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CAPITOL CRUNCH TIME

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While kids around the state are in countdown mode to next week's spring break, legislators are gearing up for next week's second funnel deadline.  Instead of winding down, legislators are winding up for their final big deadline before the end of session approaches.  In other words, it's crunch time.

Here are a few things you need to know about this time of year at the Capitol:

  • Legislators are focusing on policy bills right now.  In order to survive the March 16 "Second Funnel" deadline, all Senate bills need to be voted out of House committees, and all House bills out of Senate committees.  This is probably the toughest deadline; one chamber (House or Senate) must pass the bill and the other chamber must assign it to a committee, then assign it to a subcommittee, vote it out of subcommittee, and then vote it out of committee to make the cut on March 16.  Check out the next article to learn more about some of the policies being debated now.
  • Legislators have put the brakes on the current year "deappropriation" bill.  As you might recall, legislators were on the fast track to cut between $20-40 million out of the current budget year.  The Governor proposed immediate cuts that included $10 million to the Medicaid system; the Senate and House decided to protect Medicaid and instead cut tax credits to businesses (but the Senate wanted to cut $12 million more than the House).  These cuts would have to be made to state-funded programs and services between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2018.  That gets hard the longer legislators wait.  The House Appropriations Committee did pass and amend the bill (SF 2117), but no further action has been taken.  Many think legislators are waiting for the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) meeting next week.
     
  • Legislators will be watching the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC), which meets on Monday, March 9 to see how Iowa's economy is doing. If the economy is doing well and state revenues are growing (and they look like they are due to federal tax cuts), legislators may decide they have aleady cut enough out of the budget.  That could mean no deappropriation bill - or a much smaller one.  That might also signal a "status quo" budget, one that holds the line on spending but doesn't cut any deeper.  Regardless, with estimates in hand, legislators will get to work quickly on budgets as soon as the March 16 funnel deadline passes.
     
  • Revenues play a part in deciding budgets, but they also are factoring into decisions about tax reform.  With all that swirling around, the Governor and Legislature are also beginning to move forward now on tax reform legislation.  The Senate proposed a $1 billion tax cut (SF 2383), and passed it within days.  The Governor proposed her $1.7 billion tax cut plan (SSB3195/ HSB671), which a House subcommittee has advanced.  There clearly is an appetite at the Capitol for tax cuts, but they will will need to be done with an eye on budgets.  Iowa's current year budget is $7.2 billion, so this could have a significant impact on the state's ability to pay for services and supports to Iowans with disabilities.  You can read more about the Governor's tax plan here. You can read more about the Senate tax plan here.
  • Legislators will also be watching their backs; the deadline for candidates to announce they are running for statewide office or Legislature is Friday, March 16.  So the week ending March 16 will be an interesting one; we will know which bills survived the last deadline and legislators will know if anyone is running against them.  Read more about this in our Election 2018 Watch article.

Monday, March 5th marks Session Day 57 for a session originally, and technically still, scheduled for 100 days.  The deappropriations bill cut session to 85 days, but with that bill in limbo, so is the expected length of session.  Reducing the number of days only reduces the number of days legislators get paid; they will still have to come to work until they are done.  But since it's an Election year, legislators will be ready to head home sooner than later.  For your planners:

  • Day 85 is April 2
  • Day 90 is April 7
  • Day 100 is April 17 

Now is the time to advocate for the things you care about - however you count it, we're a little over a month away from the end of session and the beginning of campaign season.  Remember you can easily email your elected officials here.