May 29, 2015

Senate’s done; House set to return for another day

The Iowa Senate completed its work at 12:01 a.m., but a showdown over abortion policy derailed efforts to wrap up action in the Iowa House.

Republicans were unable to line up the required votes to pass a budget bill in the House. Chuck Hurley is vice president of The Family Leader, a group that got a handful of House Republicans to refuse to vote for the bill because it did not include a ban all taxpayer-funded abortions or forbid tax dollars from being paid to Planned Parenthood for birth control or cancer screenings.

“It continues to force Iowa taxpayers to send money to people who kill unborn children,” Hurley said.

The bill to which this issue is attached cleared the Senate just before midnight. It continues existing state policy that allows taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions for poor women who are the victims of rape or incest, whose life is endangered by the pregnancy or whose fetus is severely deformed and unable to survive outside the womb.

Legislators did complete work on an education reform package Wednesday. The Senate passed a sweeping tax plan that cuts commercial property taxes and reduces income taxes, too. House leaders plan to make that the final bill to pass the 2013 legislative session.

The Iowa Senate approved a health care reform plan just before midnight, part of a huge budget bill that outlines spending for several state agencies, including the Department of Human Services. The bill is on the House debate agenda for today. 

The deal? Create something new called the Iowa Healthy and Well Plan. Use federal money to subsidize the health care coverage for up to 150,000 low-income, uninsured Iowans. Require participants to follow doctor’s orders, or face paying part of the insurance premium.

That all meets the governor’s demand for an “Iowa solution” that promotes healthy lifestyles, but it also means the state of Iowa will be accepting federal dollars to finance all of this, despite the governor’s long-standing objection. The governor will seek a waiver that includes a promise from federal officials that the state won’t have to keep the program up and running if the federal money dries up.

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