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Iowa Lawmakers May Need More Than Pocketbook Pressure To Move Forward

After today, Iowa state legislators' expenses are no longer covered by taxpayers. (Manop/Wikimedia Commons)
After today, Iowa state legislators' expenses are no longer covered by taxpayers. (Manop/Wikimedia Commons)
April 19, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - With major issues like water quality and Medicaid privatization still undecided, lawmakers may not wrap up their work in Des Moines today.

It means they'll have to pay their own food, lodging and other expenses normally covered by a per diem of around $130.

Steffen Schmidt, political science professor at Iowa State University, says our legislative calendar is shorter than many other states.

"In the past the legislature really didn't have such expensive and almost interminable issues to deal with," Schmidt says.

Although the issues are more complex today, more time on the job means more money from taxpayers. Schmidt says that's even more reason to get down to business faster.

"The legislators have no self control over what they introduce," he says. "And so they introduce endless numbers of bills into the hopper that are essentially icing on the cake and not the cake."

According to Schmidt, legislators need stronger incentives and the blame belongs on both sides of the aisle.

"The leadership of both parties ought to impose much more discipline," he says. "Much more prioritizing of legislation because there are some things, some appropriations in particular, for vitally necessary programs that should be done and those should be done first."

Potential tuition hikes at public universities and community colleges is one of the larger issues lawmakers have to grapple with before adjourning. Last year the sessions went into early June.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA