The Iowa House of Representatives passed 40 bills this week, including three budget bills. Most committee meetings were cancelled because the Senate has not sent us very many bills, and we are through considering House Files at the committee level. That left more time for floor debate, and house members kept the process moving by sending various pieces of legislation to the Senate. Most passed with minimal discussion or controversy, but several were approved on party-line votes. By sending a large number of bills to the Senate, members in that Chamber will now have something to keep them busy. At times the 25-25 split in the Senate has caused gridlock and frustration, which has led to name-calling and personal attacks on individual members. With an April 29th adjournment date looming, it is time for cooperation and compromise.
The Governor signed the meth bill into law this week, and the state of Iowa now has the toughest law in the nation. There will be some confusion and inconvenience for a while, but my hope is that we have taken the necessary steps to slow down the production of meth in this state. Even though this is progress, we all know that meth will still be shipped into Iowa, and that cookers will always be looking for new ingredients. But we need to do anything and everything we can to curb the production and use of this illegal drug.
For the last 5 years, states like Iowa have been receiving pressure from the federal government to end a controversial, but legal, Medicaid funding mechanism known as the Inter-Governmental Transfer. This process has allowed states to creatively stretch Medicaid funding to fit the needs of the people they serve. But as the federal budget has experienced troubles recently, Administration and Congressional foes of these methods have come to the forefront in fighting "Medicaid Fraud". Through intense negotiations, Iowa has now gotten the opportunity to put an end to these funding practices while being given the chance to serve as a "laboratory" for real Medicaid reform. While there are risks involved with any reform effort, the opportunity for setting the model for Medicaid in the 21st century will be given to only one state. The offer has been made to Iowa, so it is now up to us to accept the challenge and build a better health care system for all Iowans.
Some bills that are still alive and mostly well include: renewal energy; reduction in the deer herd; IPERS; property tax reform; sharing by schools; sharing by local governments; increasing the speed limit on rural interstate highways; many education issues; increasing the tax on cigarettes and the Grow Iowa Values Fund. There are many other issues still on the table, including the state budget, but these aforementioned bills will garner the most attention in the next month.