Government

Watching the clock - and the weather: Iowa Capitol Digest, March 10

The House Chambers in the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The House Chambers in the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest:

CLOCK IS TICKING: Some legislators, lobbyists and special-interest groups may be losing more than just an hour’s worth of sleep this weekend due to daylight saving time. They also may see hours of work go to waste if bills they have been shepherding fail to clear the second self-imposed “funnel” deadline Friday — which requires non-money measures to clear one legislative chamber and a standing committee of the other chamber to remain eligible for the 2018 session.

One example is House File 571, a bill that would limit the public’s access to many 911 calls. That passed the Iowa House by a 99-0 vote nearly one year ago, but stalled in the Senate and likely will fall victim to the funnel for a second straight session.

Another bill in a similar position is House File 604, which passed the House by a 94-2 margin last April and would require the Iowa Department of Transportation to contract with a third-party vendor to maintain a database and real-time internet services that would verify if a registered motor vehicle is insured. The vendor would be required to send a notice to the owner of an uninsured vehicle to provide proof of coverage. The Iowa DOT would suspend a vehicle registration if the owner failed to respond to a second notice. The Legislative Services Agency estimated 315,000 — or 8.8 percent — of vehicle registrations would be suspended in the first year. The bill has not received the blessing of a three-member Senate subcommittee.

Another interesting development came last week when Iowa Family Leader head Bob Vander Plaats put out a call for “urgent action” on Senate File 2281, a bill recently passed by the Iowa Senate 30-20 that would make it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion in Iowa once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Violation of the bill’s provisions would subject a doctor to a Class D felony charge and a fine. In his email, Vander Plaats noted the bill has moved to the House subcommittee level and said that “unless a majority of Iowa’s representatives can be moved to protect the life of unborn babies … the bill will likely die in its House committee. We can’t let that happen!” While the Senate passed the bill, “Iowa’s House of Representatives still has too many elected representatives sitting on the fence,” Vander Plaats said. The approaching deadline is expected to produce a flurry of action in both the House and Senate and maybe some long hours of floor debate and committee work once lawmakers return on Monday.

 

RAIN OBSERVERS: The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s State Climatology Office and the National Weather Service are recruiting volunteer precipitation observers to be in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow — “CoCoRaHS” — network. All that is needed to participate is an interest in the weather, a 4-inch diameter rain gauge, a suitable location to set up the gauge and access to the internet. All the data collected are immediately available for free online and are routinely used for flood forecasting, drought assessment, news stories, scientific research and general weather interest. More information is at www.cocorahs.org.

Iowa joined the volunteer network in 2007 and has over 300 registered observers. More are sought to better document the amount and variability of rain and snow across Iowa. Weather observers are needed everywhere, but the most critical areas are in Worth, Wright, Allamakee, Bremer, Greene, Shelby, Cedar, Adair, Adams, Decatur, Monroe, Keokuk and Louisa counties.

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