- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A health and human services budget approved by the Iowa Legislature on Wednesday would keep open one of two mental health facilities slated for closure and would seek to find a private provider to run the other.

The Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate voted in favor of the compromise plan Wednesday night, as they moved closer to adjourning the 2015 session. As part of the $1.84 billion budget plan, a facility in Mount Pleasant will remain open, and one in Clarinda will stay open through mid-December. The state will seek to turn it over to a private operator.

Gov. Terry Branstad had removed funding for the facilities in his proposed budget. A spokesman for Branstad did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, called the deal “a win-win for the governor, the Legislature and most importantly, for Iowans who count on those services.”

The health budget also creates a committee to oversee the state’s plan to privatize Medicaid services. A requirement that doctors give women the opportunity to view an ultrasound prior to an abortion, except in cases of medical emergencies, will be codified in state law. And it continues a requirement that the governor must sign off on reimbursements for Medicaid-funded abortions.

The Legislature also approved compromise budgets for the education and justice departments.

The Senate approved a $992.2 million education budget to cover state universities, community colleges and other programs such as early childhood education. On Tuesday, the House approved the plan, which is an increase above current spending. There will also be some one-time expenditures in another bill for universities.

Lawmakers said they think the funding will maintain a third year of tuition freezes at the three state universities. Board of Regents spokeswoman Sheila Koppin said the board was not prepared to comment Wednesday.

The House and Senate also approved a $561.2 million budget for the justice department, including prisons and public safety. It is an increase over the current budget.

Under a compromise financial plan revealed Monday, the state will spend about $7.3 billion for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The tentative deal includes $7.17 billion in ongoing spending, plus $125 million in one-time expenses.

Branstad on Wednesday renewed a call to lawmakers to approve K-12 education spending for the 2016-2017 school year. The two sides have reached a grudging truce on funding for the upcoming year, but have shown no inclination to resolve the following year, despite a legal obligation to do so.

“They can work out other things, they can certainly work out a decision they should have made months and months ago,” said Branstad, who would not say what he would do if the lawmakers adjourn without deciding the issue.

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