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Four months is not a lot of time.  Legislators must wade through hundreds of bills that deal with everything from declaring a state butterfly (regal fritillary) to cleaning the state's polluted rivers to balancing a budget when there isn't enough money to go around.  There are more ideas than time, so legislators need to prioritize.  They set deadlines; if bills don't make it far enough in the legislative process by each of these deadlines, they are set aside and no longer discussed.  

These deadlines are called "funnels," and the first of the two funnel deadlines hit on Friday, March 3.  Bills that did not make it out of their assigned committee by that date are done for the year.  The first funnel deadline ended debate on hundreds of bills but left plenty of controversy for the remaining seven (or so) weeks of session. 

Among the dead are bills that would have: reduced HCBS waiver waiting lists; addressed various concerns about Medicaid managed care; funded home modification grants; developed a plan to attract more direct care workers; required gas stations have at least one ADA-compliant pump; expanded the use of medical marijuana and allowed for in-state growing and sales; ended licensure of social workers, mental health counselors, and dozens of other professions; raised the state's minimum wage; directed hospitals to do a better job training home caregivers upon release of a loved one to home care; updated the psychiatric bed tracking system daily; studied pain medication abuse; prohibited health care workers from asking about a patient's gun ownership; reinstated the death penalty; defined life as beginning at conception and thereby ended all abortions; legalized the sale of machine guns; and ended the annual ritual of setting our clocks back in the Fall (keeping daylight savings time as the standard).  

But don’t worry, there is still plenty of controversy in the bills that survived, including: a ban on abortions after 20 weeks; a huge rewrite to the state’s gun laws (including stand your ground); voter ID legislation that also ends straight-party voting, ban on sanctuary (immigrant-friendly) cities; reductions in worker’s compensation benefits (ending at age 67, factoring in pre-existing conditions); forced break-up of the Des Moines Water Works; elimination of the state’s nearly 40-year-old can/bottle deposit law; and legalization of fireworks and fantasy sports. 

Legislators are now keeping their eyes on the second deadline (March 31).  This second funnel deadline is even tougher than the first.  In order for a bill to stay alive, it must be voted out of one chamber (House or Senate) and pass out ot of committee in the other chamber.  To get bills ready for the other chamber, legislators will spend most of their time over the next two week debating bills.  
The end of the first funnel also signals a turn of attention to budgets, including the Medicaid managed care system and the regional mental health and disability services (MH/DS) system.  On March 14, legislators will get updated revenue estimates that will determine how much money they will be allowed to spend this year in budgets.So far, revenue estimates are still coming in slower than expected, so March estimates will probably not give legislators much budget wiggle room.  In other words, probably not enough money to restore the mid-year buget cuts that came at the beginning of this session, but maybe enough money to avoid deeper cuts.  
Policy bill debates haven’t been much fun this year; don’t expect budget discussions to be any relief.  If you care about funding - now is the time to start talking to your legislators!  Use our Grassroots Action Center to get started!