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SECOND FUNNEL DEADLINE: Here’s which bills survived, which fell short

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL)- Friday is expected to spell the end of the road for a handful of bills in the Iowa statehouse as the 2nd funnel deadline hits.

Possible laws will die if they haven't passed either the Iowa House or Senate and a standing committee by Friday. Among the pieces of legislation that fell short are bills separating Cedar Falls police and fire departments, and one banning traffic cameras.

Senate File 245, which would have allowed college athletes to profit off of the use of their names, images, and likeness also fell victim to the funnel. The bill had been championed by Iowa basketball players Jordan Bohannon and Caitlin Clark. This week, Bohannon said whether the bill passed would be a factor in whether he returns to the Hawkeyes next season.

"My expectation is that that's probably on hold until we get a little bit more clarity at the federal level," Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Iowa City said. "This is a thorny issue and there are a lot of different moving parts and different pieces to it. We've seen an enormous amount of revenue injected into college athletics. It is student-athletes who are putting their bodies on the line every single day when they're either competing or training and so I certainly think some, some sort of, of compensation makes sense."

Legislation proposing a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to Iowan's convicted felony crimes also fell short. As did bills that would have capped insulin prices at $100 and allowed over-the-counter birth control without a prescription.

House File 49, which would have banned tenure at Iowa's three public universities, did not make it through the funnel.

"This is the season when people are deciding where they're going to go to work and where they're going to go to college, where they're going to go to grad school," House Minority Whip Rep Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said. "Even just the advancement of this bill, I think, probably, made some people decide not to come here, and that's pretty frustrating."

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said the bill had trouble getting out of committee. He said lawmakers received a lot of feedback on the bill and did not rule out revisiting the subject in the future.

"There still is interest within the legislature to do something within tenure and just maybe a different approach, maybe more of a reform proposal," Grassley said. "Obviously, we can still take things up and move towards the next session and work on things in the interim"

RELATED: Gov. Reynolds signs gun bills into law

Among the bills that survived the funnel deadline were several that helped families with child care, a priority of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in both chambers. State lawmakers expanded the childcare tax credit.

"There are two issues, childcare, and mental health, both of which have, I think, really risen to the top of importance because of the pandemic," Wahls said.

Grassley said he expects to bill to move forward throughout the rest of session, particularly in the closing days.

In her annual Condition of the State address in January, Governor Reynolds evening proposed spending more than $25 million to improve child care programs and $30 million over two years to fund mental health programs.

She also laid out a plan for spending hundreds of millions over the next five years to expand high-speed internet service across the state. There is a bipartisan push in the statehouse to expand broadband access. The Iowa House passed legislation addressing the issue this week.

"It is not just rural broadband, but it's also there are pockets in suburban and urban areas that don't have broadband access either. It is really a statewide issue when it comes to broadband access," Konfrost said. "I'm thrilled to see that the first step passed, which creates incentives and to create the system, the devils in the details."

Grassley said the house is working on a proposal using $100 million in general fund money.

"I consider that to be a very significant investment, and much more than the legislature has ever even thought that they would do in years passed," Grassley said. "I feel really good about where we're at, and I think that that is a very strong message to Iowans that that is an issue that we'd like to see addressed."

Part of the Governor's school choice push that would make it easier to form charter schools also survived. The proposal would also mean charter schools could receive taxpayer money for students who switch from public school districts.

A bill that would modernize Iowa's "Bottle Bill" is also still alive. The law puts a $0.05 deposit on bottles and cans for certain beverages like soda, beer, or mineral water.

"The retailers and the distributors would each pay half a cent into the revenue stream. The folks redeeming them put some more dollars in there as far as providing some enforcement to require if you're not going to take them back, you at least have to contract with somebody else," Grassley said. "That would again that would put more places out there to take the cans back."

Legislation tackling topics like making Iowans who received unemployment benefits exempt from some state taxes because of the pandemic, new enforcement plans to help stop human trafficking, and state park maintenance also made it through.

The legislative session is set to wrap up on April 30. Lawmakers' focus will now shift to the state budget, which could see changes in the wake of the recent tragedy at Anamosa State Penitentiary. Two employees, registered nurse Lorena Schulte and corrections officer Robert McFarland were killed while trying to prevent two inmates from escaping the prison.

Wahls said this week, AFSCME Council 61, the union representing the prison workers, sent Governor Reynolds and legislative leaders a letter outlining the conditions workers at the condition are facing.

Wahls said the tragedy underscores the need for decisive action in the closing days of the session.

"I certainly hope that we'll be able to work on a bipartisan basis to make very swift reforms in terms of funding and other sources of reform to truly make sure that our corrections officers and staff can work and do their jobs and can leave home without having to worry about whether or not they'll come home that evening," Wahls said. "It was obviously a tragedy, and we're at a point now where thoughts and prayers and flying the flag at half staff are not enough. We need action."

Grassley said the budget will including strong funding numbers for the Department of Corrections.

"Obviously, we had a terrible situation happen at the prison. I think you were going to see a strong number in our budget, even before that, but I think it just further strengthens our opinion that that was the right decision that we are working off of," Grassley said. "I think you're going to see pretty strong investment in our budget in the justice systems and the budget that moves forward.

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Daniel Perreault

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