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Column: Legislative update - Where's the exit?

DES MOINES, Iowa -- As the 11th week of the legislative session winds down, let's consider what proposals must be addressed before the first session of the 84th Iowa General Assembly can come to a close on the tentative adjournment date of April 29.

David Johnson
David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, Iowa State Senate, Senate District 3

DES MOINES, Iowa -- As the 11th week of the legislative session winds down, let's consider what proposals must be addressed before the first session of the 84th Iowa General Assembly can come to a close on the tentative adjournment date of April 29.

Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, has made it clear that he wants four major actions from the legislature. The governor wants:

  • The Legislature to pass a two-year budget.
  • Reduced corporate income taxes.
  • A reduction in commercial and industrial property taxes by a total of 40 percent over five years.
  • Gaming taxes increased to 36 percent. The Iowa House of Representatives, where the GOP has a 20-seat majority, has a different agenda:

  • The establishment of a Tax Relief Fund that would require any funds left over in the budget, after the state's reserve accounts are full, to be deposited in the fund. The fund could only be used for tax relief.
  • A 20-percent reduction in income tax rates for all Iowans.
  • A budget that spends only 98 percent of available revenues rather than the current 99-percent spending limitation. Finally, the Senate. Democrats hold a slim 26-24 advantage here yet are vague on their agenda. But they have been very clear on what they are not going to do. They will not:

  • Eliminate preschool for all children.
  • Change the negotiation provisions regarding state government unions.
  • Provide across-the-board tax relief to all Iowans.

This list doesn't even include the elephant (or donkey) in the room -- redistricting. This is the year when the congressional and legislative lines are redrawn. When that first redistricting map sees the light of day March 31, all 150 members of the legislature will be focused on that map and what it means to their political futures.
Regardless of the merits of these proposals, a consensus must be reached before adjournment -- 26 Senators and 51 House members must put up a green light and the governor must agree. Other proposed bills will be cast overboard.

At this point in time, the path to the exit seems to be hidden in the fog.

Dove Hunting Bill goes to governor: With no debate, a bill allowing the Natural Resources Commission, a division of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, to establish a dove hunting season passed the Senate 30-18 on March 22. The House adopted dove-hunting legislation in 1999, but the bill died in the Senate. In 2001, both the House and the Senate passed similar legislation, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Tom Vilsack.

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The House approved the bill March 23, and Gov. Branstad has promised to sign the bill into law. Iowa is now poised to join 40 other states, including all of our neighboring states, in allowing the hunting of doves. Still, the season would have to be approved by the Natural Resources Commission.

Final enactment of this legislation will allow Iowa to recapture revenue that has been lost to other states when hunters have gone elsewhere to harvest this popular and plentiful bird. The bird is a challenge to hunt due to its small size and erratic flying patterns.

Critics have objected to hunting a bird that is considered by many to be a symbol of peace and because we have prohibited the hunting of these birds for close to a century.

I was a member of the House in 1999 and 2001, and voted each time to allow dove hunting. I did so again this week because it will further enhance outdoor recreation in the state. I appreciate the fact that hunters and anglers, through the taxes and license fees that they pay, do so much to protect Iowa's natural beauty.

Your questions and comments are always welcome. You can reach me in the Iowa Senate by calling (515) 281-3371 and leaving a message; or by e-mail at david.johnson@legis.iowa.gov .

David Johnson of Ocheyedan represents Iowa Senate District 3, which includes all of Clay, Dickinson, O'Brien and Osceola counties and part of Sioux County.

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