Legislators meet at weekend forum

State legislators met in Webster City Saturday morning to discuss recent actions at the state capitol and take questions from the public.

State Senator Jerry Behn said the legislature left off last week with little fanfare. Many bills were taken off the Senate counter as they were no longer eligible for debate. While Behn said hardly any bill is truly dead, the vast majority of those not adopted by now are done.

“The good news is that speeds everything up and paves a way for us to finish the session,” Behn said. “The bad news is if there were any bills that you were interested in and wanted to get through, they’re dead. Unless they get added on as an amendment or some gymnastics occurs that could get it back into shape again, they’re dead.”

Now, Behn said the legislature will be in budget talks.

The State Senator representing Hamilton County also took some time to discuss bills he had recently voted against. One was a bill on texting and driving that passed the Senate. Behn said he voted against the bill for a couple reasons. According to Behn, the bill changes the fine for texting while driving from a scheduled fine to a moving violation. If someone who receives this violation has a couple speeding tickets, he said they could lose their license and would want to appeal the violation.

“That’s going to partially plug the courts,” Behn said.

He was also against exceptions the bill makes for using GPS and hands-free devices. He was also against legislation requiring all convicted drunk drivers to install an interlock device in their car. While Behn said the clever device acts as a breathalyzer and can prevent people from driving while intoxicated, he took issue with a clause in the bill.

Behn said the bill didn’t require those convicted of drunk driving to pay for the interlock device if they are at or below 150 percent of the poverty level. He said he is unaware of any other criminal penalty where the income level of the perpetrator determines the cost of the fine.

“It interjects a social type of a program in there that I think just doesn’t have any place in the criminal code,” Behn said.

He said the interlock device bill has been sent to the House.

Representative Rob Bacon also shared an update at the meeting. Last year, Bacon said the joint Senate and House targets weren’t completed until May 9. This year, they hit that target on March 5. While he said the state has seen an increase in spending, Iowa is not spending more than it is taking in.