4 Questions In the Legislature This Week

Feb 15, 2016

As Iowa lawmakers dash to get bills out of committee in either the House or Senate, IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell has her eye on a few big questions this week: 

1. Can medical marijuana backers get a bill out of committee?

A bill to legalize production and distribution of marijuana for limited medical purposes would need to pass out of committee this week. The bill has Republican support and goes much further than the 2014 bill that made cannabis oil legal for parents to treat their children who suffer from epilepsy. But the Republican House Speaker, Linda Upmeyer doesn't seem interested at this point.

2. Will the feds hit the breaks on Governor Branstad's plan to privatize the management of Iowa's Medicaid?

Governor Terry Branstad would never go along with the Senate's plan to stop Iowa's Medicaid program from being handed over to three private companies, says IPR's Joyce Russell. Republicans in the Democratic-controlled Senate defected last week in voting with Democrats to stop the transition. The main argument there is that the program is not ready. The feds are getting close to the March 1st implementation date and would have to put a stop to the transition quickly.

3. Will a big fight play out over funding for the three regents universities? 

Regents university presidents were at the statehouse as they are every year to ask for funding. They're seeking a $20 million increase next year. A tentative Senate budget has a roughly $20 million increase for the entire education budget. The governor recommends only $8 million to be shared among the three schools.

4. Will the legislature act if the Iowa Utilities Board approves the Bakken crude oil pipeline this week?

A Texas company wants to build a pipeline from northwest to southeast Iowa but needs to get approval from the Iowa Utilities Board. The board might make its final decision on Friday. Many in both parties don't like eminent domain, which could be used to clear the way for pipeline construction on private land. Russell says Republican Bobby Kaufmann is "the main man on eminent domain" and he says the legislature could step in to stop the pipeline, but he has no plans to do that.