So much for the big debate on the smoke-free workplaces. Apparently, Democrats didn't get an amendment filed in time yesterday, so lawmakers couldn't take up the bill today. The amendment would have added an exemption for the Iowa Veterans Home. It would have also allowed smoking within 10 feet of public buildings. The version the House Commerce Committee passed had a 50 foot zone.
Supporters seem a little worried about the time delay. Casinos already worked their way into an exemption in the orginal bill (along with VFWs and American Legion Halls). But now bars and taverns that serve only the over-21 crowd want exemptions, too. They say if they don't get one, customers will just go to the casinos. That will be quite a drive for those customers. Good thing gas is cheap.
Where will the exemptions stop? House Minority Leader Christopher Rants wondered how they can not exempt bowling alleys or anyone else. He believes Iowans just want smoke-free restaurants (really?). They're not concerned about the rest, he says. Supporters worry another round of exemptions will bog down this bill so much, some lawmakers will no longer go for it. We may see next week.
Governor Chet Culver can't be too happy with some other news from upstairs at the Statehouse. Democratic leaders say they're not going for Culver's plan for combined corporate reporting (would raise taxes on out-of-state companies that do business in Iowa about $75 million or so if my memory is correct) and his bottle bill expansion. Culver told us the people of Iowa want both of these things to happen. Any chance he can bring the bottle bill back to life?
Finally, house lawmakers jumped on that bill to give money to Microsoft to encourage the company to build a data center in Iowa (House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Microsoft is considering two towns in "central Iowa". Along with at least one other state) The bill passed 99 to 1. Only Des Moines Democrat Bruce Hunter said no. He's apparently not a fan of giving all this tax money to corporations. By my math, it's about $36 million in sales tax exemptions on computer equipment and electricity. The senate could work on this next week and quickly give it to the Gov. I've used exemption way too much.
Happy Valentine's Day!