A roundup of Capitol news items of interest:
FAST-TRACK FUNNEL: The Iowa Legislature’s first “funnel” deadline to keep policy bills eligible for debate this session isn’t until Feb. 16, but chairs of standing committees in the House and Senate — where Republicans are in their second year as the majority party — already are picking up the pace of subcommittee work for this shorter election-year session.
The stepped-up activity of the past week pointed out the need to move lower-priority bills in the process early before the Legislature tackles major budget decisions, policy priorities and state tax reform.
SCHOOL BUS RIDE TIMES: School districts would be given the flexibility to determine the riding time for pupils on regular school bus routes under a bill that cleared a Senate Education subcommittee 2-1 last week.
Currently, state law limits the one-way duration of a school bus ride to 60 minutes for children though the eighth grade and 75 minutes for high school students.
Supporters of Senate Study Bill 3002 said districts should have control over the issue as it pertains to their own circumstances and face parents who have concerns with it.
Opponents worried the best interest of children may not be the first consideration in deciding how much time they would spend on a bus, especially in cash-strapped rural districts where school consolidations have created travel issues. State officials say they’ve received complaints from parents whose children have had to ride 90 minutes each way to school.
One compromise offered by the Iowa Association of School Boards would be to equalize all riding-time limits for all grade at 75 minutes to give districts more flexibility. The bill now moves to the full committee for consideration.
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PURPLE PAINT WARNING: Some lawmakers want Iowa to join the list of states that use purple paint on fence posts or trees to carry the same legal significance as “no trespassing” signs on private property.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, by an 8-3 margin, agreed to recognize the purple-paint designation as a recognized alternative, permanent method so that a trespasser cannot destroy the means of notice.
“We do have a problem with signs being torn down, signs weathering, becoming faded and altered by the light of the sun so this at least offers a permanent record that somebody said don’t go there,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig. He associated the problem particularly to coyote hunters in western Iowa.
“The sign that says ‘Do Not Trespass’ has worked for centuries,” said Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, who questioned the need.
The committee did amend the measure to exempt cities with populations exceeding 60,000. But others raised concerns for people who hunt raccoons at night or for colorblind Iowans — something Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant, called a “gray area,” which drew some groans.
QUOTE OF NOTE: “Before this session is over, I want to be quoted as saying ‘fake news.’” — Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton