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Legislature Focuses on School Aid and On-Time Adjournment

The Iowa Legislature could adjourn within the next few weeks, close to the April 19 target. (Library of Congress)
The Iowa Legislature could adjourn within the next few weeks, close to the April 19 target. (Library of Congress)
March 14, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - Leaders of the Republican-led Iowa House and the Democrat-controlled Senate are pledging to pass a state budget and adjourn in advance of the April 19 target date.

Last week, leaders announced a deal on coupling state and federal tax law, a breakthrough that could lead to a budget deal within the next week to 10 days. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said the plan for the next two weeks is clear.

"Once we accomplish the supplemental state-aid number and agree on that," she said, "then we will be able to agree on the size of the entire state budget."

That will allow school districts to accurately plan for the fiscal year, which starts July 1, as opposed to last year when legislative delay and a governor's veto forced schools to cut from their budgets when anticipated dollars were not forthcoming.

Among the bills that did not survive last Friday's funnel deadline was a measure adding transgender people to those protected under hate-crime laws. Also failing was a bill to allow those under 14 to use handguns with parental supervision. Another bust was the "right to try" drugs bill that would allow Iowans facing terminal illnesses greater access to experimental drugs.

Despite the shorter list, said Senate Majority Whip Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, a lot remains.

"There's still plenty of issues ahead of us," he said. "We're really hopeful that the House Republicans will tackle a good robust Medicaid oversight bill that the Senate sent them. There is definitely some unfinished business that would be good to get accomplished."

While the Senate's Medicaid oversight bill did not survive the funnel, Upmeyer said oversight still could be passed as part of other legislation.

The session is scheduled to last 100 days, after which legislators' expenses are no longer reimbursed. However, Upmeyer said, she thinks lawmakers will be cleaning out their desks before that.

"But if we can keep moving forward at the pace we are currently and with the projections we're expecting, my goal is to have a session that's done fairly on time," she said. "We haven't been able to do that for awhile. I think it's important that we do."

One reason it's important is that this is an election year, and lawmakers are anxious to return to their districts to raise money and begin campaigning.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA