Here are 5 big issues the Legislature has yet to resolve with just three weeks left in the 2008 session, and the percentage chance something will get done.
1. Road Construction — Most Democrats are backing a plan that would plow higher car and truck registration fees into the cash-strapped road fund, although they’re covering their political asphalt by making the higher fees applicable only to new vehicles starting with the 2009 model year. Republican leaders oppose any fee hikes and want to pick road money from a magical tree. If we could fill potholes with shameless politics, we’d all be driving on glass-smooth autobahns. Still, I think they have to do something. Chance something will happen this year: 50 percent.
2. Immigration — Democrats have yet to move a bill penalizing executives who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. It’s now sitting in a House committee. Democrats are dithering and bickering over how to proceed while Republicans hope to use the debate to showcase their get-tough plan for making everyone from the state patrol to school crossing guards into immigration officers. Chance: 40 percent.
3. Collective bargaining — Legislative Democrats deserve the flak they’re getting for shoving the bill through at warp speed. But the bottom line is, it’s a good deal for thousands of workers and Culver will sign it. The only question now is whether lawmakers will change the bill first to please the guv or pass separate fix-up legislation later. Chance: 90 percent.
4. Bottle Bill expansion — It’s no miracle that leaders briefly revived Chet’s pet issue just as the collective bargaining feud broke out. It still faces too much opposition to become law. It’s tough to imagine lawmakers saying, “Hi hometown grocer. Sorry I raised the minimum wage and hiked the cigarette tax and pulled out your TouchPlay machine and turned you into a pseudoephedrine cop. But I’m going to have to kick you just one more time, OK? No hard feelings.” Chance: 10 percent.
5. Statewide school infrastructure tax — The guv did no favors to statewide tax backers when he suggested some of the proceeds from a permanent penny could be used for teacher salaries instead of building needs. It played into the biggest objection to turning a temporary, local tax into an endless state trough — you can’t trust politicians to keep their mitts off the money. Backers have spent the entire session trying to ease that discomfort. I don’t think they’ve succeeded. Chance: 20 percent.
There are plenty of other issues. Feel free to add to the list.