September 1, 2014

Bill seeks to help handicapped gas up in Iowa

A bill designed to help the handicapped gas up their vehicles in Iowa passed the Iowa Senate Monday evening.

“There are so many people across the state that are going to benefit from this bill,” said Senator Rita Hart, a Democrat from Wheatland. “…It will help paraplegics like my brother-in-law, Dave; the elderly; the arthritic; disabled veterans and others who are physically challenged in ways that the rest of us cannot truly fathom.”

The small call buttons installed on many gas pumps aren’t easily accessible, according to Hart.

“In an attempt to correct that, this bill would encourage through the use of a $500 tax credit that retailers would install a large call button near a fuel dispenser that would be reachable from within the driver’s vehicle with a closed hand,” Hart said.

If a station installs one of these new call buttons, that station would then be required by state law to pump gas for disabled customers unless the station has just one or two employees on duty. The bill passed the Iowa Senate on a 32-14 vote. Some, like Republican Senator Michael Breitbach of Strawberry Point, worry about small town gas stations with just a couple of people inside.

“That second person normally is in the back, in the kitchen area, doing sandwiches and things like that,” Breitbach said during Monday’s debate. “…Will the person that’s making the sandwiches have to go out and pump the fuel?”

Hart said the new mandate would only apply to stations with three or more employees on duty — and only at stations that install the big new call buttons for handicapped drivers.

“It will make it more possible to be employed, to travel, to visit relatives, to participate fully and more easily in ways that some of the rest of us tend to take for granted,” Hart said.

The bill now goes to a House committee and it must pass that panel before Friday to remain eligible for House debate.  More than a dozen lobbyists who represent truck stops, gas stations and grocery store chains that sell gas are registered as “undecided” on the bill. Two groups that represent disabled Iowans are registered in favor of the legislation.