The Senate Commerce Committee voted 9-3 Thursday in favor of a bill aimed at changing state government’s purchasing procedures to help Iowa small businesses compete for state contracts. Senate File 15 would apply to state purchases of less than $500,000. The bill would set up a process whereby an Iowa business that was within $10,000 or 5 percent of the winning bid from an out-of-state competitor could get the sale if the Iowa business lowers its price and matches the low bid. Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Cedar Rapids, said the legislation never requires the state to pay more than the lowest bid, and the state can purchase from an out-of-state vendor if no Iowa business matches the low bid. She said the measure was intended to make sure Iowa-based small businesses “are given a fair crack at state contracts” by giving them “one more tool in the tool box.” Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, one of three Republicans to oppose the measure, said he agreed with the bill’s intent but expressed concern it could hurt Iowa companies — especially in border communities — who may be penalized when seeking business in neighboring states that might have reciprocity agreements that frown on such protections. “I want to make sure we’re providing a level playing field,” he said.
ELECTRIC CARS: A bill directing the Iowa Department of Transportation to issue a new special motor vehicle registration plate bearing an electric vehicle emblem was approved by a Senate Transportation subcommittee on Thursday. Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the special electric vehicle plates would be available only for motor vehicles that operate on an electric propulsion system or on a combination of electric propulsion and internal combustion propulsion. Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, a professional firefighter, said the special plate is designed to help police officers, public safety workers, firefighters or emergency responders who face at added danger of high-voltage shock from an electric or hybrid vehicle involved in a traffic accident. The license plate would provide a “universal badge” to warn to emergency responders to take precautions to disable the electrical capacitors of a damaged vehicle. The special plates would be made available to owners of electric or hybrid vehicles on a voluntary basis. The fees for electric vehicle plates are the standard fees established for special registration plates of $25. An applicant for personalized special plates must pay the $25 personalized plate fee in addition to the $25 special plate fee.
HIRE A HERO: A Senate Veterans Affairs subcommittee Thursday approved a measure that would make Iowa employers eligible for a $1,000 tax credit if they hire a returning military service member. The so-called “Hire a Hero” tax credit contained in Senate Study Bill 1064 would apply to members of the Iowa National Guard and the reserve and regular branches of the armed forces who return to Iowa from an active-duty assignment. Backers say the proposed tax credit could help up to 3,200 returning military service members at a projected cost of about $5.7 million.
EXTREME MEASURES: House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines said he is troubled by GOP proposals that surfaced this week regarding the United Nation’s “Agenda 21” sustainable development prohibitions and abortion restrictions that propose to define a human being as a “person” at conception. McCarthy told Statehouse reporters that the General Assembly should not be legislating conspiracy theories and he contended that provisions of House File 138 would result in women facing murder charges for using contraception. The House leader said he would agree to a brief floor debate on the “personhood” bill in hopes that GOP legislators would “get this out of their system” so the legislature could move on to priority issues that create jobs and help working people. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, dismissed McCarthy’s offer as political posturing, telling reporters: “I find it fascinating that when Leader McCarthy gives a speech, he talks about bread and butter issues, and then when he talks to you folks, he brings up all these things that he wants to fight about. House Republicans are focused on growing Iowa’s economy. Budget, education reform and property tax relief. That is where we are expending our energy right now.”
IOWA/HEBEI, CHINA SISTER STATE RELATIONSHIP: Iowa officials are marking the 30th anniversary of the Hebei Province in China and state of Iowa Sister State relationship with events statewide that will be held to commemorate their ties. On Monday, there will be a small group performance of Hebei and Iowa youth in the Iowa House of Representatives chambers where six officials from Hebei Province will be attending. Later that day, the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School Orchestra (from Hebei) will perform a joint concert with Valley High School’s Orchestra in West Des Moines – an event that is free and open to the public. The Hebei/Iowa relationship was enhanced by the fact that in 1985 Xi Jinping came to Iowa from Hebei on an agricultural tour through Iowa Sister States. Xi Jinping, who visited Iowa one year ago, will become president of China later this year.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Thank you for eating Iowa pork, beef, soybeans and corn.” – Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge in addressing three visiting Taiwanese dignitaries who were in attendance Thursday when the Iowa Senate and Iowa House approved bipartisan resolutions reaffirming Iowa’ s sister-state relationship with Taiwan and support efforts by the Asian island nation to secure entry into the International Civil Aviation Organization.