Lawmakers returned to the Capitol Wednesday following an 11-week suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since they paused activity days prior to the second funnel deadline, most bills that did not pass the House or Senate, plus committee in the other chamber by the end of the day on Friday, June 5 are “dead” for the remainder of session. Tax, spending, and government oversight bills are exempt from those requirements. After Friday, lawmakers will focus most of their energies on drafting the budget for the 2021 fiscal year (FY21), which begins on July 1.
As they undertake that task, legislators will have fewer funds to work with than anticipated in March. Last week Governor Reynolds and House and Senate leadership called for a new Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) to assess the state’s finances in the wake of COVID-19. Describing Iowa’s two-month economic shutdown as a “self-induced coma,” REC members projected the state’s FY21 revenues would be about $360 million less than what they estimated in March. That would be a 0.08% decline from the current fiscal year. The group noted that their updated projections assume “no significant return of the virus.” Lawmakers are legally required to use this lower REC number while crafting the budget. For the current fiscal year ending June 30, the REC noted that revenues dipped by about $150 million. Even with the decline, they said that would still constitute 1% growth over the last fiscal year.
On the policy side, the Senate passed a bill updating Iowa’s medical cannabis law. HF 2589 would increase the current THC cap from 3% to 4.5 grams over the course of 90 days. It would also expand the list of cannabis-eligible conditions to post-traumatic stress disorder and some severe forms of autism resulting in self-injury. Additional health care providers, such as physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and podiatrists would also be authorized to prescribe medical cannabis products. Many Democrats opposed the bill, arguing for more sweeping changes to existing law.
HF 2589 passed the Senate Wednesday on a bipartisan vote, 32-17, with Sens. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines), Kevin Kinney (D-Oxford), and Jim Lykam (D-Davenport) joining Republicans in favor. Sens. Dan Dawson (R-Council Bluffs), Julian Garrett (R-Indianola), and Mark Costello (R-Imogene) voted with most Democrats against the bill. The House passed HF 2589 on a mostly party-line vote in March, 52-48. Rep. Stan Gustafson (R-Cumming) joined Democrats in opposition. The bill now goes to Governor Reynolds for further consideration.