DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - There isn’t a deadline for the Iowa Legislature to adjourn, but there clearly are some issues that are keeping lawmakers from finishing their work.
Lawmakers try to be done by the annual date when payments for their expenses end. This year payments ended on April 19, so lawmakers are several days late with plenty of work ahead of them in the coming week.
For every legislative deal reached over issues like K-12 education funding and tax rules, there’s disagreement over Medicaid oversight and transportation. At least some bills that will make up the nearly $7.35 billion budget are expected to be sorted out in special legislative committees that only form when there’s no consensus in the split Legislature.
Here are five issues that could delay adjournment.
The roughly $1.8 billion health and human services budget bill includes money for Medicaid, which provides health services to about 560,000 poor and disabled Iowa residents. Lawmakers are at odds over state oversight of the program under privatization, which went into effect April 1.
Senate Democrats say the switch has resulted in numerous complaints over denied claims and coverage. State officials say the problems are not systemic.
Lawmakers in the Republican-majority House have proposed an oversight plan they say will provide data and add transparency. Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, said the House language “falls far short of what is needed,” on consumer protections, children’s health care, reimbursement payments and evaluation.
The same health and human services budget bill proposed by the House would block Medicaid funding for family planning facilities that provide abortions, a direct shot at Planned Parenthood. Democrats say removing state dollars will make about $3 million in federal funding unavailable to Iowa for family planning services.
None of the Medicaid funding given to the Iowa affiliate of Planned Parenthood goes toward abortions, but Republicans still are against supporting the organization.
In previous sessions Democrats have blocked similar Republican efforts, however some GOP lawmakers said they now have extra motivation following the release last year of secretly recorded videos by anti-abortion activists showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the use of fetal tissue. Investigations into the videos have turned up no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, but several states have taken action to remove funding for the organization.
Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, opposes abortion rights and said, “It feels like there’s a stronger will in our caucus to get something done this year.”
The transportation budget bill is usually one of the first pieces of legislation to be approved, but there’s disagreement this year over funding for the Iowa Department of Transportation. The Senate passed a roughly $378 million bill that included more than $9 million in new money that the agency requested for staffing. Without the extra money, the department said it would need to cut more than 150 jobs.
Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, challenged the department’s claims because the department received a status quo budget last year but added jobs. “Something does not add up to me on that front,” he said.
The Senate plans to restore funding removed by the House, arguing it could affect work on roads and bridges.
The Senate has proposed roughly $192 million in spending for infrastructure projects, a portion of which comes from a fund that collects gambling tax money. A proposal by the Senate to spend money to furnish a new Polk County government building was removed by the House. The Senate also proposed more funding for maintenance projects.
Although separate from the bill, the Senate has also proposed borrowing money through bonding to spend more than $100 million to renovate the state historical building, an office building and a law enforcement academy facility.
House Republicans and Branstad opposed borrowing, so the renovation proposals could be left in limbo.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, about the various negotiations.
The standing bill is usually among the last pieces of legislation to pass each session. The bulk of funding in the bill goes toward basic aid for K-12 education, but lawmakers often use the measure to add projects or revive failed proposals.
The House and Senate have several differences in their versions of the bill. The Senate wants to simplify regulation for hair braiders in the state and appropriate $50,000 for a grant that promotes the inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The House isn’t considering either proposal.
The House wants to remove $20 million for area education agencies that provide support to school districts. The Senate reduces that cut by $1.3 million.
Amid a longstanding debate over funding for water quality initiatives this session, the House added $2 million to a proposed new fund for such projects. The Senate, which doesn’t want to use existing general fund dollars for the effort, didn’t include the money.
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