End of session near

Week 13 of the session is done. We are continuing work on appropriations bills, a sure sign that we are moving toward the end of session in the next few weeks. One of the surest ways to tell that we need to be wrapping up the session is the discussion amongst legislators about soil temperatures. The farmer-legislators in counties where soil temperatures are getting above 50 degrees are anxious to get back home and start planting. We are ever mindful that we are a citizen legislature and that we need to finish the people’s work and then go back to our districts and live with the laws and budget we pass like any other citizen of Iowa.

Senate File 600 is the Transportation Operations Budget. This bill distributes $381 million in funds from the Road Use Tax Fund to the DOT, including $329 million from the Primary Road Fund for the state highway maintenance and construction. The balance of the Road Use Tax Fund goes to the cities and counties for those roads. The Road Use Tax Fund is fed by the fuel tax and vehicle registration fees.

House File 766 is the Health and Human Services Appropriation. This appropriation of $1.94 billion from the General Fund and $432 million from other funds is always the most complex and most hotly debated of the appropriations bills. There is tremendous competition for these funds for the many needs in the HHS system and many varied opinions on how best to use these funds. This appropriation includes the Department on Aging, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Iowa Veterans Home.

Some highlights from the bill include $1.431 billion to fund Iowa’s share of the Medicaid Program which provides health coverage to thousands of low-income and disabled Iowans, $7.7 million added to make child care more affordable for low-income families by increasing provider rates, $4.4 million in funding for 82 Critical Access hospitals in rural Iowa to ensure accessibility to health care, $5.9 million increase to fund an additional 29 DHS Field Operations employees to reduce social worker caseloads, $3.1 million to eliminate the waiting list for children’s mental health home community-based services, $2.8 million to fund Assertive Community Treatment teams to support individuals with mental illness and $400,00 to establish four new rural psychiatric residents to ensure access to mental health care in rural Iowa.

House File 765 is the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund Appropriation which spends the casino tax revenue. These funds are used for many buildings, trails and technology needs across the state. This bill includes $200 million to improve state infrastructure and Regents school buildings, $24 million in maintenance to ensure safe state buildings and facilities, $17.5 million to make technology upgrades as state departments to ensure efficient government services, $5 million for the Broadband Grant Program to increase access to high-speed internet in rural Iowa, $2 million for recreational trails, and $1 million to study the proposed move of the Iowa Historical Museum to the Iowa State Fairgrounds. This last appropriation for the Iowa Historical Museum is a particular favorite of mine. The present building has serious design flaws that will be very expensive to fix, flaws that threaten the safe keeping of precious artifacts. By moving to the state fairgrounds we can not only provide safe storage, but also provide a location with easier access to the public, especially to the one million plus fairgoers each year.

As always, I can be reached at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov and at 641-750-3594.