DES MOINES — The Iowa House killed a signature part of Gov. Terry Branstad’s legislative agenda when members voted 51-44 against a broadband expansion bill.
In easily the most surprising vote of the day, if not this year’s session, nine Republicans joined 42 Democrats in stopping the “Connect Every Iowan” initiative.
“I don’t know why Democrats would be opposed to expanding broadband access in Iowa,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said shortly after the vote. “I have no idea why so many in their caucus would vote ‘no,’ it makes no sense to me.”
He said Republicans expected support from Democrats to pass the bill. Only two, Todd Prichard of Charles City and Scott Ourth of Ackworth, did.
“The House Republican majority failed to pass the governor’s broadband bill, one of his top priorities this year,” House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said. “House Democrats firmly believe the bill does not go far enough in expanding broadband access to more homes and small businesses.”
The bill, House File 2472, created a series of tax breaks to encourage companies to extend broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the state.
Service providers could receive income tax credits of up to $210,000 to upgrade connections in “unserved” areas, while those serving “underserved” areas could obtain tax credits of up to $105,000. The legislation included a 10-year property tax abatement for new broadband construction.
It did not include a provision allowing providers to tap into the state-run Iowa Communications Network as the governor originally proposed.
“Rather than coming together to pass common sense legislation to increase broadband access in rural Iowa, Iowa House Democrats have turned their backs on rural Iowans and those who are underserved,” Branstad said in a statement released by his office. “Today, the Iowa House Democrats played the worst of political cards; the Washington, D.C., hand of ignoring what is in the best interest of the taxpayers for political purposes.”
When it was clear there were 50 “no” votes on the bill, House Majority Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake switched her “yes” vote to a “no.” This allows her to call the bill back up for reconsideration at a future date because, according parliamentary rules, only those in the prevailing side can call up a bill for reconsideration.
ANTI-BULLYING BILL PASSES
The House passed anti-bullying legislation Friday that requires parents to be notified of bullying incidents at school in most cases.
But the bill struck a provision in Gov. Terry Branstad’s original proposal that gave school officials the authority to enforce school code off school grounds.
The bipartisan 68-27 vote came after roughly 45 minutes of debate in which Democrats questioned the wisdom of the parental notification clause and a limited immunity clause for school officials who don’t follow up on complaints.
“I wish everybody had Beaver Cleaver’s mom and dad, but they don’t,” said Rep. Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque. He said gay students who are teased at school might be beaten at home if they were forced out of the closet via a school counselor’s call.
State Rep. Larry Sheets, R-Moulton, said he was disappointed the bill was written in such a way that he could not add an amendment requiring the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” be posted in every school building, which he said would go a long way in reducing bullying.
“Is this a perfect bill? No,” said Rep. Quentin Stanerson, R-Center Point, the bill’s floor manager. “But it’s a start, and I believe it will help. What will help even more, though, is if we continue this discussion in the future at our schools, at our kitchen tables and here.”
The bill now moves on to the Iowa Senate.
In other business, the House approved a bill that creates rules and regulations for the use of drones in the state. The bill says evidence obtained by law enforcement using an unmanned aerial vehicle is not admissible in a criminal or civil trial unless it was obtained legally pursuant to a search warrant or in a manner that is consistent with state and federal law.
The bill also directs the state Department of Public Safety, in consultation with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, state and local agencies and other interested organizations, to examine whether the Iowa criminal code should be modified to regulate misuse of unmanned aerial vehicles.