The first week of March is Funnel Week, so there will be very little floor debate. Budget sub-committees will not meet in order to free up more time for standing committees to complete their work.
Quite a few bills will advance, but most will die. The funnel helps winnow down the workload for the legislature, and basically establish priorities. Lawmakers are sometimes like school children who wait until the last minute to finish homework or studying, and wind up cramming in order to get everything finished on time.
A funnel is a self-imposed disciplinary measure designed to keep lawmakers focused and on track. It is a good system that has worked well over the years.
Earlier in the session, the House passed HF 45 and sent it to the Senate. The bill made about $500 million worth of budget cuts over the next three years. The Senate took up the bill this week and basically gutted it.
They sent it back to the House with only $10 million worth of reduction over three years. I believe Senate Democrats thought we would fight it and the bill would die, but we accepted their version and sent the bill to the Governor for his signature.
Even though the savings are paltry, we decided to take what we could get for now, knowing that many of the priorities stripped out by the Senate are still alive in other budget bills.
The Governor's office has filed a bill which would serve as the structural reorganization of the Department of Economic Development. This is the second attempt at creating a public-private collaboration to take care of the state's economic development.
The whole idea behind the legislation is to have everyone working together to attract new business and expand existing businesses here in Iowa. This is a new concept and there is going to have to be a lot of fine tuning to this bill before it is perfected. I am willing to give the private-public concept a chance.
Instead of bureaucrats picking winners and losers, business leaders will be available to provide valuable information to new prospects and existing companies.
Governor Branstad announced his three Supreme Court picks this week. The Governor was forced to fill the three vacancies on the court because, as you may recall, three justices were not retained in the last election. It is unusual for a Governor to make multiple appointments, but this was an unusual situation.
The Supreme Court will now be full at seven members, even though there is a movement to have the current four impeached. I do not believe that will happen, as it seems that most Iowans are satisfied with our current system of choosing and removing judges, if necessary.
The state of Illinois has a massive budget deficit, and they have just recently raised income taxes. The Governor there has also proposed a series of cuts to various health and human service providers, such as nursing homes.
He is talking a 6% cut. This is in contrast with a proposal by Governor Branstad to provide a 5% increase to Iowa nursing homes. Something troubling about Illinois Governor Quinn's proposed cuts is that he really whacks substance abuse treatment. What this means is that Illinois residents will now be coming into Iowa for treatment because our residency requirements are quite loose.
If this happens, Iowa's Medicaid system and taxpayers will be asked to pick up the tab. There is a bill being considered here in the Iowa House designed to address this issue. It will simply require Medicaid applicants to prove Iowa residency. Pretty simple, and I wonder why this hasn't been addressed before.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home on weekends at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at email@example.com.