Iowa Capitol Digest: Steady fuel prices, SupCo road trip, proper parking law

FUEL PRICES: Iowans saw generally steady prices for heating and motor fuels over the last week, with the exception of a 46-cent spike in price they paid for natural gas, according to weekly report issued by the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Natural gas prices closed the week at $3.04/MMbtu.

Propane prices were down 2 cents from last week, with a statewide average of $1.21 per gallon. Home heating oil prices dipped 3 cents to a statewide average of $1.98.

The price of regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.31 a gallon across Iowa, according to AAA, which was 1 cent lower than last week but 29 cents a gallon higher than one year ago.

Meanwhile, retail diesel fuel prices in Iowa were down a penny, with a statewide average of $2.46 per gallon compared to $2.07 one year ago and a national average of $2.52.

SUPREME ROAD TRIP: The justices of the Iowa Supreme Court are planning another road trip, this time to Charles City next month.

The justices will hear oral arguments in open court at 7 p.m. April 4 in the Old Charles City Middle School auditorium, 500 N. Grand Ave., as part of the Judicial Branch’s outreach effort to better inform Iowans about their court system and witness the Supreme Court in action.

The justices will hear attorneys argue a premises liability action appeal from Scott County District Court involving Spencer J. Ludman versus Davenport Assumption High School.

In the case, the school is appealing a judgment following a jury verdict finding that the defendant’s negligence was responsible for injuries a baseball player sustained when struck by a foul ball. The player was standing in an unprotected part of the visitors’ dugout at the school’s baseball field.

The player’s attorneys say the appeal presents important issues regarding the safety of the facilities where student athletes play.

The school suggests sponsors of sporting events face an avalanche of litigation if the “limited-duty rule” is discarded in this context.

A public reception with the Supreme Court justices will follow the oral arguments.

BRANSTAD SIGNS BILLS: Gov. Terry Branstad signed three bills into law Thursday, including one to strike a 103-year-old statute that makes it illegal to leave a vehicle unattended with its engine running while parked on the street or public property. The new law House File 312 replaces an Iowa replaces one that Previously, the law prohibited a person from permitting a vehicle to stand unattended without first stopping the engine and turning the front wheels to the curb when the vehicle is on a hill.

Branstad also signed House File 217, an act which relates to disciplinary actions taken against a licensed school employee that must be reported to the state Board of Educational Examiners, and House File 311 that deals with provisions applicable to life insurance companies and associations.

SPENDING LIMITATION: The Iowa Senate voted 38-10 Thursday to approve a resolution seeking voter approval to write the state’s statutory 99 percent limitation into the Iowa Constitution.

Senate Joint Resolution 9 seeks to make the requirement that the governor and Legislature not spend more than 99 percent of the adjusted revenue estimate for the state’s general fund a constitutionally protected expenditure limitation.

Before passing the resolutions, senators accepted an addition offered by Sen. Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, to allow the Legislature — with a two-thirds majority vote of the House and Senate and the signature of the governor — to override the expenditure limitation as a “safety valve” if needed to deal with unforeseen circumstances.

Constitutional resolutions must be passed in exactly the same form by both the House and Senate of two consecutive General Assemblies to be put before Iowa voters as a statewide ballot issue.