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“Hopeful signs” that “tomorrow” may be last day fo 2013 legislative session

(Radio Iowa News) – Key legislators suggest private deal-making sessions at the statehouse today are producing results.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, has been meeting with top Democrats and with the governor’s staff.

“Taking care of issues, having the conversations we need to have,” Paulsen said early this afternoon, “I think there’s a very real possibility that we are done tomorrow.”

According to Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs, there are “hopeful signs” that the end of the 2013 legislative session is near.

“There’s lot of people with lots of concerns and it’s our job as leaders to work through the things that separate us and find common ground,” Gronstal told reporters this morning.

Unlike Paulsen, Gronstal isn’t going so far as to suggest the legislate may resolve all outstanding issues tomorrow.

“I”m not going to put artificial timelines on myself,” Gronstal told reporters. “It’s our job to find common ground and to get done. That’s what I’m working on.”

Small groups of legislators, staff and a few lobbyists are still discussing ways to resolve the differences on education reform. As has been the case for weeks, the two major sticking points are whether to extend new rights to parents who home school their kids — like letting them teach driver’s ed to their own children — and whether to establish new evaluation standards for public school teachers.

There are unresolved items of disagreement in the state budget plan, too, but Paulsen is optimistic.

“I feel we have an excellent opportunity to get Iowans’ work done tomorrow and that’s what we’re working towards,” Paulsen told reporters.

This is the 128th day of the 2013 legislative session. Legislators are paid an annual salary of at least $25,000 — leaders get paid more – plus legislators got daily expense money, but those payments ended three weeks ago.