Democrats talk about bills before the Legislature during forum
CEDAR FALLS --- Four Democratic legislators weighed in on issues from increasing the cigarette tax to increasing the speed limit during a Saturday forum at Area Education Agency 267 that drew 35 people.
Sen. Bill Dotzler of Waterloo said a bill calling for an 80-cent hike in the cigarette tax won't come before the full Senate.
"I don't believe it's going to come out of committee," he said. "I've been hearing from some Republican Senators that they are interested in 30 to 60 cents." He noted some increase might surface late in the session as an amendment to another bill.
Waterloo Rep. Deborah Berry said the increase would bring in a projected $137 million and help with budget shortfalls, but it faces opposition from the House's majority party.
"Republicans simply said, 'We're not going to include a tax increase in this budget,'" she said. "I support a cigarette tax increase, we need to have that. ... I think it's up to you guys to put the pressure on because you don't want it to die." Cedar Falls Rep. Bob Kressig, who said some House Republicans have privately voiced their support for an increase, considers it a "user fee" rather than a tax. "If that's what you choose to do, this is what it's going to cost you," he said.
Dotzler said a bill that would require some health insurance packages to include coverage of mental health has not been taken up in the Senate yet, although it has already passed in the House. That bill didn't mandate including benefits for substance abuse treatment.
"We do have the votes in the chamber, if they just allow it to come up," said Dotzler. "I would vote for it even though it doesn't go where it needs to go."
Rep. Don Shoultz of Waterloo called the House bill "a little weak" because it only covers companies with 50 or more employees, or 5 percent of Iowa's work force and no self-insured companies.
"I did not vote for it when it went out of the House," he said, along with several other people. "We think we can do better."
Kressig said a bill to raise the speed limit on interstate freeways 5 mph to 70 mph may still be approved. "That bill does sound like a live round; that does have a possibility of going forward," he said.
The bill doubles fines for speeding, which Kressig noted would make more money available for Iowa State Patrol cars. "They deserve to have good quality vehicles," he said.
Shoultz, on the other hand, voiced opposition to the bill.
"Raising the speed limit is something I've always voted against," Shoultz said. He questioned if including increased fines and court costs in the speed limit legislation is even allowed under the state constitution. "Those issues should be in separate bills so they can be voted on separately."
Andrew Wind can be contacted at (319) 291-1507 or email@example.com.
from Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
from Iowa Senates Democrats newletter, March 8, 2005
Full Associated Press article at Iowa Senate Democrats website