DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has about 40 bills on his desk awaiting a decision, a hefty stack of policy and spending measures lawmakers sent him in a flurry as the Legislature adjourned earlier this month.
He has about two more weeks to decide whether to sign the bills, which include measures regulating the use of unmanned aerial drones, allowing some people with epilepsy to take a marijuana oil derivative, and ending dog racing at Council Bluffs but allowing it to continue in Dubuque.
Also in the stack is a bill that sets penalties for elder abuse and another that would ease penalties on the transmission of infectious diseases including HIV.
About 10 of the bills Branstad must consider are spending measures that make up large portions of the state’s $6.97 billion budget. They include funding for the departments of agriculture, economic development, health and human services, transportation, public health, education, and the state’s courts.
The governor has 30 days from adjournment to consider bills sent to him at the end of the session.
“We want to first of all to see that the budget is not only balanced for this year but is sustainable for the long term,” Branstad said in an interview. “We’re very carefully reviewing and analyzing all these budget things.”
Included are measures legislative leaders held up as some of their biggest accomplishments this year.
“We balanced the state budget without raising taxes. We expanded job skills training. We invested in infrastructure and job creation,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, in his remarks closing out the session.
Gronstal and Republican House Speaker Kraig Paulsen point out that their education budget allows state-run universities to freeze tuition for a second consecutive year and increases community college funding.
To Paulsen a crowning achievement was “a serious commitment to a very basic and common sense practice — paying off the state’s debt. We should all be very proud that unlike Washington, D.C. we have stopped borrowing money and instead we are paying off our debts,” he said.
That debt repayment is included in a bill passed just before 4 a.m. May 1. Most legislators saw the bill for the first time a few hours earlier. It’s getting particularly close scrutiny from the governor.
It’s a measure with $140 million in one-time government spending including $80 million for an assortment of programs and projects and $60 million to pay off bond debt incurred a decade ago for the Vision Iowa economic development program.
“You have this huge one-time spending bill that nobody saw until after midnight the last day of the session and there are some real concerns in that,” Branstad said. “That’s the reason why we’re doing a very thoughtful and careful analysis and why we’ll use the better part of the 30 days to make the final decision.”
The Iowa Constitution grants the governor line-item veto authority for spending measures. He may strike portions of a budget bill he does not favor.
So far this year Branstad has signed just over 100 bills into law, including one signed Friday that provides a tax credit to reserve peace officers and modifies the tax credit for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical services workers.
He plans to sign a bill Wednesday that increases tax credits for E15, fuel that is 15 percent corn-based ethanol and 85 percent gasoline. It also extends an incentive payment for biodiesel through 2017.
Branstad has indicated he’ll sign his Home Base Iowa initiative on Memorial Day. The measure offers tax and job incentives to encourage military veterans to settle in Iowa.