Gazette Des Moines Bureau
February 13, 2017

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, Feb. 13, 2017:

SENATE BOOSTS OWN INSURANCE: The Iowa Senate voted 50-0 on Monday to make sure their members are paying 20 percent of their health care premiums under the state’s insurance plan.

Senate File 230, which takes effect in the 2018 calendar year, will change a policy that allowed some legislators to underpay their government-provided health insurance using a union-bargained plan that set premiums at $20 a month.

The bill that now goes to the Iowa House requires legislators and legislative branch employees to pay the same rates as noncontract executive branch employees.

State officials said the change will impact 297 people and will save the state $235,000 in fiscal 2018 and $470,000 the following year.

KANSAS WARNING: Two budget and tax experts from Kansas spoke Monday about the dire impacts major income tax cuts have had on their state’s public services and advised Iowans not to follow their state’s lead.

Duane Goossen, a former Kansas legislator and state budget director who now is a senior fellow at the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, said Kansas enacted significant income tax cuts in 2012 but has since been unable to generate need revenue to support education and other priorities. He said the state has raided its reserves, highway fund and borrowed money to make ends meet.

“We don’t have enough revenue to pay our expenses,” Goossen said. “That’s left us in a hard place.”

Annie McKay, president & CEO of Kansas Action for Children, said her state has seen nine straight rounds of budget cuts despite twice raising the state’s sales tax and “has been the butt of late-night talk show jokes and for good reason.”

The two Kansans advised Iowa legislators not to follow their state’s lead.

LEGALIZING DOUBLE TRAFFIC TURNS: Members of the Senate Transportation Committee voted 12-0 Monday to authorize motorists to legally make a double right or double left turn on a red light onto another street or a one-way street with multiple lanes, where allowed, and if it does not interfere with cross traffic or pedestrians.

Currently, the single right-turn or single left-turn onto a one-way roadway is permissible.

This pertains to multilane streets where you could turn right (or left) onto a one-way street, either from the far right lane or the inside lane next to it. Under the revised law, both vehicles in the right (or left) lanes at a light or stop sign would then be turning right at the same time onto another multi-laned street.

State Department of Transportation officials advised the Legislature to legalize the double turns because most drivers believe the maneuver is legal now.

“Currently, they can’t, but people are doing it,” said Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson.

The bill allows cities to post signs prohibiting the double turn under certain traffic situations.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s the worst flu you’ve ever had in your life, times 100.” — Cedar Rapids police officer Al Fear, head of an Eastern Iowa CRUSH (Community Resources United to Stop Heroin), describing withdrawal from heroin opioid addiction. Fear was at the Capitol on Monday trying to convince lawmakers to require doctors to participate in the state Prescription Monitoring Program, which currently has about 44 percent voluntary compliance.

Read more from the Gazette here.

ClayTHE GAZETTE: Iowa politics today: Guests from Kansas suggest Iowa not follow Kansas into fiscal oblivion