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WHAT'S LEFT ON THE "TO DO" LIST?

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While session may be winding down, the Legislature still has a lot to do.

School funding.  Legislators increased funding for local schools at 2.25%.  By law, the Legislature is to set this increase within the first weeks of session, but has been unable to reach agreement until nearly the end of session for the past several years.  This is now done, so they can check this off their "to do" list.

Supplemental.  Medicaid doesn't have enough money to get through this year.  That's because every year legislators have to guess how much money will be needed, and sometimes it costs more to provide services because there are more people eligible for those services.  The managed care delay until April also cost the state about $6 million per month, or $18 million total.  The Senate passed a bill that gave Medicaid an extra $80 million; the House changed that to $67 million and used other unused funds in the Department of Human Services to make up the difference.  Look for this bill to pass (probably as the House passed it) once there is a budget deal. 

MH/DS Regional System. The future of the regional Mental Health and Disability Services (MH/DS) system is uncertain, because the Legislature has never updated the way it is funded.  Without state funding or a permanent fix to the funding system, at least one region will be cutting services to as many as 1,600 people, and at least one other region will be breaking apart.  Legislators have a choice - spend at least $10 million to help two counties maintain services (Polk and Scott), give county boards of supervisors the ability to adjust their levies within current $47.28 per person cap, or do nothing and allow thousands of people to lose their services. 

Water Quality. Legislators and the Governor all agree - something needs to be done about Iowa's water quality.  But that is as far as the agreement goes.  There are several approaches to funding water quality - shifting money around in the state budget, using a part of Iowa's 1 cent sales tax that currently goes to schools, adding a new sales tax, or using more of the state's infrastructure fund (gambling money).  This doesn't have to be resolved, but there are a lot of groups working to keep this alive and get it addressed this year.

Gambling.  While it is uncertain whether something will or will not be done this year, there is a big push to legalize fantasy sports leagues and cut taxes on free promotional games offered by casinos in Iowa.  One appears to be an expansion of gambling, while the other cuts money available for various infrastructure projects, so both are tough sales in the waning days of session.  But anything can happen when legislators have time on their hands.

Budgets.  These are an absolute "must do."  The one and only thing legislators have to do each year is set a budget (if they don't - government shuts down).  This year legislators need to pass 9 budget bills - Administration/Regulation, Agriculture/Natural Resources, Economic Development, Education, Health/Human Services, Infrastructure, Justice Systems, Transportation, and Standings.  None of these have been drafted yet. House and Senate leaders and their budget chairs have been meeting multiple times a day trying to find agreement on joint spending levels for each of these budget bills.  If that happens, bills could be drafted and begin moving very quickly.  The problem is - many of these budgets will be magnets for policy bills that died earlier in the year.  There won't be much time to object to those being included if budgets begin moving quickly.  The Health/Human Services Budget will likely include a lot of information on Medicaid managed care, and may be the place any language on oversight of the system is added.