The Associated Press March 30, 2010, 5:23PM ET

A look at Iowa legislative session

Budget matters dominated the Iowa Legislature from the day the session began in January, but lawmakers found time to deal with other issues.

Many matters, however, fell by the wayside.

Here's a look at what the Legislature did, and didn't do, this session:

BUDGET: Faced with a $341 million shortfall, the Legislature's top accomplishment was a package of changes designed to cut the budget by changing purchasing and computer operations, merging some small agencies, and changing operations in some larger departments. Coupled with an early retirement package for state employees, the changes saved about $270 million and went a long way toward balancing the budget.

GAMBLING: Although they were desperate for money, lawmakers rejected two gambling proposals. One would have generated up to $25 million annually by expanding areas in casinos where operators could offer games; it also would have ended most elections needed for casinos to keep their licenses. Under the other plan, casino operators in Dubuque and Council Bluffs offered to pay the state $7 million a year if they could stop subsidizing dog racing.

LABOR: For two years, Democrats have called for passage of measures allowing unions to collect a fee from nonmembers in a bargaining unit they represent, expand the topics for which public workers can bargain and require workers on public projects to be paid the prevailing wage. None of the measures came up for a vote this year, creating tension between labor and Democrats.

MARRIAGE: Same-sex marriage is a big issue in the Republican gubernatorial race, but it barely came up during the session thanks to opposition from Democratic leaders. Many Republican legislators want to put a constitutional amendment before voters outlawing gay marriage, but that would require approval by two consecutive general assemblies. With no action this year, the soonest the issue could be put before voters would be 2014.

ANIMALS: Lawmakers approved tightened regulations of dog-breeding operations in an effort to crack down on puppy mills. The measure raises fees on breeding operations for hiring additional inspectors to check complaints.

GUNS: Lawmakers approved a measure that would take guns from those convicted of domestic abuse. Legislators also changed the system for granting concealed-weapons permits, requiring sheriffs to use state guidelines in deciding whether to grant such requests and explaining when they decline permits.

TEXTING: The legislature approved restrictions on motorists who send text messages while driving. Drivers under 18 were banned from using cell phones while driving, and older drivers were banned from sending or reading text messages while driving.

SESSION: To save money, lawmakers reduced the normal 100-day session to 80 days, putting themselves under severe time pressure. They finished up in 79 days, which Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal said would mean about $800,000 in savings. "That's real money," he said.


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