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News Analysis: April 14, 2008

posted on April 10, 2008 at 10:47 AM

In the News Analysis segment, David Pitt, Associated Press reporter, talks with host Paul Yeager about the proposed transportation license fee, the appropriations bill which may include $120 million to build a new prison in Fort Madison, and the implications of Iowa's new smoking ban.

Yeager: David, let's talk about the smoking bill that will finally get an ink signature by the Governor tomorrow. But let's go beyond the bill, we know what is in it. But what kind of impact does it look like this bill is going to have even before it takes into effect?

Pitt: Well, some of the estimates by the legislative fiscal bureau, which is an organization that works for the state legislature to do estimates on how much certain types of legislation will cost the state, they have estimated that the bill will decline smoking by about four percent which means about $10 million off of the state revenues that they had anticipated through the new smoking tax that they passed a year ago. So, it will be a bit of a hit to the state budget but that is probably something that they are willing to exchange for the fact that healthcare costs are expected to go down.

Yeager: That was part of the debate was if we can get fewer people to smoke then there will be fewer health costs down the line. We already saw how the impact was in Missouri that we saw a lot of Iowa smokers heading to Missouri to buy smokes, bring them back into the state. Do we think that there's going to be people going to bars in Missouri or bars in some other spot to smoke?

Pitt: Well, there are probably some people who anticipate that but I think most of the surrounding states now will have cigarette smoking bans in many of their establishments. The laws are a little different depending on which state you go to. But Iowa is actually coming on board with this after other states have done it as well. So, there may be some of that but I think the ban looks like it will involve bars, restaurants, the exemptions will include the Veteran's Home in Marshalltown and casino floors so you can still smoke on casino floors and in the Veteran's Home.

Yeager: That was something they took up at the legislature last week and finally got signed. We've got what could be the final week. What do we think we'll see in these final few days?

Pitt: Well, we're looking at the possibility of a final week although even the democratic leaders who kind of are controlling the calendar at this point are saying we could spill over. But I think they are going to try to wrap up this week. Most of the remaining bits of legislation have to do with the state budget and nailing down those pieces. A couple of things we might want to watch for would be the transportation bill, the bill that will increase the fees that you pay when you get your car license renewed or your car tags renewed. That is expected to bring in a couple hundred million dollars, a little less than that now it looks like. And there will be one of the very last appropriations measures they'll take up will be an infrastructure appropriations bill which it looks like it going to include money to build a new prison in Fort Madison. If that gets through the legislature in the form that it looks like it had been in that is about $120 million for a new prison there. It will take several years for that to happen but it will be borrowing money which might be a controversy.

Yeager: Okay, I was going to ask where would that money come from because the transportation money is going to stay with the transportation. We've got roads across the state, a $200 million hole is what the transportation folks have been saying.

Pitt: Right, the money for the prison, at least for the Fort Madison prison will be money that will be borrowed, it would be bonded. So, that will probably be a controversy. It has been something that some republicans have been concerned about and democrats as well.

Yeager: And possibly thrown in with the late night part of a session? The last day it's kind of using that leverage of do you want to go home or do you want to finish this bill?

Pitt: Right and that happens on things that are controversial but they want to get through and so it looks like it might be one of those that will be late at night and it will be something that people will just be willing to get passed through and the discussion could always come up in a later session next year.

Yeager: And the Governor is going to be at that signing ceremony tomorrow but he's not been in Iowa very much lately. Where has he been?

Pitt: Right, well late last week he was traveling for the democratic governors and raising money and then he went to Kosovo, kind of a surprise over the weekend. We had heard he was going to hold a press conference on Saturday and not knowing where or what it was about and he turned up in Kosovo with the soldiers there and then he will be back in the state, of course, to sign the bill. But we understand today, I believe, he is going to be campaigning or doing some events for Barack Obama's campaign.

Yeager: Which is who he went out and supported and he made an event in Omaha not too long ago after the caucus. He also was at the Master's golf tournament with Zach Johnson. What other things are going on with him that we need to know about? Or are there other things going on this week in the state that we should know about?

Pitt: No, I think that's it. The CIETC trial continues in Davenport. That is the Des Moines based organization, the job training group. One of the testimony from one of the witnesses today was the man who was kind of the whistle blower in the whole situation and so that trial continues. It will take a break a little bit later in the week as the judge has some conflicts and then pick up again the next week.

Yeager: And they're thinking it will probably be another week after this, so maybe three weeks?

Pitt: Right.


Tags: Iowa news prisons smoking