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House adjourns; Senate to return Friday for 1 vote

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 1, 2014 at 10:23 am •  Published: May 1, 2014
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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Senate decided Thursday to return for one more day to pass a resolution granting the Government Oversight Committee subpoena power, after working all night to try to finish the 2014 legislative session.

Democrats intended to pass the resolution as one of the final acts of the session early Thursday but Republicans resisted. That means the Senate must leave the resolution on the calendar and return Friday morning to debate and pass it, before adjourning for the year.

The House adjourned just before 6 a.m.

Subpoena power allows the committee to call witnesses to testify under oath and provides for fines if witnesses tell lies or refuse to attend. The committee has been investigating settlement agreements in which the state paid former workers for their silence.

"Nobody knows who authorized secret settlements. No one knows how to find out," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. "We will find out."

The House and Senate finalized spending measures in the state's $6.97 billion budget, but left behind significant points on Gov. Terry Branstad's priority list.

Early Thursday, lawmakers passed a bill that would legalize the use of marijuana oil to treat chronic epilepsy, rebuffing the concerns of some legislators that the measure would open the door to legalizing all marijuana. Mothers of children with epilepsy lobbied lawmakers and kept the bill alive, arguing that oil derived from the cannabis plant can reduce seizures and improve lives.

The Legislature also passed a measure that reduces the penalties for people who unknowingly expose someone to HIV with no intention of infecting them.

Legislative leaders began the session acknowledging this year's accomplishments would be far less flashy than last year's property tax overhaul and increased education spending, but hoped to deliver at least four of Branstad's top priorities.

Only two made it.

The governor had asked lawmakers to approve tax credits for telecommunications companies to expand high-speed Internet to rural areas, but the bill failed to pass in the Republican-led House last week over objections it paid too much money to the industry.

The governor's school anti-bullying priority passed the Senate but the House removed funding for the training of school officials and teachers, and made changes to the parental notification language the Senate refused to consider.

A bill to provide tax breaks and incentives for retired veterans to settle in Iowa has gone to the governor, and creation of an apprenticeship program allowing youth to learn a new trade while getting paid passed as part of an economic development spending bill.

"I think there certainly are things we can be proud of having accomplished and there are certainly things we're disappointed we were not able to get accomplished," Gronstal said.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen called it a productive session.

"Iowans were well served. We moved the state forward at the end of the day," he said.

Balancing the budget with no tax increases and paying off $60 million in state bonding debt were accomplishments, he said.

Other policy bills passed include one that ends dog racing at a Council Bluffs casino but allows greyhound owners and breeders to lease the track in Dubuque.

The education budget ensures a tuition freeze at state universities for a second year for in-state undergraduate students.

Lawmakers also began the process of regulating the use of unmanned aerial drones, made the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors illegal and enhanced penalties for human trafficking.

Proposals left for another day include: a gas tax increase; legalization of fireworks; enhanced laws against texting while driving; tougher penalties for offenders in kidnapping cases; and a minimum wage increase.

Branstad, a Republican, applauded the passage of several bills, including the tax breaks for veterans and tuition freeze. He blamed Democrats for the failure of the bullying bill and broadband legislation.

Many lawmakers are eager to return home to the campaign trail. At least five are running for higher office, including Hatch and Sen. Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, a candidate for U.S. Senate. Running for Congress are Anesa Kajtazovic, D-Waterloo; Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque; and Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale.


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