This week in Commerce Committee we moved through a number of Governor Branstad's appointments. Generally a subcommittee is held to discuss the appointment and a recommendation is made to the full committee. Then candidates are moved to the individual or en bloc calendar to be voted on by the full State Senate. Most of the candidates have progressed through without dissent. On Thursday a Commerce subcommittee will meet to discuss nuclear energy in Iowa. I am hopeful we can move forward as the impending energy crisis must be addressed.
The Ways and Means Committee met on Monday to discuss S.F. 192, a bill relating to snow mobile registration and fees, and S.F. 248, a bill providing for a small employer health insurance tax credit. Both items passed out of committee and were placed on the calendar for debate.
As we move into the second half of the session, there are a number of bigger issues that still need to be addressed. We have had a number of discussions regarding education funding, but Medicaid, the second largest state expenditure, has yet to be looked at. Along with other areas of state funding, Medicaid faces a large shortfall. For FY 2012, it is expected the state will need between $530 and $600 million to cover its costs. There are two reasons for this shortfall, the first being the increased number of people coming onto Medicaid. The second reason is a matter of irresponsible budgeting decisions from past legislatures, including the use of a number of one-time funds to cover current costs. This is an issue I will keep a close eye on and continue to report to you as the session advances.
We had great crowds in attendance for our town hall meetings in Larrabee, Cherokee, and Quimby last week. A number of issues came up including collective bargaining, Medicaid, government spending, weapon permits, and many others. I am always encouraged by the thoughtful questions that are asked and the passion of my constituents. We hope to see you at our April meetings.
Angie and I also attended the Cherokee Recognition Banquet on Saturday. It was a great event that recognized businesses and individuals who have made a positive contribution to our communities. Congratulations to all the award recipients. Also, thank you to those who put the event together, we had a great night.