• Mon March 12 2007
  • Posted Mar 12, 2007
BY JONATHAN ROOS AND JENNIFER JACOBS REGISTER STAFF WRITERS Proposed laws dealing with the environment and renewable energy survived a frantic week of activity in the Iowa Legislature. So did measures pertaining to school attendance, health insurance and fire safety. Many bills were declared a "work in progress" by committee leaders who scrambled Thursday to take last-minute action on lawmakers' pet priorities ahead of today's deadline for having most bills passed out of at least one House or Senate committee in order to remain in contention. Scores of other bills were discarded as the Legislature did some housecleaning at the midpoint of the 2007 session. Bicyclists on a street or highway won't be required to attach a 60-inch-tall orange flag to their bikes, wear reflective clothing even during daylight hours or carry identification. A bill that would have imposed those safety measures died in the House Transportation Committee. That was just fine with Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, based in North Liberty. "Really, it's another excuse for a motorist to not share the road," said Wyatt. "If a crash occurs and the bike has no flag, then the bike is at fault for not being visible enough." Rep. Jodi Tymeson, a Winterset Republican, said she normally doesn't like interference from "big government," but she introduced the bill after hearing from a Dallas County resident worried about bicycle safety. When more than 50 Iowans complained, she assured them the bill was going nowhere. A bill favored by bicyclists, creating a "share the road" vehicle license plate that would raise money for bike safety education, died this week in the Senate Transportation Committee. Lawmakers threw a lifeline to energy and environmental measures that are still being fleshed out. A controversial bill that would overhaul the way the state deals with water pollution received an 11th-hour reprieve from the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee. Senate leaders hope to hash out differences between farm and environmental interests. "We've allowed them to go one more week. Otherwise, it's going to die," said Sen. Frank Wood, an Eldridge Democrat. Gov. Chet Culver's plan for a $100 million Iowa Power Fund to develop the state's renewable energy industry moved a step forward in the Senate Commerce Committee. The panel endorsed a bill creating the framework for the fund and authorizing the first $25 million installment. Here's a look at other bills that just made the cut ahead of today's deadline: - The state fire marshal would be called upon to investigate the use of "novelty" cigarette lighters, made with unusual shapes or designs, under a bill endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Examples shared with the panel include lighters that look like a frog or a toy gun. The cigarette lighters could be especially enticing - and hazardous - to children, said Sen. Keith Kreiman, a Bloomfield Democrat who heads the committee. - Proposals to expand Iowa's mental health "parity" law by requiring larger employers to provide insurance coverage for treatment of eating disorders, depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse cleared committees. - The inaugural celebrations of Iowans elected governor would receive state oversight under a bill approved by the Senate State Government Committee. The legislation would require public disclosure of donations made by businesses and individuals to the inaugural celebrations and cap contributions at $25,000. - A proposal to limit competition in the sale of gasoline, described by supporters as a measure to protect small businesses from giants like Wal-Mart and Hy-Vee, was endorsed by the Senate Agriculture Committee. The bill is designed to prevent retailers from selling gasoline as a "loss leader," undercutting the price charged by other service stations. Reporter Jonathan Roos can be reached at (515) 284-8443 or

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