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NO EARLY OUT FOR YEAR

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As you may have already realized, the Iowa Legislature did not end its 2014 legislative session before Easter.  At the current time, it looks like lawmakers will continue their work at the Capitol for another two weeks.  Legislators will stop getting reimbursed for expenses (meals, mileage, and hotel) on the 100th day, which is Tuesday (April 22).  So they will be working without pay as they try to wrap up session.

Nearly all budgets are now in conference committee, where the final agreements will be made.  Expect legislators to spend time in these conference committees next week, although most of the real work will happen privately between the House and Senate committee chairs.  It is important to note that a conference committee report cannot be amended, so once the agreement is made, legislators can only vote yes or no.  That saves time once these committees make decisions.

You will not see much floor debate in the Senate next week; at least two Democratic Senators will be gone for a day with family commitments (like taking kids on college campus visits and orientations). With a 26-24 split in the Senate, Democrats cannot spare one legislator, or they do not have the votes to pass bills.  So look for conference committees to finish up their work this week, with the following week spent passing the conference committee reports and wrapping up work other bill work.  By May Day, we should be done.

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WHAT IS A CONFERENCE COMMITTEE?

A conference committee is assigned when the House and Senate cannot agree on a bill.  The Senate and House leaders assign five members each to this conference committee.  So the House will assign three Republican Representatives, and two Democratic Representatives, and the Senate will assign three Democratic Senators, and two Republican Senators.  That means there will be five Senators, five Representatives; five Republicans and five Democrats.  So the decisions made by this conference committee will have to be bipartisan and acceptable to both chambers (House & Senate).  The report issued by the conference committee, which outlines the compromise position, cannot be amended.   If it is voted down, a second conference committee is assigned and the process starts all over, but that is very rare.