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Session Ends on May Day

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Some years, the Iowa legislative session is like a sprint, and other years it's more like a marathon.  This year, legislators promised it would be a mad dash to the finishing line.  In the end, it was like sprinting in a marathon.  Legislators worked hard and fast all session long to solve problems and work out differences.  They had hoped to end session sometime before the 100-day deadline, some even hoping for the end of March. 

As the 100-day deadline approached, it became clear to legislative leaders that there were still too many issues dividing the Republican-controlled House, Democratic-controlled Senate, and the Governor.  By the end of April, nearly all budget bills were still being negotiated, priority policy bills were still unfinished, and the final "one-time spending bill" had not yet seen the light of day.  The Legislature finally wrapped up work on the 110th day of session, ten days after legislators stopped being paid for their work.

The 2014 Iowa Legislative Session unofficially ended when the House of Representatives adjourned sine die (without date) at 5:54 AM on Thursday, May 1.  Unofficially, because the Senate followed suit 27 hours later, adjourning at 8:50 AM on Friday morning.  The Senate added a day in order to pass a resolution that gives the Government Oversight Committee the ability to subpoena witnesses in the ongoing investigation of the Department of Administrative Services' negotiations of confidential personnel settlements, and the Department of Workforce Development's influence over Administrative Law Judges to compel them to rule in favor of businesses in unemployment compensation cases.  The Government Oversight Committee is one of the few legislative committees that has the ability to meet throughout the year.

To end session, both chambers had to push their work through the night, requiring the House to take action just before midnight to waive a rule that forbids voting after midnight.  This rule was put in place by House leaders years ago because they thought mistakes were made during late night debate.  And to prove that point, one legislator accidentally ran an amendment to a bill in the early morning hours, and before he realized his mistake, the bill had been messaged to the Senate.  No chance for a do-over, so the bill had to be sent to conference committee, which was really more like a middle-of-the-rotunda huddle at 3:30 AM.  The bill was fixed, but it slowed the process down.

The very last bills to make it to the finish line included the Standing Appropriations bill, a spending bill that contains debt reduction and one-time funding, a bill decriminalizing use of cannabidiol for a small group of epileptic sufferers, a bill modernizing HIV laws, a bill establishing a new motorsports recreational vehicle classification, and three other budget bills that were caught up in the final trade-offs.

The Governor now has 30 days to take action on all legislation passed by the Legislature in the final days of the session.  His choices are to sign a bill into law or to veto a bill.  However, in the case of spending bills, the Governor can veto parts of a bill (called a line-item veto).  The Governor cannot change a dollar amount for a program or selectively veto words.

This year's later-than-anticipated finish leaves legislators facing primary elections just a month to knock on doors and talk to voters before the June 3, 2014 primary.  After those primaries, the run-up to the November election promises to be exciting.  The 2014 November election will feature an open U.S. Senate race and two open U.S. House races, something that hasn't happened in Iowa in over a generation.  Excitement generated from those races as well as the contested Governor's race could have a dramatic effect on the legislative races down the ballot.  This year's 26-24 Democratic Senate and 53-47 Republican House could very well change hands, depending on who turns out on Election Day. 

Remember to vote in your primary election on June 3, 2014!  Click here for more information.