4 Items Looming at the Statehouse This Week

Feb 22, 2016

Lawmakers in the Iowa House and Senate have reached the first major deadline this legislative session. While many bills have fallen by the wayside, some major issues still loom.

1.State Lawmakers are STILL waiting for the feds to rule in on Medicaid. The Iowa Department of Human Services has no timetable but hopes to hear soon whether or not the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid approve Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to privatize management of the state’s Medicaid system. Democrats in the Senate have voted to halt its almost $5 billion program for poor and disabled Iowans. It’s just a week until the state is scheduled to make the switch.

2.Medicaid decisions will impact the overall budget. “Democrats say they have not included savings from Medicaid privatization in their proposed budget, so it wouldn’t affect them,” IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell says. They doubt the plan would save money. Both the Governor and Republicans in the Iowa House have included savings in their budget so if privatization fails that will leave a hole in their budgets. The estimates for the savings have varied widely.

3. Many special interests may line up for a piece of the Governor’s School Infrastructure /Water Quality bill. The governor’s plan to expand a sales tax for school infrastructure and using extra money from the tax to fund water quality projects is creating plenty of discussion. “It reminds me of when Governor Branstad agreed to raise the state sales tax from 4 to 5 cents back in 1992,” Russell says. “It created a big pot of new money and when it looked like he was going to sign it interest groups one by one came out of the woodwork with requests for a piece of the pie.” One lawmaker called it a Mr. Potato Head bill.

4.Get ready for debates. This week begins the annual push to get as many bills as possible out of one chamber and over to the other so that committees can take them up by the next deadline. A Senate committee will consider a Democratic initiative to expand funding for preschool.