Last Thursday Senate Republicans introduced one of the final major budget bills for the coming fiscal year. The Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill, SSB 1267, sets funding levels for the Iowa Department of HHS, Department of Public Health, Iowa Finance Authority, Department of Veteran Affairs, Iowa Veterans Home, Department of Aging, Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and the Department of Human Rights.
Five other appropriations bills cleared committee last week, making them eligible for floor debate. The Senate advanced funding for Education (SF 596), Agriculture and Natural Resources (SF 598), Justice Systems (SF 599), and the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, or RIIF (SF 600). The House also passed its own Education bill (HF 868) out of committee.
Other than the House’s HHS funding bill, only Standing Appropriations, or “Standings,” remains to be filed. Standings is catch-all legislation which includes specific line items that didn’t make it into other appropriations bills, and policy priorities that either didn’t survive legislative deadlines or came up later in session. Traditionally Standings is the last bill lawmakers pass before session adjourns. The 2021 legislative session is tentatively set to close on April 30, the 110th day. While the lawmakers can continue business beyond that point, the state will no longer fund their “per diem” daily stipend.
However, lawmakers will likely have to return to the Capitol a few months after adjournment for a special session focused on redistricting. While this once-in-a-decade task is generally completed as part of the regular session, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that due to COVID-19 it would release population data on September 30, months later than anticipated. Under the Iowa Constitution, the legislature must approve a redistricting map by September 1 and the governor must sign it by September 15. Recently the Iowa Supreme Court released a statement on its website noting that it might allow work to continue past the deadline within constitutional bounds. In a normal redistricting year, if lawmakers and the governor miss the September 15 deadline, the Iowa Supreme Court must take control of redistricting and approve a map by December 31.
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