On Thursday morning, someone in our caucus asked what the soil temperature was. One member answered it was 44 degrees today, but 53 degrees on Monday. He said when the soil is dry and 50 degrees, planters roll in Jones county.
Also, April 11th was the official date set by Crop Insurance to start planting corn in Iowa. So yes, we are moving into the window for planting and it is time to start moving quickly toward adjournment.
With that in mind, the Speaker of the House mentioned she would like for us to be done by April 26th, so that is our new target.
This is the week after the second funnel, so most bills are dead for the session. It is a slow week as far as debate is concerned, but we are spending a lot of time in caucus discussing which pieces of legislation we would like to move.
We know we must pass a budget, so in order to shut down in an orderly fashion, we must settle on a handful of must-do policy bills and throw the rest overboard for the year.
The two largest budget bills have cleared the House, as have three others, so we are now waiting for the Senate to act. It is good to have the budget bills moving, and if we can remain focused on a half-dozen of our priority bills, we can make the late April adjournment date. At this point, we simply need to keep the train on the tracks.
The House has passed the $961 million Education budget on a bipartisan 58-38 vote. It funds the Department for the Blind, the College Student Aid Commission, the Department of Education, Community Colleges, Vocational Rehab, Iowa Public Television and the
Board of Regents. It received bipartisan support because it is a good bill with no reduction in funding over FY2019, and has increases to many priority programs. The legislation increases spending by $48 million for FY2020, and I supported the bill.
As this newsletter is being written, the House is debating the Health and Human Services budgetfor FY2020. This is the largest single state budget and appropriates almost $2 billion from the General Fund. The bill funds the Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services,and the Department of Veterans of Affairs, along with many other smaller programs.
When combined with federal block grants, federal matching funds and other sources, the HHS budget tops $5 billion in spending for human services. This years’ bill places an increased emphasis on mental health issues, including more funding for children’s mental health programs.
Also, the Mental Health Institute in Cherokee is set to receive an increase of $346,000 and the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders will be getting an extra $1.2 million. The bill provides funding for additional staff. I was supportive of this bill.
Other budgets that passed the House this week were Administration and Regulation, Transportation and the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund. This is a big week for the budget.
Finally, on Wednesday evening, I got a message from the Governor who is just asking Iowans to be prepared for more flooding as water from this latest storm will eventually come our way.
Also on Wednesday, it was announced that the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, will not be held this year due to fear the African Swine Fever could spread to the United States if the event is held. It is not here yet, but the Pork Producers Council is just being cautious.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or home at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.
My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.