disagreements created a hiccup in adjournment plans. Gronstal said the plan is to return Monday and likely wrap up the session on Tuesday.

“Early next week we should be done barring something unforeseen,” said House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha. “Everything that needs to be negotiated is in its final form or very close to final form.”

Gronstal indicated budget negotiations were the sticking point as the week progressed. Agreement has been reached on some including education and transportation, which have passed both the House and Senate.

Three budget bills have been assigned to conference committees to work out differences after the House and Senate disagreed with one another’s amendments. They are the agriculture budget, health and human services, and the infrastructure appropriations bill which allocates money from various state funds for a wide variety of programs including routine maintenance of state buildings, certain economic development programs, and cultural affairs.

The House has not yet passed the standings appropriations bill which is a sweeping measure with more than $3 billion of state spending for a variety of purposes across several state agencies. It is often the last bill of the session passed and often attracts last-minute and sometimes controversial amendments on issues that lawmakers hope to get through in the rush to adjournment.

Amendments attached to the bill now include a requirement for doctors to file reports on cases of spontaneous abortions and two issues involving possession of guns.

One of Gov. Terry Branstad’s policy priorities unexpectedly fell to defeat Friday.

The House could muster only 44 votes for the bill designed to expand high speed Internet access to rural Iowans. It drew 51 “no” votes, including nine Republicans.

Rep. Guy Vander Linden, R-Oskaloosa, said the bill was too loose with tax incentives for telecommunications companies.

“It sounds like a blank check I’m not willing to sign,” he said.

A provision giving cellular companies more control over tower placement that angered city and county officials was removed at the last minute.

Branstad pushed the idea because he said it would allow for rural businesses to connect to a global marketplace.

“Rather than coming together to pass common sense legislation to increase broadband access in rural Iowa, Iowa House Democrats have turned their backs on rural Iowans and those who are underserved,” he said in a statement.

House Democratic Leader Mark Smith said the Republicans failed to get enough votes to get to a majority support.

House Democrats firmly believe the bill does not go far enough in expanding broadband access to more homes and small businesses,” he said.

Paulsen said the Republicans who voted against it did so because they were representing the constituents in their districts. He said Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill and Democrats largely opposed it.

The Iowa House passed a pared down school anti-bullying bill and sent it back to the Senate and the Senate bounced back to the House a bill that helps soldiers returning home from the military by exempting military pensions from state income tax and helping them find jobs.

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