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GOVERNOR FINISHES SIGNING BILLS

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Before becoming Ambassador, Governor Branstad finished signing bills into law.  The Legislature sent 174 bills to the Governor this year - and all were signed into law.  The Governor did veto parts of four budget bills, but those vetoes did not affect any of the issues we've tracked for our readers.  The vetoes include:

  • Economic Development Budget (SF 513): The Governor vetoed language that made DHS the agency that decides who is eligible for the Iowa Finance Authority's rent subsidy program.
     
  • Infrastructure Budget (HF 643):  The Governor vetoed $1.8 million in new money to upgrade infrastructure and technology in the state's Community Action Agencies, and eliminated a requirement that the state inventory vacant buildings its owns.  
  • Health/Human Services Budget (HF 653):  The Governor vetoed several items in this budget including a requirement that the Iowa Veterans Home report monthly on spending, DHS report on the impact of Medicaid "cost containment" and "process improvement" changes, $202,000 for Drake University to establish remote learning sites and maximize outreach and enrollment in it master's program in applied behavioral analysis (ABA), $200,000 to expand internet training to additional providers, and language about Medicaid rates that is duplicative to contract language.

Normally we report statistics on the number of bills introduced, and the number of bills signed.  For example, this year, the Governor signed 100% of the bills sent to him, and 10% of the bills introduced this year became law.  That means only one in every ten bills sponsored by a legislator made its way to become law this year.  That's about the same as other years, which usually range between 9-11%.  James Lynch, a Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter, did some additional analysis to compare the 2017 Legislature to other years:

  • In terms of the number of bills passed -  legislators passed the most bills since 2010, when the all-Democratic Legislature sent 226 bills to the then-Democratic Governor Chet Culver.
     
  • Legislators were much more productive back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Democrats controlled both House and Senate (and Governor Branstad was in office).  They passed 327 bills in 1989, 275 bills in 1990 and again in 1991, and 261 in 1992.  
     
  • In 2011, when Branstad came back into office and the Iowa House became controlled by Republicans, the Legislature passed the lowest number of bills in at least 20 years (138 bills).  Over the next five years, legislators passed less than 146 bills and resolutions.

More bills doesn't mean better bills, and those that like less government may not want to measure success by the number of bills passed.  What is a fact - the new Republican leaders of the Iowa Senate and their House counterparts wasted no time in passing bills they had been waiting to do for years.  Things like defunding Planned Parenthood, medical malpractice reform, workers compensation changes, state employee union changes, and broad gun rights legislation.  All that, done in 15 weeks.

If your issues didn't make the cut this year, they still can be debated next year when the Iowa Legislature resumes session on Monday, January 8, 2018.  Legislators will also be able to introduce new ideas by requesting new bills.  Some thoughts for those of you that want to see something happen in the Iowa Legislature next year:

  • Call (or email) your legislators now and set up a meeting to talk about your issue.
  • Invite them to visit with a group of advocates, or come to an event you are having.
  • Tell them about your issue, the impact it has on your life or the lives of those you know, and ask them to help.
  • Ask them to sponsor a bill to address your issue.
Most importantly, remember to keep trying and not give up.  As Nelson Mandela said, "It always seems impossible, until it's done."  Or, since it's baseball season, in the words of Babe Ruth, "You just can't beat the person who won't give up."