The 2019 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of March 25, 2019
Last week in the Iowa Legislature
The budget process formally began last week with a few budget bills being voted out of committee. The Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget along with the Education budget both advanced last week. The Economic Development Budget is now public, and the Health and Human Services and RIIF budgets are expected to be revealed this week.
Last week was characterized by lots of floor debate and committees met fairly often to move bills through in advance of Thursday’s pending funnel deadline. Many of the bills drew little attention from outsiders and, often, from legislators. In fact, this session has yet to witness a long, late-night debate—something that frequently characterizes every session.
House Passes Medical Cannabis Reform
Much to everyone’s surprise, the House passed HF 732 with 96-3 vote in about 15 minutes Tuesday afternoon. The bill eliminates the percentage cap on medical cannabis products and replaces it with a 25-gram cap over a 90-day period. It also allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify patient conditions for participation in the program. A Senate subcommittee is scheduled for this morning at 11:30, with Sen. Brad Zaun as chair.
CARE Act goes to the Governor
The long-anticipated CARE Act has passed both chambers after years of work, thanks to tireless advocates who collaborated on what is now SF 210 (Lay Caregivers). On Tuesday the Senate passed it unanimously and on Thursday the House passed it with a 94-3 vote. This bill ensures there is a standard and expectation that all Iowa hospitals give the opportunity for patients to designate and prepare family caregivers for their medical care at home. This will impact 300,000+ families in Iowa. It now goes to the Governor where she is expected to sign it, making Iowa the 41st state to ensure safety provisions are in place for patients and families.
The House passed HJR 14, which proposes an amendment to the constitution ending voter disqualification for felons when their sentence is discharged. The resolution, an initiative of the governor’s, passed 95-2. The bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. The Senate passed SF 513, Over-the-Counter Contraceptives, with a 42-6 vote. Another governor’s priority, the bill heads to the House—where a companion awaits.
Outside of the Legislature, Friday brought news that Governor Reynolds ended negotiations with United Healthcare as they sought to renew their contract with the state to provide managed care services for Iowa’s Medicaid program. The decision leaves Iowa with two managed care organizations, but 425,000 Medicaid patients will need to find a new MCO as United pulls out over the next few months. United is also the second to leave Iowa’s managed care project after AmeriHealth Caritas left about two years ago when it lost hundreds of millions of dollars.
This is the second funnel week of the session and the 12th week of the 2019 session. Legislators and the committees they serve on will scramble to pass bills, as will their respective chambers. After this week, a bill will need to clear one chamber and a committee in the other chamber to remain viable—unless the bill is in Ways & Means, Appropriations or moved to a chamber’s Unfinished Business Calendar. Budget bills will also continue to be introduced and move through the process. All of the budgets should become public this week. At this point, the Legislature is poised to adjourn on time, if not before the end of the month.
Dates to Note
- April 5: Second funnel deadline (12th week)
- May 3: 110th calendar day of the session; legislators’ per diem expires.