- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - As Iowa lawmakers seek a compromise that can resolve the budget and allow them to adjourn, two of Gov. Terry Branstad’s key priorities remain unresolved.

Branstad said in his condition of the state address in January that he wanted lawmakers to update Iowa’s anti-bullying law and pass legislation to expand high-speed Internet. He also prioritized both issues last session, but they failed to garner enough support after some lawmakers questioned their scope.

One year later, bills backed by Branstad for both issues appear stalled.

“We have resolved some key issues,” Branstad told reporters Thursday as he referenced signed bills on road funding and the school start date. “But we have other key issues.”

A bill that would add guidelines for educators to respond to cases of school bullying and would expand monitoring to include social media passed 43-7 in the Democratic-controlled Senate in March, but the Republican-led House has yet to take it up. Some lawmakers appear opposed to a parental notification exemption that would bypass telling a parent about a bullying case if the notification would be harmful to a student.



Legislation to expand broadband in Iowa also appears to be in trouble. It passed in the House 89-5 in April, but like the anti-bullying measure it’s in limbo in the other chamber.

A Senate Ways and Means subcommittee discussed the bill earlier this month but adjourned without taking formal action to advance it. It’s unclear when the panel will meet again. Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines and chairwoman of the subcommittee, said the bill needs work. She specified an unfunded grant program as one of her concerns.

In the latest broadband bill, language was removed on expansive tax incentives and cell tower placement. Key issues over funding for training in the anti-bullying bill are also off the latest version.

Despite these compromises aimed at helping the bills pass both chambers, time is running out. While lawmakers are at odds over the budget for the next fiscal year - particularly on K-12 education spending - party leaders could reach a compromise as soon as Monday when they resume negotiations.

If the budget bills could be resolved, some speculate the session could end as soon as Friday, but Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said that would be “rather challenging.”

Besides the education budget, lawmakers must resolve differences in spending for health and human services, and whether that should include funding for two state mental health facilities.

Branstad said he hopes budget issues can be worked out soon “so we can focus on policy and not spend all the time fighting over funding.”

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