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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Surviving the funnel

Monday, February 15, 2010

(Photo)
This week is the first funnel so bills must be reported out of a Senate or House committee by Friday in order to survive. Obviously, there has been extra time set aside for committee meetings and there has been very little floor debate. That will change by the end of the week. Normally, during a funnel week, there is no action on the floor. However, the majority party is insisting that the House pass the massive state government reorganization bill at the end of the week -- could even be Saturday and hopefully not Sunday. What's the hurry? This bill, which is supposed to save money, will be used by the democrats as they establish targets and craft a budget. There are a lot of amendments to the bill, so as it stands right now, no one really knows how much money might be saved. The final number, plus the projected savings from the early retirement bill will be subtracted from the probable $1.1 billion spending gap. I know the majority party leaders want to release budget targets early next week, so they must push this legislation. This is a huge bill -- 255 pages, and is not without controversy. There will be winners and losers, so there is still a lot of horse trading and bickering. That is why it is so hard to predict when the final vote will be taken. This is being written on Thursday afternoon. Who knows, about the time I say we will be here on Saturday, they will come out and send us home for the weekend.

The budget is the top issue this year so the number of bills being passed from committees seems to be lower. That's a good thing. Some of this stuff should not even be voted from a committee. I heard that a Senate committee lumped 16 bills together and passed the whole batch out on a voice vote -- no discussion or debate. I'm not sure that is true, but it would not surprise me if it did happen. We will know more next week what bills are still alive and which ones are dead.

There were several bills of interest on committee calendars this week. Two were in the Transportation Committee, and dealt with driving. The first bill attempts to put a halt to texting while driving. It is a pretty weak bill and will be hard to enforce, but committee members felt it was worth moving this forward. I supported the bill. The second bill sought to make changes in the way drivers licenses are issued to teens. Backers sought to put limits on the hours a teen could drive and the number of minors who could be passengers at one time. The bill passed out of committee easily, but I did not support it because at the time of the vote, I still had some unanswered questions. Since then, I have received the answers to my questions, and even though it seems to be another government intrusion, it is not as onerous as I feared, and I will most likely support it if it gets to the floor.

In some form or another, it would appear that all four of the major labor bills will remain alive. I have received a lot of e-mails and calls regarding these bills, and even though they have been watered down, I will not be supporting any of them. With a struggling economy and continued job loss, it would seem to me we should be doing more things to create and retain jobs. Instead, we seem to be more intent on chasing businesses away.

The State Auditor issued a report on the Governor's proposed budget. He says the budget is not balanced and the Governor violates the spending limitation law. The Auditor uses numbers provided from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, so I am thinking he is probably more accurate in his calculations than Governor Culver. Now, I'm not saying the Governor is not telling us the truth. I'm saying that he relies on a lot of assumptions and in some places, the

numbers just don't add up. The Auditor and Governor are from opposite parties, so there is going to be the usual political bickering. However, I have always found Auditor Vaudt to be fair. After all, he was never afraid to lay into Republican legislators about over-spending. We deserved a lot of his criticism and he let us have it at times. That's okay. He is doing his job, and sometimes the truth hurts.

You my reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, at home on weekends at 712-434-5880, or fax me at 712-434-2010. You may write to me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is 6144 Y Avenue, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at dan.huseman@legis.state.ia.us.