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Iowa Politics Roundup: Deadline Looms for Action on Budget, Traffic Fines, and Weapons Permit PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 23 April 2010 13:30

Budget bills, an increase in traffic fines, and a bill that would take away the discretion of county sheriffs in issuing weapons permits are among key bills approved by the 2010 legislature that Governor Chet Culver must take action on before next Thursday's deadline.

By the end of this week, Culver will have already signed into law roughly 79 percent of the 196 bills approved this year, according to an review of enrolled bills. Approximately 41 remain, including most of the budget bills, which Culver has the authority to line-item-veto.

Key bills yet to see action include:

∙ House File 2531, the $2.7-billion clean-up standings bill approved on the last day of session, which contains the all-important $2.5 billion in state aid for K-12 schools and also includes provisions for bicycle safety and Jermiah's Law, increasing penalties for motorists who run red lights;

∙ Senate File 2389, the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund bill, which also includes $150 million in bonds for the I-JOBS II infrastructure program;

∙ Senate File 2381, the transportation budget bill, which also includes the mandate that all children under 18 use a seat belt, even when in the back seat;

∙ Senate File 2379, a bill making Iowa a "shall issue" state and taking away sheriffs' discretion in issuing weapons permits;

∙ Senate File 2378, the justice-system-budget bill that also includes an increase in numerous traffic fines; and

∙ House File 2526, the state's largest budget bill -- a health and human-services budget that spends $954.34 million from the general fund in Fiscal Year 2011 and uses $187.8 million from the state's cash reserves.

"I've been given no indication that he's going to veto any piece of legislation," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Des Moines).

Culver has declined to say whether he'll sign into law a bill making Iowa a "shall issue" state and a bill that would increase hundreds of traffic fines to raise an additional $9 million for he state.

Approximately 50 gun-rights advocates gathered on the west steps of the Capitol earlier this week, calling for fewer weapons restrictions and for Culver to sign the weapons-permit bill, which is backed by the National Rifle Association.

"It's the right thing to do," said Sean McClanahan -- president of Iowa Carry -- who said his group has members in Jasper, Emmett, and Dubuque counties who have had difficulty getting a permit. "This is not a Democratic-versus-Republican thing. This is a rights thing; this is a public safety thing."

House Minority Whip Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner) also said she hopes Culver signs the weapons-permit bill along with House File 2399, which could increase power rates by $15 million and allows MidAmerican Energy to undertake site-suitability studies for construction of a nuclear-power plant in Iowa.

Upmeyer also said some line-item vetoes by Culver in appropriations bill could curtail spending that Republicans say was excessive this year.

Meanwhile, traffic fines would increase in at least 180 areas if a portion of Senate File 2378, the justice-system appropriations bill, is signed into law. Increases would come in the areas of speeding, traffic violations, operating while intoxicated, open container, failure to obey a traffic-control device, failure to maintain control, and driving on the wrong side of a two-lane highway. The judicial branch would receive about $5.3 million -- the bulk of the proceeds.

Culver has hinted that he supports the fee increases, although he has the line-item-veto authority to strike it from the bill. "I think most Iowans would agree that criminals should pay if they break the law," he said. "And if you don't want to pay, you try not to break the law."

Other bills yet to see action include ones that would: require public schools and state agencies to use environmentally friendly cleaning products; deem it child abuse to expose a child to obscene materials; and require informed written consent for genetic tests and limit insurance companies from using that information to deny coverage. The stack of unsigned bills also contains several veterans bills, including one that would provide veterans a holiday for Veterans Day.

The 2010 Iowa legislature adjourned March 30 on the 79th day of session, making it the shortest session in nearly four decades. Sessions normally run 100 or 110 days; last year the legislature didn't adjourn until April 26. However, lawmakers managed to pass more bills this year: 185 bills were approved in the 2009 session, compared with 196 this year.

Branstad Tops Gubernatorial Candidates in Both Income and Donations

Republican gubernatorial candidate (and former Governor) Terry Branstad and his wife Christine had a 2009 adjusted gross income three times as much as Governor Chet Culver and his wife Mari, three times as much as state Representative Rod Roberts and his wife Trish, and nearly four times as much as Sioux City businessman Bob Vander Plaats and his wife Darla, according to summaries of 2009 income-tax returns released this week. Roberts and Vander Plaats are also seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Data released this week show Branstad and his wife had an adjusted gross income of $396,986 in 2009, which included a 10-month salary of $276,026 as president of the Des Moines University. Annualized, that would amount to about $331,231, compared to $130,000 he would earn if re-elected governor.

The Culvers' adjusted gross income was $126,745; the Robertses had an adjusted gross income of $136,488; and the Vander Plaatses reported an adjusted gross income of $103,562.

Branstad's gifts to charity totaled $41,178, or 10.4 percent of his adjusted gross income. The Vander Plaatses donated 5.5 percent of their adjusted gross income, the Robertses 4.2 percent, and the Culvers 2.2 percent.