DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Efforts to combat bullying and expand broadband internet access - both top priorities for Gov. Terry Branstad - remained alive in the state Legislature Thursday as a procedural deadline loomed, but other more partisan legislation was likely dead.
Lawmakers from the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-majority House lamented the bills that failed to advance, saying that good ideas had been discarded. Republicans sought changes to bargaining rules for teacher unions and tried to require women to get ultrasounds before having abortions. For Democrats those bills include an effort to provide more leave benefits to parents of adopted children and to increase the minimum wage.
“McDonalds is interested in raising the minimum wage, the House Republicans are not,” said House Democratic Minority Leader Mark Smith, of Marshalltown.
Under legislative rules, Friday is the deadline- known as the “second Funnel” -for many bills to get full approval from one chamber in the General Assembly and committee-level approval in the other chamber. Some bills, such as the budget, are not subject to the deadline, and legislative leaders could always revive a bill later in the session.
Lawmakers were set to complete their work for the week Thursday, and most will not report back to the Capitol until Monday.
A push to give schools more authority to respond to bullying remains alive and an effort to provide incentives for more broadband infrastructure in the state will continue because it is not subject to the deadline.
Lawmakers also are still working on a proposal to change gun laws that includes allowing children younger than 14 to use a handgun with a parent’s supervision, but that could face stiff opposition in the Senate.
The key challenge now facing lawmakers is agreeing on a state budget plan, but that process is moving slowly. All sides agree that this is a tight budget year, with limited new dollars, but Democrats and Republicans have different ideas on spending. Specifically, they can’t agree on how much additional funding to provide to K-12 education in the upcoming school year.
Democrats on Wednesday proposed that schools get about $150 million in new funding for the upcoming school year. That number - which includes dollars dedicated to teacher leadership training - is a middle point between the original proposals from House Republicans and Senate Democrats.
But House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said there is not enough new revenue coming into the state to justify more than the House first offered.
“We are not going to spend more than we have in ongoing revenue,” said Paulsen on Thursday, later adding that the House’s offer was already a stretch, “but it’s a commitment we’re willing to make.”
But Democrats say the state’s significant surplus fund dollars should be taken into account when making the plan. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, of Council Bluffs, accused Republicans of “short changing Iowa schools.”
The biggest bill approved so far this year in the Legislature was the bipartisan support for a 10-cent-a-gallon hike to the state fuel tax to pay for road improvements. Branstad signed that bill into law, and it took effect March 1.
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