Cats have nine lives, and so do bills
Each year around funnel week, folks from Iowa's rural telephone companies show up at the Capitol. It is always great to see them. They are leaders in their industry. Usually there is an issue; maybe two to discuss. This year there is concern, justified I learned, that the State wants to expand the Iowa Communications Network to take away customers currently receiving service from local telephone companies.
The first funnel week means the Senate is extremely busy with committee action. This week most of our work took place off of the chamber floor and in the back rooms where committees meet. A bill must be approved by a committee in the Senate or the House by the end of the first funnel or it is considered dead for the session. This first deadline comes at about the mid point of the session and is used to limit the number of bills on the agenda. Keep in mind cats have nine lives and so it seems do legislative bills.
Budget work continues to move at a snail's pace. It does appear with more certainty that the majority party is waiting for the April 4th Revenue Estimating Conference. If the April revenue estimate is higher than the December estimate was, the legislature would probably not withstand the rule requiring the use of the December figure and use the higher April number. Doing so, would allow the legal expenditure of more money. The wait may be lucrative. Revenues are at record levels. General Fund receipts in the month of February were 19.7% more than was collected in February 2007. For the eight months of this fiscal year revenues are up 11.1%. This is a tight budget year only because of the tremendous amount of over spending and promises made in last year's session.
A bill impacting every voter in Iowa passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. Every county in Iowa would use voting machines with actual paper ballots that could be recounted later. These are called Optical Scan Voting Systems. With these systems the voter marks a paper ballot with a pen or pencil. The ballot is then read and counted by an optical scanner. This is a sharp departure from the county by county process Iowa has followed.
I had the privilege of presenting a Senate Resolution honoring Senate Page Amy Peyton. Amy was a distinguished finalist in the 2008 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Program. Lastly, congratulations to the Newell-Fonda Mustangs for a great run at the Girl's State Basketball Tournament!
On Saturday, March 15 there will be a Forum at the Swan Lake Education Center in Carroll at 10 a.m. You may contact me via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Senate switchboard at 515/281-3371. My postal address is State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319. When I am home you may reach me at work 712/657-8525 or home at 712/657-3347.