Welcome to Iowa Public Television! If you are seeing this message, you are using a browser that does not support web standards. This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device. Read more on our technical tips page.

Iowa Public Television


News Analysis: February 21, 2008

posted on February 21, 2008 at 9:35 AM

Yeager: Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa has had a full week of the legislature. It was a late night included in there. There is a smoking debate in the Iowa House. This one went late. It did pass out of the House, but the story is not done. Talk about that debate, how we got there and what's next.

Henderson: Well, the bill under consideration would ban smoking in most public places in Iowa. There were a couple of exceptions, which generated all the controversy during the five hours of debate that we all sat through. Number one, it does not cover smoking in the casinos so if you want to go pull one of the bandits you can light up while you're doing that.

It also, in some strange way that I really don't want to explain tonight, would affect farmers that are driving a combine that is owned by a family farm corporation. If they have an employee, they can't smoke because that smoking would affect the employee when they get in the combine to take their turn during harvest season. The bill passed on a 56-44 vote. There were 11 Republicans who voted for it, and so the majority of votes came from Democrats, 45 of them.

Yeager: Not along party lines. So, why is that some issues are along party lines, when this one -- because Republicans tend to think they don't want the government in their lives as much. So why did the Republicans cross over on this issue?

Henderson: In general, those who voted against the bill are against having people tell you what you can do and where you can or can not do it. The Republicans who did vote for it, for instance Walt Tomenga, who is from Johnston, Iowa, coincidentally --- we're sitting in Johnston, Iowa -- mentioned the health impact that smoking is bad.

I think that once this debate moves over to the Iowa Senate, that we may see more consideration of the idea of giving cities and counties in Iowa the authority to enact local smoking ordinances. If you live in Ames or Iowa City, you know that your city council already tried to do that once. Been there, done that -- but it was not successful, because the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that they didn't have the authority to do that.

I think the bill that may be in the Senate up for debate would indeed give them that authority. And if you were listening closely when Iowa Public Television broadcast the Governor's Condition of the State message, you may have heard that he said that he would sign such a bill.

Yeager: And that is a bill -- we've seen bills where they'll pass one chamber but not go into the other. So, do we think the Senate is going to take this up and take this debate? They have another weekend just like the House had last weekend to hear about it in their home districts. I'm sure the Senate will hear about it in their home districts. Do we think we'll see any change or any new amendments come to it?

Henderson: It's hard to tell what's going to happen in the Iowa Senate at this point. But I think it's clear that there will be a debate about this issue, just not what final form that bill will take.

Yeager: We'll see how that one shakes out. And the other thing is more in the Governor's office; we could maybe call him Governor Penny. We're talking about school infrastructure, local option. That is something that is across the state to help fund infrastructure for schools. What has he said that has all of a sudden gotten a certain article you wrote passed around real quickly across the statehouse?

Henderson: Well, what is interesting to those of you who may be listening at home is that the Governor merely said he was open to the idea of using that sales tax revenue that is currently used solely for school infrastructure to perhaps pay for teacher's salaries. He didn't say all of it should be used, he said he was open to the idea. Well, that was like throwing gasoline on dry tinder up at the legislature, because there has been a group of Democrats who have been trying to convince a core of Republicans to join them in passing this proposal to institute this penny sales tax statewide and then give it back to schools, trying to reassure those Republicans that hey, this will never be used for teacher's salaries. And so the Governor merely is saying that he's open to the possibility then leads Republicans to say hey, we told you so.

Yeager: But that's different than other issues where we talk about pennies on the fuel tax where he closed the door, he said, I'm not for that at all.

Henderson: Exactly, and what is really interesting is the House Education Committee chairman who is a retired principal, a rather soft-spoken person told me that the teacher's union asked him the same question and his answer to them was no, it will not be used for teacher's salaries. So, perhaps Governor Culver has taken his homework home and seen the red marks on it and is going to sing a different tune next time he goes out in public and talks about this issue.

Tags: Iowa news smoking