Lawmakers aim to close down the 2010 Iowa Legislative session within the next 48 hours. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says the goal has been to dramatically shorten the session from its scheduled 100-day run.
“Every day we’re not in session saves $35,000 to $45,000. By getting out 20 days early, that’s $800,000. That’s a number of people’s jobs in this state,” Gronstal says. “We’re trying to do our part. We’ve effectively said, as legislators, we’re going to furlough ourselves.”
Legislators made some final decisions Thursday, with still more looming today — including a possible debate over gun rights. A bill backed by the National Rifle Association could be among the last to clear the legislature. It would set a statewide standard for issuing gun permits, replacing the current system which gives the sheriffs in each of Iowa’s 99 counties the authority to decide who gets a permit to carry a gun and who doesn’t.
As lawmakers veer from debates about guns to the state’s nursing shortage to greyhound racing, Gronstal says the timing of the legislature’s shut-down depends in large part on the ability of the legislature’s computer system and printers to keep up with the drafting and redrafting of hundreds of details.
“It’s a question of how quickly we can push the paper,” Gronstal says.
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines spent much of Thursday ironing out the final details of the state budget plan. “So basically, it’s the dotting of the i’s and crossing of the t’s,” McCarthy says.
Crossing certain “must do” items off the legislative agenda has taken hours, if not days for lawmakers to accomplish. And some proposals are getting crossed off the “must do” list. Representative Jeri Huser of Ankeny had pressed to get non-profit groups that receive taxpayer dollars to operate under the state’s open meetings and open records law. The move was prompted by the scandal at the Iowa Association of School Boards.
“It’s about people trusting government and, right now, there is no trust in government,” Huser says.
Senator Pat Ward, a Republican from West Des Moines, was among those who supported the new “openness” for many of the state’s non-profit groups.
“I believe having open meetings, open records and sunshine is very important,” Ward says. “And I think a lot of the problems that we’ve seen…(at) the Association of School Boards would have been avoided if we had more openness in any organization that receives public money.”
But it appears legislators, instead, will study the issue over the next few months rather than endorse such a requirement. That study was included in a larger package that received Senate approval Thursday.