A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013:
GAS TAX OPPOSITION: Officials with Muscatine-based Iowans for Tax Relief are reiterating their opposition to any increase in the state’s gas tax. The group says Iowans already are overtaxed and a proposed gas tax increase fails to provide solutions to any problems that may exist on Iowa’s roads and bridges. Iowans for Tax Relief cite a study by the Public Interest Institute that found it costs $600,000 to $800,000 to repair one mile of farm-to-market road; $600,000 to repair one mile of rural highway; and $4.4 million to construct one mile of new rural highway. Under a 10-cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax, the institute calculated that each Iowa county would receive less than a $400,000 annual increase for farm-to-market roads -- less than $200,000 for most counties. ITR leaders say that “does not even come close to covering the costs to repair, let alone build, rural roads in Iowa. It is time that Legislators look for a real solution rather than burden the taxpayers,” according to the group’s Watchdog publication.
ABORTION CHANGES UNLIKELY: Gov. Terry Branstad said he does not expect any abortion-related legislation to make it to his desk during the split-control Iowa Legislature’s 2013 session. The governor said he was aware there were efforts in the past two years by House Republicans to restrict abortion access and public funding but nothing was approved. Commenting at his weekly news conference Tuesday, he said he believed chances for passage would be similar now to the last General Assembly. Last weekend the GOP governor joined hundreds of Iowans who participated in a pro-life rally at the Statehouse to mark the anniversary of the 40th anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court that legalized abortion procedures under certain circumstances.
BICYCLE REGISTRATION REVENUE: Don’t look for the Iowa Department of Transportation to raise revenues by collecting a registration fee from bicycle owners. It would be a “significant administrative burden,” Director Paul Trombino III told the House Transportation Committee Jan. 22. “That’s typically why you don’t see (registration) in most states,” Trombino said in response to a question from a lawmaker who said he was not advocating bicycle registration fees.
AMENDED MILITIA: Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, who turned 45 this week, told his Iowa Senate colleagues on Tuesday he will seek to amend Article VI of the state Constitution which says the state’s militia shall be composed of all able-bodied male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45, with some exceptions, shall be armed, equipped, and trained as the General Assembly may provide by law. Chelgren called the age and gender restrictions “unfortunate,” and indicated he planned to file a resolution seeking to amend the provision to allow all citizens above the age of 18 regardless of gender to participate in the militia.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m sure I signed it, so fire me. Sorry, I guess I’m getting an attitude.” -- Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss apologizing for not recalling details of a report on health care insurance costs. After eight years as commissioner, Voss is retiring in 10 days.