Iowa legislature officially in overtime - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa legislature officially in overtime

The General Assembly was supposed to be done for the year on Friday, but lawmakers still have a lot of major issues to sort through. The General Assembly was supposed to be done for the year on Friday, but lawmakers still have a lot of major issues to sort through.

The Iowa legislature was supposed to dismiss Friday, but with a lot of work left to do, lawmakers are pushed into overtime in Des Moines.

As of late last week, some steps were taken to move the big ticket items forward in the legislative process.  But Monday, the full Senate and House only met for a total of five minutes.  Behind the scenes, though, key committees are trying to hammer out details for sweeping reform measures, and finalizing the state's spending plan.

"When there's real differences, you're going to see it takes time to resolve those," said Sen. Jeff Danielson, (D) Cedar Falls.

"The pressure's kind of mounting to get these things done," said Rep. Walt Rogers, (R) Cedar Falls.

Iowa lawmakers have to finish the budget, and are hopeful that after three years of debate--big ticket items including education and property tax reform will finally be approved too.

"We have the resources.  We have the largest budget surplus in Iowa history.  Often times if you don't have the resources, you can't talk about how to make meaningful change because you don't have the ability to invest in it," Danielson said.

Now, legislators are tasked with deciding where that nearly billion dollar surplus goes. 

The biggest battle ground falls with schools.  Districts still don't know for sure what their funding level is for next year, pushing some schools to prepare for the worst and layoff staff.

"They should not have had to wait until now to know what they were going to get, but the House chose not to do that," said Danielson.

That's because the House and governor want education reform passed first, which does look promising.  Agreement's been reached to up starting teacher pay by $6,000, and create programs to improve student achievement.

"We've put accountability measures in there for schools, for students, and for teachers.  So all those things we think are part of a good reform package for Iowans," Rogers said.

Progress is also being made on lowering property taxes.  Legislative committees are hashing out the final details on all the proposals, with hope the work will get done very soon.

"This is where you earn your keep--making sure the Cedar Valley's priorities are still in the conversation, that the issues we all care about and know so much about, actually do get solved," said Danielson.

When it comes to healthcare, there's still a divide of whether to allow for Medicaid expansion.  Some lawmakers think that issue does not have to be finalized before the session adjourns, instead letting a study committee submit a proposal to the federal government that will meet requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Lawmakers do have an incentive to finish their work.  That's because in session overtime, they no longer getting daily expense payments.

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