Iowa Lawmakers Facing Second Funnel

Iowa lawmakers are facing another funnel deadline this week at the statehouse. Bills must have cleared one chamber and a committee in the other chamber in order to continue to be eligible for consideration. IPR's Julie Englander spoke with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about some of the bills facing this deadline. One would make it a primary offense to use your cell phone while driving. Another would make speeding tickets issued by traffic cameras more detailed.

Lawmakers continue working on setting a school start date this week. Iowa law states that no school district can start classes before the week in which September 1st falls, but nearly every district in the state had been getting a waiver to start classes sooner. The Branstad administration has said it will no longer be granting those waivers. The Iowa House has approved a bill that sets August 23rd as the earliest date that schools can start classes, and allows elementary and middle schools an exemption if they follow a year-round calendar. Senate Democrats had been pushing for local control on this issue, but when the House bill came up for a vote in the Senate, six Republicans changed course and voted for the House legislation, saying it's the only measure Governor Branstad will sign. Without legislation this session, the school start date would default to the Sept. 1 date in current law.

A bill to allow the production and dispensing of medical marijuana cleared a Senate committee last week. Parents of severely epileptic children are pushing for that measure, saying a bill approved last session that allows them to possess cannabis oil to treat their children is not having the desired effect. House Republicans have made it clear they have no intention of taking up the measure, but the lobbying continues.

And lawmakers continue work on revising sentences for juvenile offenders. Both the U.S. and Iowa Supreme Courts have ruled that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional. But some statehouse interests believe life without parole is still an appropriate sentence for the most heinous crimes, regardless of the age of the offender. A compromise bill would allow that option, and would also allow for the possibility of making offenders immediately available for parole consideration. That bill is the topic of River to River today (Monday.)