A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest:
THE “FUNNEL” COMETH: Friday marks a significant mile-marker in the session with the arrival of the first “funnel” — a self-imposed deadline to winnow legislators’ work by requiring non-money bills to pass at least one standing committee in the House or Senate to remain eligible for consideration this year. The deadline already has touched off a flurry of subcommittee work and likely will mean long committee hours this week as majority Republicans push to keep priorities alive and minority Democrats exercise their limited power to head off measures they don’t like. While it’s dicey to declare any issue dead yet, there are some proposals that appear to be non-starters. There’s no indication lawmakers are ready to name a 500-million-year-old species known as a crinoid as the state’s official fossil. Bills seeking to eliminate the departments of education and public health have not curried favor, nor have changing the state’s school start date law or revamping rules governing the size and siting of confinement animal feeding operations. Other higher-profile issues like reinstating the death penalty likely will struggle to survive the second “funnel” March 16 when policy bills must have been approved by one chamber and a standing committee.
PET PROJECT: Animal welfare advocates are hoping public concern over several high-profile cases of animal neglect will persuade legislators to strengthen protections for pets and companion animals. Bills moving in the Senate and House would toughen penalties for animal abuse, neglect and torture and create two new criminal offenses for abandonment and endangerment of animals. The legislation excludes livestock, game, wild or fur-bearing animals, fish and reptiles. Senate File 2181 and House Study Bill 608 have the support of animal rescue organizations, veterinarians and pet enthusiasts. But groups representing animal owners, kennels, breeders and related businesses are monitoring the legislation while questioning the need for standards beyond laws already on the books.
Past attempts to address the mistreatment of domestic animals or pets have advanced through the Senate but have stalled in the House, where ag interests have viewed the changes as a foothold for animal rights advocates to challenge livestock farming practices.
Gazette Des Moines Bureau