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News Analysis: March 24, 2008

posted on March 24, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Beck: We turn to David Pitt for a look behind the headlines. Dave, thanks for joining us.

Pitt: Hi, Jeneane.

Beck: Tragedy in Iowa City today. Explain what happened.

Pitt: Well, it's a tragic story that started early this morning. About 6:30 the police received a 911 call from a cell phone and they went to a home on the east edge of Iowa City and found a woman and four children had been killed. So, they have been working all day to try to unravel the details of this story. It's the home of a man who worked for the Hills Bank and he has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of taking money from the bank. He's missing. The family van has been found about nine miles easy of Iowa City on the Interstate, crashed and burned. There was a body in the van. They haven't yet identified it as the man. So, there are things that the police need to connect up but it is indeed a tragic story.

Beck: And the woman and children that were killed, do we know how they died?

Pitt: Police originally put out a message about a shooting. They alerted the University of Iowa campus, they alerted local schools and shut them down saying that it was a shooting. But then they came back later in the day and said they were not certain of that. So, again, that's another detail. We're waiting for details. There will be autopsies tomorrow and so we'll learn more.

Beck: But a devastating tragedy in that community.

Pitt: Exactly.

Beck: Talk about the Iowa statehouse. The Senate has been debating all day on legislation that is considered labor legislation, pro-union by some. What is going to amount if that legislation becomes law?

Pitt: Well, it appears to be a bill that affects public employees, mainly teachers, city, county, state employees and what it does is it allows them to specify the types of things that they can bring up and can be brought up by the unions that represent them in negotiations. So, it broadens that a bit. Democrats believe that it's keeping pace with the private sector. Many republicans believe that it's something that is going to increase taxes because it will open up more things for consideration and it could be something that raises taxes. So, that is the debate about what's happening. The Governor came out today and said that he believes perhaps that maybe a public hearing would be the best thing. But it appears this thing is going to happen today and is being debated as we speak.

Beck: It's been interesting because this had really come very quickly and the House majority leader, Democrat Kevin McCarthy had said he actually did time this to try to limit debate because he knew it was going to be partisan, he knew it was going to be complicated. But then there was a break over the weekend. They had hoped to wrap that bill up last week but they did go home. And so some democrats say look, constituents had time to get a hold of us. The Governor has been largely silent on this and all of a sudden saying, ooh, let's rain it in a little bit. It almost seemed to me like he said let's stop while I can stick my finger in the wind and see where the wind is blowing on this issue. But they went ahead without him and that is the democratic majority saying to their democratic governor, no, we're going to do what we want.

Pitt: Right, I think Senator Gronstal who leads the democrats in the Senate did say today that his plan is to go ahead and complete the debate on the bill today, that there has been ample time for people to reach their legislators and there has been time for debate. I think they allowed 6 hours of debate on the bill so it should be wrapped up some time today. So, I think that's where it's headed. It sounds like it's headed for completion in the legislature and the Governor obviously will have his choice. He'll have to decide what to do with the bill.

Beck: One of the other things we're keeping an eye on this week is, of course, the legislation dealing with smoking in public places. It's gone to a conference committee. They haven't met other than to sort of talk about future meetings yet but we expect them to meet and sort of try to hammer out negotiations or a deal this week.

Pitt: Right and it looks like it is going to come to some sort of an agreement this week. Again, this is the issue that would ban smoking in a number of places but it also would exempt a few places and the hang up has been on the exemptions. And it appears that maybe they'll be headed for exempting casinos and perhaps veteran's halls, veteran's clubs but that is still part of the contention there. And we'll have to see when it all completes the process where it ends up.

Beck: And whatever comes out of that conference committee has to be voted on up or down, right? They can't change it?

Pitt: That's right.

Beck: Alright, so we'll see what happens.

Pitt: That should be wrapped up this week too and then we'll get to the budget.

Beck: Minor detail, right?

Pitt: I think it's the middle of April, April 22nd, that week is the 100 days and that's when they stop getting paid so we've got a few more weeks and then the legislature likely will be finished.

Beck: They had hoped to get out early but we don't know yet, right?

Pitt: That's right.


Tags: Iowa news smoking