Key leaders say democrats will not agree to raise speeding fines unless republicans agree to raise the cigarette tax. The hike in speeding fines is included in a bill that raises the speed limit, as well as some court fines. House Democrat Leader Pat Murphy of Dubuque says in total, the bill would raise about eight million more in speeding fines and court fees. Murphy says Democrats shouldn’t give Republicans a “get out of jail free” card on finding a way to finance the court system when in other areas of the budget Republicans are proposing less spending than Democrats want. Murphy says Democrats just want to see the big picture before they’ll commit. “My concern is, how does it fit in the overall budget?” Murphy says. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, responded. Rants says it would be “unfortunate” if the speed limit and corresponding increase in speeding fines becomes a partisan issue, especially since it was a Democrat who was the manager of the bill when it cleared the House Transportation Committee. This afternoon (Monday), the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill that would raise the speeding fines, and raise the speed limit on stretches of rural Interstate to 70. Representative Lance Horbach (HOR’-bawk), a Republican from Tama, says the D-O-T tracks Interstate speeds 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the average speed is already 71 miles per hour. Horbach says the average Interstate speed in states that have the higher, 70 mile per hour speed limit, is also 71 miles an hour. Horback says it shows whether the speed limit is very high or very low, people are driving at a common speed of about 70 which Horbach describes as a “comfort level.” Critics, like Representative Roger Thomas, a Democrat from Elkader, say it’s a safety issue. “I’ve been a paramedic since 1976 and I’ve had to scrape people off a freeway or off a road and I’ve had to dig burned bodies out of a car…because there was extra speed involved in those accidents,” Thomas says. Representative Paul Bell, a Democrat who is a cop in Newton, says it’s wrong to tie the speeding fine increase to buying new cars for State Troopers. Bell says it’s a “poor precedent.” Bell says Troopers will be accused of having a “quota” of tickets they have to write so they can buy a new patrol car.
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