Government

Iowa lawmakers eye adjourning 'great session' Saturday

The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Motivated by a determination to adjourn the 2018 legislative session yet this week, lawmakers passed a variety of budget bills and adopted policy measures, including one to combat opioid abuse that proponents say was responsible for 335 deaths in Iowa over a 12-month period.

House leaders said Thursday — the 115th day of a scheduled 100-day session — that they plan to complete their work Saturday or Sunday.

Even if their work is incomplete, they’re getting high marks from Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who said she’s ready for legislators to go home.

“I can say that because I was a legislator at one point,” she hastily added. “At this point, everybody is ready to go home.”

From her vantage point, “it’s been a great session.”

“We’re really proud of the accomplishments,” Reynolds said. “Almost everything I talked about in the Condition of the State — if we get tax reform done, which we will — will have passed.”

That includes her workforce program, Future Ready Iowa, and comprehensive mental health reform and suicide prevention.

“Legislators should be proud of that because they are three significant bills” and passed with broad bipartisan support.

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“That’s just how we do it in Iowa, and I’m proud of that, that we’re able to find some common ground,” the governor said between signing proclamations in her office. “Not on everything because there are some differences, but for the most part, we’ve been able to find common ground.”

She attributed that to “the work we do on the front end to get everybody together and understand what we’re trying to do.”

Meanwhile, the phone in her outer office was ringing nearly non-stop as Iowans weighed in — pro and con — on a controversial fetal heartbeat bill the House and Senate passed Wednesday with no Democratic support.

Upstairs, lawmakers dealt with spending bills as they worked their way through an overall general fund budget of $7.49 billion, according to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, as they worked to position themselves to cap off the session with a tax cut debate.

“This is a good bill. It sets us in the right direction,” said Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, before the Senate voted 27-20 to pass a $568 million justice systems bill that boosted funding for corrections, public safety and other programs by $11.4 million in the 2019 fiscal year that begins July 1.

“We do provide substantial increases,” he added, “maybe not to the levels that we all want, but it points us in the right way.”

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, said the likely plan is for the House and Senate to debate the bills simultaneously Saturday.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it will move quickly.

Senate Democrats, who got their first look at details of the GOP tax-cut bill, expressed concern that Republicans were lowering state income tax collections at a time when they were getting indications that the state’s Medicaid program will need at least $55 million in increased funding and that the private care organizations that manage the program are going to seek another $150 million in higher administrative rates.

One chamber or the other has approved eight of 10 major general fund budgets.

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The Health and Human Services budget and catchall standing appropriations budget are scheduled to be discussed in the full House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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