- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Gov. Terry Branstad’s legislative priorities survived a procedural deadline in the Iowa General Assembly this week, while some more controversial bills appeared dead Thursday.

Bills dealing with veterans support, bullying prevention and expanding broadband Internet were set to survive a Friday deadline and are moving forward in the Legislature. All three issues are part of Branstad’s relatively modest legislative agenda for the year.

“We’re pleased with the progress,” said Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers. “The governor in his Condition of the State address outlined a focused agenda that we thought would receive bipartisan support.”

Bills on issues such as medical marijuana, abortion and gun rights did not meet the requirements to move forward.

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

Some bills are not subject to this deadline, like budget bills, and legislative leaders could always revive a bill later in the session. An exact number of bills introduced in the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-majority Senate was not available, but typically hundreds are introduced in both chambers before the first deadline.

Legislative leaders said they were satisfied with the progress made thus far in the session. This year is expected to be a light year for policy making because lawmakers tackled some sizable issues in 2013, including a property tax cut and new education spending. Also, this is an election year for most lawmakers, who are eager to conclude their work in the Capitol so they can get out on the campaign trail.

“I think our priorities are safely out of committee in this funnel week,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, citing legislation that would boost the minimum wage in Iowa and an effort to prevent wage theft.

Democratic bills that did not survive the funnel include an effort to legalize medical marijuana. Also, some other bills that remain viable may have a hard time passing muster later in the session, such as an effort to expand state preschool spending and to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Gronstal said he would prefer to focus on legislation that could find bipartisan support in the divided legislature.

“It always helps convince me to be willing to move bills forward if I make an evaluation that they have a path to being signed into law,” Gronstal said.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, declined to talk specifics about what bills he was glad to see move ahead, but he said he was satisfied with the pace of the session, noting that “the attitude of the members continues to be one of seriousness and focus.”

Among the bills that failed to advance in the House were an effort to amend the state constitution to add the right to bear arms and a proposal to make it easier for a woman to later sue a doctor who performed an abortion.

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