DES MOINES — Today marks the 127th calendar day of the 2011 Iowa legislative session, and there is no end in sight for lawmakers who were scheduled to wrap up their work April 30.
Still, that’s no record. Not even close.
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol today, and if they do not adjourn before the end of the week, they will eclipse the modern-day record of 131 calendar days set in 1981 and 2005.
The all-time record goes to the 62nd General Assembly’s session in 1967, which covered 175 consecutive calendar days without a break before adjourning July 2. One session went longer.
Today may be the only day of floor action in the third week of session after lawmakers’ scheduled adjournment. The Senate plans to debate a bill addressing facilities that perform late-terms abortion, but that may be the only floor action this week.
That debate was interrupted Thursday when a member of the Republican minority refused to give what’s known as “unanimous consent” to allow SSB 1212 to come to the floor. The bill had gone through subcommittee and committee earlier in the day.
The issue stems from plans by Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Nebraska to open a clinic in Council Bluffs where he would perform late-term abortions. Nebraska enacted restrictions on late-term abortions, prompting him to move across the river.
The Senate bill would allow late-term abortions but only in cities with hospitals that offer intensive care services for infants. Those facilities can be found in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Des Moines, but not in Council Bluffs.
The bill’s floor manager, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, an abortion rights supporter, predicted passage of the bill, which would block establishment of a free-standing clinic in Council Bluffs where late-term abortions would be performed.
“The proposal we have presented has the support of our entire caucus,” Bolkcom said Friday on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press program. “We all agree that preventing a late-term abortion, free-standing clinic in Council Bluffs is the right thing to do, and we think this legislation will accomplish that.”
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Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton, said the bill does nothing to ban late-term abortions. It only provides political cover for Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs where opposition to the abortion clinic has come from the community and elected officials.
However, passage in the House, which passed a bill to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, is unlikely.
“If, in fact, all it does is formalize a procedure for doctors to come to the state of Iowa, including Dr. Carhart, to perform late-term abortions, I’m confident the House will not pass a bill that does that,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said.
In the House, Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Garner, has all but ruled out floor debate this week.