Iowa lawmakers continue session without per diems
DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa lawmakers have work to complete before adjournment, but they’ll have to finish up without daily payments for their expenses.
The session has no specific end date, but Tuesday — the 100th day of the session — marks the last day lawmakers will receive their per diem payments. Pages will be sent home and Capitol staff will be reduced, but lawmakers must stick around to wrap up budget bills and finish work on other measures.
The key task is approving budgets. Those measures have bounced back and forth between the House and Senate, but only two have cleared both chambers: an appropriation for the judicial branch and the transportation budget.
Gov. Terry Branstad’s four main priorities remain alive. He wants to reduce school bullying, expand programs for veterans, extend broadband and Internet access to rural Iowans and increase funding for apprenticeships. But they’ve encountered roadblocks along the way, and lawmakers must work quickly if the proposals are going to be approved and sent to the governor.
Time is running out, as legislative leaders hope to adjourn within days.
The health and human services appropriations bill has ping-ponged between chambers, with differences largely centering on a provision to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home. Democrats in the Republican-controlled House first introduced an amendment to re-establish programming at the facility closed by Branstad in January, but the effort was rejected.
On Monday, the Democratic-led Senate tacked the provision on for the home’s reopening, garnering no Republican support. The House again rejected the amendment Tuesday and returned the budget to the Senate. It will be sent to conference committee.
The economic development budget has also been sent to the Senate, and a bill appropriating funds for debt reduction efforts must begin the consideration process there.
Two budget bills still need approval from the House: the standings budget and the administration and regulation budget. The standings budget, which serves as the measure to appropriate funds for recurring costs, cleared the House Appropriations Committee last week on a party-line vote and is now eligible for floor debate.
It also acts as a net for appropriations that might otherwise fall to the wayside. Several amendments are expected on the floor.
The administration and regulation budget has been amended by the Senate and now needs the House’s approval to move forward.
Lawmakers from both chambers must convene to settle differences on public university spending increases and a $1 million appropriation for anti-bullying efforts, among other provisions of an education budget bill. These discrepancies have led to different total budgets for educational programs and services, as the Senate has called for $986 million while the House seeks $984 million.
Other budget measures sent to conference committee include the agriculture and natural resources budget, the justice systems budget and the Rebuilding Iowa Infrastructure Fund budget.