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Judicial Nominating Process, Medical Marijuana Debated In Final Day Of Session

Des Moines, Iowa —┬áPartisan clashes over a few issues marked the final day of the 2019 Iowa legislative session Saturday.

Republicans passed their scaled back plan to change the state commission that nominates judges. Representative Andy McKean of Anamosa, the lawmaker who left the Republican Party Tuesday, called it irresponsible.

Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, says the governor deserves “a little bit more voice” in the process.

The governor recently called upon legislators to advance the plan, which would have the Supreme Court vote every two years to determine who among them is the chief justice. The proposal also removes the most senior supreme court justice from the commission that chooses nominees for openings on the state’s highest court. Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, suggested Republicans were being “opportunistic” in giving the governor the ability to appoint not just eight, but nine of the 17 members of the commission.

Iowa lawyers will continue to elect the other eight members of the commission. Holt says that shows Republicans listened to concerns and adjusted the plan.

Holt and all but one of his GOP colleagues in the House voted to add the proposal to a budget bill that cleared the legislature on its final day. Senate Republicans later sent that bill to the governor. Some other policy bills got a few moments of final debate and were sent to the governor. That includes a bill that establishes a new fee for electric vehicle owners as well as legislation that expands Iowa’s medical marijuana program. Senator Tom Greene, a retired pharmacist from Burlington, grew emotional during his remarks on the bill.

Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale says his attitude about medical cannabis changed a few years ago as he saw his father battle cancer.

The bill COULD expand the potency of the cannabis products being sold in Iowa. Terminally ill Iowans would not face any limit on the amount of cannabis products they use. The bill would let nurse practitioners and physicians assistants recommend medical marijuana as treatment for nine conditions or severe or chronic pain. Today, only doctors can do that. One of the biggest bills to get final legislative approval Saturday includes two hotly debated proposals. One would bar Medicaid coverage for gender reassignment surgery. The other ends state contracts with Planned Parenthood employees who teach sex ed classes to at-risk teens. Democrats objected to both, Republicans, who hold a majority of seats in both the House and Senate took final votes sending their entire state budget plan — including these policy matters — to the governor.

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