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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

Iowa House leaders see path to adjournment

Budget, tax reform are musts, other proposals in flux
By James Q. Lynch, Gazette Des Moines Bureau | Mar 30, 2018

DES MOINES — Twelve weeks into the Iowa legislative session, House Speaker Linda Upmeyer believes lawmakers are on track to complete their work by April 17, the 100th day of session when lawmakers’ daily expense money runs out.

For the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, the “must-do” items left on the agenda are passing a balanced budget and approving a tax relief and reform package.

However, a number of other pieces of legislation await action.

Upmeyer said a “community safety” bill, generally referred to as sanctuary cities legislation, “absolutely will come up” before the end of the session.

“It’s disappointing that people are working so hard to make that a partisan bill,” she said, noting that Senate File 481 came out of the GOP-controlled Senate with bipartisan support, 32-15. “It really is about community safety. We’re talking about people who are brought in for criminal infractions. I mean, we’re not talking about parking tickets here.”

House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow, R-Windsor Heights, said concerns about a Legislative Services Agency’s finding that the bill could result in a loss of state funds to schools, as well as to cities and counties that didn’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, can be resolved.

Neither leader sounded as certain about the prospects for the fetal heartbeat bill. Senate File 359 would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected except in cases of medical emergencies. A fetal heartbeat typically can be detected at the sixth week of pregnancy.

“We are still talking about that bill,” Hagenow said.

“We have made tremendous progress on life over the last couple of years, and we have a pro-life caucus that is always interested in seeing what’s possible to move forward on the issue and protect unborn life.”

It’s clear, he said, that the legislation is “about the next step in constitutional challenge” to Roe v. Wade, the 45-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

“I think most people are fine if it’s a question that pushes it to the courts,” Upmeyer said, adding that perhaps it’s time the decision be reviewed.

“But we want to make sure we’re not backing up on the things we have on the books now,” she said.

Some House Republicans were concerned the bill, as passed by the Senate, called for the repeal of last year’s ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. That language was eliminated by the House Human Resources Committee.

Other updates offered by Upmeyer and Hagenow:

* Lieutenant governor: Senate Joint Resolution 2006 asks Iowa voters to amend the state Constitution to resolve questions about filling the office of lieutenant governor should a vacancy occur.

It would give the governor authority to appoint a lieutenant governor. “That is a piece we will get done,” Hagenow said.

* Vouchers: Senate Study Bill 3206, to create educational savings accounts — vouchers — for students who attend private schools, was called a “long shot” by Hagenow. “It was a concept that did not make it through the legislative funnel,” he said, referring to a similar House bill that was shelved because of a lack of support.

* School sales tax extension: House File 2438, which would extend a 1 percent sales tax to support school infrastructure and provide property tax relief, looks more likely to be approved. “That’s something both chambers are still talking about, so that’s a possibility that we can get that accomplished,” Upmeyer said.

* Medical cannabis: Upmeyer didn’t hold out similar hope for expanding a medical cannabis program lawmakers approved on the last night of the 2017 session. Advocates want the THC level in the medical cannabis increased from 3 percent and coverage of more diseases and condition.

“Rather than lawmakers with little knowledge of medical cannabis” changing the law, Upmeyer said, it makes sense to wait for recommendations from an advisory board the Legislature created to persuade lawmakers to support the bill last year.


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