Broadband bill controversy

KIMT News 3 – “It’s probably the most disappointed that I’ve been in the house chambers so far,” says State Representative Josh Byrnes.

He is talking about a bill to expand high-speed internet access across Iowa.

The Governor chose this as one of his priorities this legislative session but in a vote last Friday it failed.

“I mean it completely surprised me,” comments Byrnes.

And it wasn’t only the numbers that were unexpected, when it came time to vote, many stayed seated.

“We open up the voting machine to vote on the bill and the minority party, a good share of their members actually sat in their desks and refused to vote,” says Byrnes.

But there is a rule that states if you’re in the chamber, you must vote.

“So we went through each one of their names and called out their name as they just kept saying no,” adds Byrnes.

He says if it’s a political statement they’re after, they shouldn’t be sacrificing something with the potential of benefitting so many small towns.

“Everybody knew this was a top priority and you know I just think that it’s unfortunate that they used such an important bill to make a statement to the Governor,” says Byrnes.

But it might not all be political, Representative Linda Upmeyer says there was still a lot of issues to be worked out in the bill.

Meanwhile, one school superintendent is partnering up with several lawmakers. He wants to make a difference for rural schools in Iowa who can’t get broadband internet.

“Our elementary in Elma and Lime Springs don’t have the capacity that our for broadband access as our Crestwood campus has,” says Superintendent John Carver.

He says this creates a significant learning barrier.

There’s still hope yet this session. Upmeyer says she had voted “YES” until she realized the majority of lawmakers were voting “NO,” that’s when she switched her vote. Not because she withdrew her support, but because she wanted to be able to bring it back up for reconsideration. She can only do that if she votes with the majority. Upmeyer says she hopes to at least pass a portion of the bill to start connecting Iowans everywhere.

“Maybe we can agree on a little narrower bill that takes the first step, come back next year with and work on step 2, step 3 but none the less it is a big issue,” says Upmeyer.

With the session winding down, we will just have to wait and see if the bill gets taken back up.

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