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Legislature headed to ‘Overtime’

Iowa Capitol 1By Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

The painfully slow process of adopting a FY 2016 budget continued Thursday morning and evening in the General Assembly with House passage of its own administration and regulation and education appropriations bills.

During floor debate on House File 659, the atmosphere of the chamber was tense. Trading back-and-forth insults, Republicans accused Democrats of being fiscally irresponsible, while Democrats charged Republicans’ priorities were not in line with those of Iowans.

Following debate on nine separate amendments, none of which were adopted, over the course of nearly two hours, the House ultimately adopted the bill. The measure passed on a strict party-line vote, 55-41.

 

CLICK HERE to see video of the contentious debate.

 

The House also adopted House File 656 on an 84-9 vote. The bill would:

  • create a Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit,
  • modify the tax credit for investments in qualifying businesses and community-based seed capital funds,
  • modify the Entrepreneur Investment Awards program,
  • modify the Workforce Housing Tax Incentive program, and
  • make numerous changes to other Iowa Economic Development Authority programs.

In the evening, Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) announced that the introductions policy would be changing, effective immediately. He did not indicate what precipitated the change, but said he made the decision based on consultation with both floor leaders.

Also in the evening, the House adopted House File 658, the education appropriations bill. Twenty amendments, most of them authored by House Democrats, had been offered on the bill when debate began.

Many of those are likely meant to stall or extend the debate. The House got through the first nine – seven from Democrats, two from Republicans – before House Minority Leader Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown) declared a caucus for Democrats.

Of the seven Democrat amendments, one of which was ruled out of order, six were deferred as each came up for debate.

The Republicans adopted their first amendment, which dealt with funding for the early warning system for literacy, on a 56-41 party-line vote. Although most amendments are voted up or down on voice votes, Democrats requested a recorded roll call vote on that amendment.

Smith called for the caucus as Republicans prepared to debate their second amendment, which dealt with continuation of the in-state tuition freeze for Regents institutions. The House reconvened 55 minutes later.

After more than two hours of additional debate on the remaining amendments – in total, only six Republican amendments were adopted – HF 658, as amended, was adopted on a 55-42 party-line vote. Rule 75 was invoked to require every member of the body who was present to vote.

Following the vote, a number of Education Democrats spoke out in points of privilege speeches. The House adjourned for the day at 9:43 p.m. and returned to work this morning only for the purpose of approving Thursday’s journal.

 

CLICK HERE to see video of the evening session.

 

Meanwhile, the Senate only took up another “bouncing bill” from the House. It unanimously adopted the House-amended version of Senate File 482.

The Senate then adjourned for the week, guaranteeing the legislature will return to work – without pay – next week. The House and Senate will each reconvene at 1 p.m. Monday.