Capitol Report: Week Five Update
February 17, 2020
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld, Katie Graham
2020 IOWA LEGISLATIVE RECAP, WEEK FIVE
She Sings Her Love Songs Through a Funnel. Last Friday was Valentine’s Day. This Friday brings the first funnel of the 2020 legislative session. For bills to remain “alive” this session, they must be reported out of their originating committees by Friday of this week. In other words, Senate bills must be reported out of their Senate Committees, and House bills must be reported out of their House Committees. Exempt from the funnel are Appropriations bills, Ways and Means bills, and Government Oversight bills. Legislators and lobbyists alike love the fact that the winnowing process is about to begin.
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Thunder Road. Iowa’s roadways were at the center of several bills considered in the legislature this past week. SF 2180 would require the construction and maintenance of “rumble strips” on paved county roads with a 55 mph speed limit where they intersect with a state or U.S. highway. Proponents of the bill, and its companion, HF 2004, argue it will make Iowa roads safer from accidents caused by sleepy or distracted drivers. Both bills are on the Debate Calendar.
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[No] Wreck on the Highway. On Wednesday, a bill, SF 2248, passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee that would prohibit any use of a hand-held cellphone while driving a motor vehicle. Current law only prohibits texting while driving. An identical bill, HF 2375, was approved by the House Transportation Committee on Thursday.
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Out in the Street. On Thursday, a bill, HSB 630, was voted out of the House Transportation Committee to allow low-speed electric bicycles (e-bikes) that can be manually pedaled or battery-operated at speeds of up to 28 mph to travel anywhere traditional bikes are permitted, including highways and trails. Concerns were raised by the League of Cities about treating e-bikes the same as non-motorized bikes. A similar bill, SF 2205, was reported out of a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. (You’ve undoubtedly by now discovered the author’s affinity for Bruce Springsteen given this week’s titles.)
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I Can’t Drive 55. That’s what Representative Chris Hagenow (R-Urbandale) said when asked why he proposed a bill to increase the state’s speed limit on highways and interstates by five m.p.h. On Tuesday, a House subcommittee tabled a bill that proposed to increase the speed limit on interstate highways from 70 to 75 mph, on divided, multi-lane highways from 65 to 70 mph, and on all other state roads from 55 to 60 mph. Safety, the cost of replacing signs, and the fact that no one showed up to speak in favor of the bill were cited as the reasons for not moving it forward. For now, it looks like Hagenow will have to keep driving with “One foot on the brake and one on the gas.” (Whoops, a Sammy Hagar tune slipped in.)
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Pay Me My Money Down. Virtual currency would be prohibited as a form of payment to the state and local governments under a bill, SF 2079, approved by a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday. As proposed, the bill would allow only “cash” payments to be made. Senator Zach Nunn (R-Altoona) said he proposed the bill due to the proliferation of digital, virtual and other forms of currency that do not have government backing and could be used for nefarious purposes such as trafficking or terrorism. Expect some amendments to the bill as it moves to the Senate State Government Committee.