- Associated Press - Thursday, March 10, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Proposals to pay for water quality initiatives and expand access to medical marijuana are among several in the Iowa Legislature expected to survive a deadline for bills to advance this session, but there may be a more uncertain future on state oversight involving Medicaid privatization and unregulated boarding schools.

Friday’s “second funnel” deadline culminated a day early at the Capitol, because lawmakers are not scheduled to return until Monday. Leaders of the split Legislature took turns criticizing missed opportunities in the other chamber to advance legislation, while they announced a separate compromise on tax measures for the upcoming budget.

Democrats in particular called out Republicans for not acting on a pair of oversight bills, and they vowed to revive them this session. Republicans later expressed a willingness to discuss the bills in new forms.

“We need to walk the talk in this building,” said Senate President Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque.

The funnel deadline means bills needed full approval in one chamber and committee-level approval in the other chamber to remain alive. Some bills, including those regarding the state budget, are not subject to the deadline. Lawmakers can also add contents to a bill, possibly through a budget bill, later in the session.



One of the failed oversight bills was designed to add state authority over plans to turn over Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid program to private management on April 1. The other measure, which would have established clear regulatory responsibility over private facilities in Iowa that sometimes offer educational instruction but do not require a license to operate, was introduced amid an investigation by authorities into abuse allegations at Midwest Academy in southeast Iowa.

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said her chamber ran out of time to review the Medicaid bill, but she remained open to future action.

“We will look at oversight. We will work on oversight. That bill could just not be managed in the time frame,” she said, and later made a similar pledge to consider adding language from the boarding schools legislation to another measure this session.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, an Ames Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he was disappointed the boarding schools oversight bill didn’t advance. He called it “bad practice” to add policy language in budget bills when they’re best vetted in policy committees with expertise.

Among bills expected to survive is Gov. Terry’s Branstad’s measure to use some money from a 1-cent sales tax for water quality initiatives. The funding currently is set aside for school infrastructure improvements, and critics argue the bill would pit the issues against each other. Branstad has said the bill will create new funding for both issues.

Another measure would create a system for manufacturing, dispensing and possessing medical marijuana in Iowa. A legislative committee recently amended the measure to reduce the number of proposed cannabis manufacturers and dispensaries.

A bill that isn’t likely to advance would have allowed children under 14 to use handguns with direct supervision from a parent or guardian. Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, said he may try to revive it this year.

“An issue, if it’s important enough, is not done until the final gavel falls,” he said.

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