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Senate passes DNR, agriculture appropriations bill

FarmingBy Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

Monday, the Iowa Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill that covers the Iowa Department of Natural Resouces, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission on a party-line vote.

Senate File 494 was a “status quo” bill in that it freezes spending in those budget areas, compared to FY 2015, the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm (D-Cresco) said. The bill does, however, re-appropriate some portions of the funding for new purposes and to provide counties with more flexibility.

The appropriations bill passed on a 26-23 vote, split precisely down party lines. State Sen. Tim Kapucian (R-Keystone) was absent and excused from the vote.

Senators earlier adopted Senate File 492, which establishes a state disaster case management grant fund and training program. The proposed legislation passed unanimously.

The Senate also took up two “bouncing bills” – pieces of legislation that have been approved by both chambers, but were amended by one or the other. Both were adopted on unanimous votes. They were:

  • House File 229 – an act to regulate the sale of buyer’s club memberships.
  • Senate File 366 – an act to amend the disability benefits provided under the Public Safety Peace Officers’ Retirement, Accident, and Disability System.

At the conclusion of the afternoon session, state Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) rose for a personal point of privilege, slamming the leadership of the Republican-controlled Iowa House of Representatives for “taking two days off” this week. The House met Monday for only nine minutes, during which time it handled the introduction of six new bills, but took no other action.

The House is not expected to conduct any floor business until Wednesday. Committee meetings were held Monday.

Bolkcom insisted the House should have used the additional work time to allow for a vote on Senate File 484, which authorizes the use of medical cannabis. He said the House leadership had a “moral obligation” to allow a vote on the proposed legislation – which has already passed the Democrat-controlled Senate – before the session ends.

With very little action taken on the FY 2016 budget so far, the General Assembly is expected to continue working beyond Friday’s last scheduled day of the session. Legislators no longer receive their per diem pay after Friday.

The Senate also received a briefing Monday afternoon on the avian influenza outbreak at poultry facilities in northwest Iowa.

 

CLICK HERE for video of the afternoon session. Advance to the 25:40 mark to see Bolkcom’s comments.