State Senator Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) visiting with constituents.
State Senator Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) visiting with constituents.

The first funnel week is one of the most important weeks of any legislature. It marks the first big hurdle for any piece of legislation.

At the beginning of the session, all 150 legislators submit their ideas for legislation in bill form. These ideas come from a variety of sources: constituents, interest groups, friends and neighbors. Some of the ideas are good ideas and some frankly can leave you scratching your head. Funnel week and the legislative process weeds out the head scratchers from those bills that create good public policy.

Funnel week is significant because a bill must be voted out of a subcommittee and then the full committee in the chamber of origin in order to be alive for the rest of the session. If a submitted bill did not pass out of committee in either the House or the Senate by the end of the week, it is likely dead for this legislative session. However, there are a few, rare exceptions when a bill may be revived at the end of the session.

This traditionally results in a flurry of activity and this week held true to form in the Senate. Many legislators spent time trying to work their bill through the process in the hopes to get their legislation eligible for full floor debate. To put this in perspective, more than 60 bills received a subcommittee hearing on Monday and Tuesday to hear the merits of the proposed legislation.

For a bill that moved out of a committee in either the House or the Senate, it remains alive and will have to clear the full chamber to then move to the opposite chamber. Over the next few weeks, the opposite chamber can consider the bill and either move it forward or let it die. In just a few weeks, the next funnel will further winnow legislation.

Since the beginning of the legislative session, I have received hundreds of phone calls, thousands of emails and scores of personal visits sharing concerns about a variety of topics. Here are several of the issues that have received a lot of interest this session and remain alive:

  • Voter ID: Secretary of State Paul Pate has been traveling across Iowa to discuss his Voter ID proposal. Some of his plan includes requiring an ID such as a driver’s license, passport, military ID or state-issued free ID for voting purposes. Secretary Pate’s proposal also includes requiring an ID number on all absentee ballots. The secretary of state is recommending absentee ballot requests be taken for 120 days. Today, someone can make an absentee ballot request all year long for 2018 or 2020.
  • Traffic cameras: There are a couple bills focusing on traffic cameras still alive in the Senate. One bill would result in a complete ban of the traffic cameras, while the other would put more restrictions in place.
  • Fireworks: This is an issue that survived funnel week in the past couple legislative sessions, but in the end never came to the Senate floor for debate. This year, the proposed fireworks bill received more votes of support in the state government committee than in past sessions.
  • Texting while driving: This issue is one of concern to many Iowans who want our roadways to be more safe. There are a couple bills still in play with differing language. One bill calls for strict hands-free driving legislation.
  • Second Amendment: The Iowa House has been working on strengthening the Second Amendment rights of Iowans. The House omnibus gun bill cleared a judiciary subcommittee and full committee.

Over the last week, hundreds of emails and calls poured into my office regarding a licensing bill (House Study Bill 138) introduced in the Iowa House. This bill raised a variety of concerns from Iowans across the states. It is one of several highly discussed topics that died this week.

Other bills that appear to have died this session include: political diversity for college campuses, death penalty and legalizing machine guns.

Now that the first funnel is behind us, I would expect we will see plenty of floor action next week. In addition, the appropriation process will begin to move forward as we craft the state budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

The first funnel was one highlight of the week, it also signified another achievement – the 2017 legislative session reached the halfway mark.

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