Des Moines, Iowa — The Iowa Legislature’s march toward adjournment has ended, with compromises falling into place on spending and policy issues. The House and Senate have agreed to continue state funding for Planned Parenthood clinics — something Democrats wanted — and double the state tax credit for adoptions. That was something Republicans wanted. Another last-minute compromise was worked out on salaries for Department of Transportation employees. A nearly ten-million-dollar request from the DOT was cut in half. House Republicans questioned why the DOT was asking for more money after last year’s ten-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase.
That’s Representative Dan Huseman, a Republican from Aurelia who represents O’Brien County, part of Sioux County, and other parts of northwest Iowa. He’s co-chair of the panel that struck the final deal on that piece of the state budget. As things wound down, Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal thanked his colleagues.
Democrats have been in control of the Senate’s debate agenda for several years and Republicans hold a majority of seats in the Iowa House. Because of that, the legislature’s partisan squabbles have led to stalemates that have lasted into June. Republican House Speaker Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake says the 2016 legislature produced a sound budget and good tax policy, and made “strategic investments.” Legislators struggled to reach conclusion for the past couple of weeks. Upmeyer says an orderly ending early Friday evening was her preference.
So how could new laws change your life? If you live in an apartment or rental home, your landlord must install a carbon monoxide detector. That’s because legislators passed a law requiring carbon monoxide alarms in existing rentals, plus any new home, apartment or condo that’s built after July 1st of 2018. If you’re in prison on a non-violent drug conviction, you might be released early if Governor Branstad approves a bill legislators passed this week. If you want to have a suppressor on your gun, that is now legal in Iowa. There were a host of other issues legislators discussed this past year, but never wound up making law. Iowa’s medical marijuana law was not expanded. The speed limit on Iowa interstates was not raised. Cell phone use while driving was not outlawed. You still cannot win the big prizes in fantasy sports leagues. And all those backyard fireworks displays are still illegal.
Lawmakers struck the final deals on components of a more than seven-point-three billion-dollar state budget, but walked away without a more aggressive plan to deal with the state’s water quality problems.
Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan favored an increase in the state sales tax to come up with the money and Johnson predicts voters will be unhappy with inaction. He said, QUOTE “I would say to members of both parties, you know you might have choppy waters ahead this fall.” Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal wants to form a working group after the November election to come up with a plan. Governor Branstad vows to keep pressing next year for his plan that would divert sales tax revenue currently reserved for school infrastructure projects toward water quality.