DES MOINES -- Iowa lawmakers appear ready to adjourn today after paring their “must-do” list to just one bill.
The House and Senate agreed on bills to standardize the weapons permit application process and spend $274 million on infrastructure projects. That leaves the all-encompassing standings bill for both chambers to take up this morning before adjourning on the 79th day of a planned 80-day session.
“There’s no global disagreements,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, said. “It’s a matter of “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”
Majority Democrats decided to adjourn Monday evening so leaders could hammer out an agreement to wrap up the work of the 83rd General Assembly, probably this afternoon.
“That’s the most sensible thing I’ve seen come out of here in months,” Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, said.
The slow progress toward adjournment of a hurry-up session shortened by 20 days to save money prompted one Statehouse staffer to suggest the Legislature “was in neutral with the pedal to the metal.”
The focus Monday was on Senate File 2379 that takes away much of the discretion sheriffs enjoy in issuing concealed weapons permits. It creates uniform standards in all 99 counties for issuing permits to carry a concealed weapon in public. Under current law, sheriffs can issue or deny permits. Their standards vary, with some issuing permits to nearly everyone who applies and some denying nearly all applications. Nearly 35,000 Iowans have concealed-carry permits, according to lawmakers.
Although the measure passed 80-15, there was vigorous opposition.
“This is worse than what we have now,” Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines, said. “People can go into bars, drunk, carrying a concealed weapon -- as long as they didn’t get picked up driving there.
“This is a bad fix on a bad law for a problem that doesn’t exist except in a very limited amount of cases,” he added.
Floor manager Rep. Clel Baudler, R-Greenfield, called the bill a compromise between several interests. It was opposed by a number of law enforcement groups. The Iowa Attorney General and Department of Public Safety were undecided. Gun owners’ groups were split with the NRA backing the measure and Iowa Gun Owners opposing it.
The margin on Senate File 2389, the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund bill, was not as large. A major sticking point was the additional $150 million in I-JOBS bonding that floor manager Rep. Dennis Cohoon, D-Burlington, said will cost the state $269 million to repay.
It was approved 52-47 with three Democrats joining Republicans in voting “no.”
Later, Gov. Chet Culver called it “a vote for disaster recovery.”
“It was a vote for economic growth and job creation at a time when Iowans need it the most,” he said.
However, Rep. Doris Kelley, D-Waterloo wondered how many of the projects paid for with bonds will last longer than it takes to repay the debt.
Cohoon assured her the projects will outlive the debt. He also told lawmakers State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald advised him interest rates on bonds are rising, so it’s in the state’s interest to sell the bonds as soon as the bill is signed into law.
Despite Cohoon’s assurances and Culver’s praise, House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Republicans were disappointed in the spending choices. Republicans, he said, have supported bonding in the past and told Culver they were willing to support it again if the projects outlasted the life of the debt, if it was used for vertical infrastructure and if there was a local match.
“The bill did not pass those tests; it’s full of pork, so there will be no Republican votes today,” Paulsen said.
Cohoon admitted SF 2389 was not pork-free legislation.
“But the pork wouldn’t be in there if it wasn’t requested,” Cohoon said.