Lawmakers showed welcome restraint

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We saw welcome evidence this week that the Republicans who run the Iowa Legislature are capable of restraint.

In some cases, that restraint was forced by the so-called funnel deadline, which sends scores of bills that have not yet cleared a committee to the scrap heap. One bill we were glad to see funneled would have dramatically changed the scope of professional licensure in Iowa — a worthy but contentious issue that deserves more discussion. A late-developing push to reinstate the death penalty also perished in the funnel.

Misguided bills seeking to end tenure on college campuses and mandate political party balance among university professors failed to move ahead. The Legislature won’t ban university football games on Friday nights, raise the speed limit to 75 mph or end daylight savings time. Good riddance to those bills.

In other cases, restraint was prompted by a tight state budget situation. Lawmakers say they’ve shelved, for now, an effort to create “education savings accounts” or vouchers redirecting public school funding to private and home schools. That’s wise after they approved a paltry 1.1 percent increase in aid to K-12 schools and were forced to cut $118 million from the current year’s state budget.

Although lawmakers showed no restraint in dramatically editing 1970s-era collective bargaining rights for public employees, Republicans have put the brakes on an effort to toss out Iowa’s 1970s-era bottle bill. A bill to end Iowa’s nickel deposit law in favor of creating a statewide recycling program cleared a committee but will go no further, GOP leader say, correctly, the bill needs more work.

We hope this restraint signals a trend toward a more collaborative process that will extend to other bills. We could start with measures pre-empting local governments from acting on minimum wage levels, rewriting workers’ compensation laws and making major changes in the way Iowans vote. All three measures could have major, long-term effects, and shouldn’t be rushed.

We’d also argue lawmakers still have plenty of time to get some big stuff right. A meaningful water quality measure could still be crafted this session. Tax reforms targeting unnecessary breaks, loopholes and credits still are possible. The next state budget remains to be crafted, and could reflect shared priorities beyond the majority party’s wish list.

So restraint is possible. That’s a good sign. Collaboration and consensus building should be next.

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