DES MOINES — It’s like the game Jenga, House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Wednesday in describing the ongoing negotiations among Statehouse Republicans in reaching agreement on tax relief and budget issues.
Many of those issues, the Clear Lake Republican said, must be stacked on one another to build up to agreements to end the 2018 session.
“You might think of it a little like Jenga — you have to have all the pieces in place” before House and Senate Republicans and Gov. Kim Reynolds can lay out their tax cut and budget plans, Upmeyer said.
Republicans have agreed on the pieces of their Jenga tower, but “it’s how it all fits,” Upmeyer said.
Jenga is a game of skill in which players remove wooden blocks from the base of a tower and place them on the top, creating a progressively taller — and more unstable — structure.
Although this legislative session is already nine days beyond the scheduled April 17 adjournment target, Upmeyer remains optimistic.
“I think we’re really close. That’s why I’m smiling,” she said, adding that the $10,000-a-day cost of being in session is the price of getting the job done correctly.
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“Sure, we’re all disappointed we’re not done, but we want to do it right,” Upmeyer said. “We came here to do the people’s work. I think they want it done correctly.”
So key legislators are working out the details, and Upmeyer hopes to be able to announce the GOP plan soon. Until then, however, she won’t be sharing the details.
“We’ll share all of that when it’s completed,” she said about proposals for the proposed new tax on credit unions and corporate tax cuts.
However, she promised the final product “won’t be a lot of surprises.”
“The pieces we are working with are not new,” Upmeyer said. “We’ve had lots of conversations about all these things.”
There’s more on lawmakers’ agendas than tax cuts and budgets.
Upmeyer hopes the Senate takes up an opioid bill the House sent over because “that’s a bill that Iowans really want to have done.”
Sen. Tom Greene, R-Burlington, agrees, but said he’d like to see the House take up a medical cannabis bill a Senate committee has approved. The bills appear to be moving — or not — in tandem.
“I don’t think the speaker will kill the opioid bill over medical cannabis,” Greene said. “I think she’s holding up important legislation that needs to move.
“I was hopeful she would be more understanding, but I suppose that’s the way it goes between the speaker and a rookie senator,” he added.
Expanding the use of medical cannabis is not part of the House plan, Upmeyer said.
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“What got our members to an agreement last year was the fact we would set up an advisory board,” she said.
“Instead of legislators, who have no real knowledge of health care and treatment plans and that sort of thing, we would be taking the recommendations of a board of physicians and people who understand this topic and following through on those recommendations. We really like that model.”
Upmeyer would prefer lawmakers wait until they reconvene in January and work off the board’s recommendations. Medical cannabis won’t be available until December, “so I think we’ll be back in time to make changes if that’s the recommendation of the board.”
“I think we should stay with the plan,” she said.
The next move is Upmeyer’s, Greene said.
“If the speaker said she’s not going to move it, then it’s a moot point,” he said.
“I hope she would soften her views and not go against the majority of Iowans,” he added, referring to a February Iowa Poll that found 78 percent of Iowans support the use of medical cannabis.
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