By Michael Schaffer
---- — The final Legislative Coffee of 2014 at Chariton Valley Planning and Development office in Centerville Saturday morning turned out to be the longest, lasting 76 minutes. The 16 in attendance, six of whom were Centerville High School students, listened to Rep. Larry Sheets and Sen. Ken Rozenboom talk about legislative activity taking place at the capitol in Des Moines.
Sheets (R-Moulton) talked about recent events in the House of Representatives.
Sheets said the House on a bipartisan vote outlawed so-called web cam abortions. The Iowa Board of Medicine ruled it was not a very safe practice but it was overturned by the court so the House passed a bill in support of the board’s position, Sheets said.
The bill now goes to the Senate, Sheets said, adding he didn’t think it would go very far.
The Iowa Board of Medicine last year decided to require a physician to be physically present when administering abortion-inducing medicine, essentially stopping the practice.
Sheets said legislation he wrote addressing automatic state prison sentence reductions for defendants would result in longer prison stays for those convicted of certain heinous crimes is now part of a judiciary bill. The legislation was written to prevent what happened to Kathlynn Shepard, who was murdered by a man released early from prison.
Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa) talked about the web cam abortion bill passed by the House on a 55-42 vote now in the Senate. Rozenboom predicted the bill — also called telemedicine abortions — in the Senate will not go anywhere this year.
He said Senate Republicans plan to hold a press conference this week asking the controlling party to bring it forward for debate. Senate Democrats hold the majority and control the agenda and are stonewalling on the effort to bring the web cam issue up for debate on the floor, he said.
Rozenboom had harsh words for Senate Democrats over the medicinal marijuana issue.
He singled out Democrat Joe Bolkcom for his recent handling of an effort to bring up a medicinal marijuana bill.
“It continues to be a hot topic,” Rozenboom said. “Joe Bolkcom introduced the legislation and immediately declared it dead because he said he couldn’t get any Republican support. I think that was disingenuous of him, because several of us are interested in any discussion.
“Joe Bolkcom ... is using it as a political football,” Rozenboom said. “That distresses me. There was no need for him to do what he did. Now I’ve tried to work with Joe. But frankly he has used ... he is harming the people that he’s professing to help. That’s what happens when you let politics get in front of good common sense and fairness. That’s what he has done.”
Rozenboom said he co-sponsored a resolution of will to allow an interim committee to do some fact-finding this summer on medicinal marijuana.
“And this is just a way to move forward so we don’t forget about it,” Rozenboom said. “It will get some attention in the interim.”
Rozenboom said if the issue has any legs this year it would be up to the Democrats who control the Senate to move it forward.
“I can’t advance it for them,” Rozenboom said. “And they want to blame it on guys like me when they have all the power. And that’s what I find really distressing.”
One item Rozenboom voted against his party was on the use of interlock ignition devices for first offense OWI offenders, a tweak to existing code. Rozenboom said he didn’t vote for the bill because “it actually weakens our protection from those who are driving while impaired.”
It passed out of the Senate on a bipartisan vote and is now in the House, he said.
Both men briefly talked about the effort to increase the road use tax to fund road and bridge improvements.
Rozenboom said he doesn’t see anything happening with a road use tax increase this year in part because it’s an election year.
“Which makes it tough for people to vote for a tax increase,” Rozenboom said. “But I think that shouldn’t make any difference but it does.”
Rozenboom said he’s not a tax raiser but would consider it if the conditions are right. Replace the cents per gallon currently used with an excise or sales tax as a percentage of the cost of a gallon of gas and take the TIME 21 formula and make it “the last bucket that gets filled.”
“Then I’m inclined to vote for an increase,” Rozenboom said. “And I know a lot of people disagree with me on that. We can’t let our infrastructure suffer. It’s suffering right now.”
Sheets said if the state adopted a percentage sales tax on a gallon of gas it would raise more than enough money to fix our roads and bridges.
“If somebody had dealt with this before and made it a percentage we’d have probably too much money in road fund and we’d probably trying to reduce the taxes on that. So that’s what’s in my bill. To try to take care of the future by making it index with inflation.”