- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa would not allow state funding of Planned Parenthood under a bill passed Wednesday in the Republican-controlled House, but the measure is expected to hit roadblocks in the Democratic-majority Senate.

Republicans in the House have proposed similar measures in previous sessions with little success in the split Legislature.

The 56-42 vote for the roughly $1.8 billion health and human services budget bill was the culmination of debate that began late Tuesday night and included attempts by House Democrats to remove a proposal that would cut Medicaid funding for family planning facilities that provide abortions.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, said the proposal to remove state dollars would make $3 million in federal funding unavailable. That provides the bulk of family planning services under Medicaid, a federal program administrated by the states that provides health care to about 560,000 poor and disabled Iowa residents. She questioned how the state would make up the services.

“This bill leaves $3 million of federal dollars on the table,” she said ahead of the vote. It comes as other state legislatures propose similar defunding action following the release of secret videos by anti-abortion activists showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue for medical research. Planned Parenthood has denied wrongdoing and several state investigations around the country have not produced evidence that it acted illegally.

Some GOP lawmakers argued that other health clinics can provide family planning services and the state should not provide dollars to organizations that provide abortions. Federal law bans the use of Medicaid for abortions except in exception cases.

Ben Hammes, a spokesman for Branstad, said the governor supports the GOP plan.

The health and human services bill also has language to add state oversight of Medicaid, which switched to private management on April 1. House Democrats attempted to strengthen that proposed oversight and challenged other designated funding for Medicaid.

Rep. David Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant and the chairman of the subcommittee that advanced the bill, said the budget recognizes changes to Medicaid under privatization and he emphasized potential savings under the new system.

“Our disagreements here do nothing but make our constituents nervous,” he said. “We should be seeking solutions rather than criticism.”

Lawmakers are in the midst of passing a series of bills that will ultimately make up the nearly $7.35 billion budget that goes into effect in July, but there’s growing conflict about some decisions. The health and human services bill is expected to be resolved through a special legislative committee, which happens when the chambers cannot reach agreement on legislation. Lawmakers have indicated other budget bills could be decided through these special legislative committees.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said budgets for education and justice have advanced. Wednesday marked the first day lawmakers worked without reimbursement payments for expenses like food and housing. The date is often seen as a deadline for the Legislature to adjourn.

Gronstal wouldn’t speculate on when adjournment could happen. Democrats will review progress Friday and “make a judgment as to whether enough pieces are in play to finish” by the end of the week or if negotiations will be extended into another week.

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