Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The 2021 Iowa legislature sorting out final issues, may adjourn Wednesday

(Radio Iowa) - Republican lawmakers have sent their tax deal to the governor and made key spending decisions, like agreeing to expand the state prison system's budget by 20 million. Wednesday could be the final day of the 2021 legislative session, but Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, says there are still issues to resolve.

"There's just a lot of bills flying around right now and a lot of ideas flying around and some that are coming in at the last minute," Whitver says. "It's just a matter of trying to figure out what we can get passed before the end of the session."

The target date for adjournment was April 30th. The 2021 legislative session started January 11th. Whitver moved committee meetings to the Senate floor to allow for social distancing and subcommittee meetings were held online.

"Right now we're past, a couple of weeks, our normal deadline which is fine, we want to continue to work, but there are just so many new issues popping up with this unique world we're living in right now with Covid that we're trying to address as many as we can," Whitver says. "but at some point we have to shut down session and go home."

Whitver says the state continues to receive new batches of federal pandemic relief money, without clear guidance on how it may be spent. Democrats are in the minority in both the House and Senate and they've complained about being shut out of deliberations over a host of issues, including the state budget. Representative Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights is the second-ranking Democrat in the House.

"We represent 1.3 million Iowans, House Democrats do, and we deserve a place at the table on their behalf," Konfrst says.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, a Democrat from Coralville, says the GOP failed to adequately address real challenges in Iowa's economy, including access to child care.

"The Republicans still don't have an approach to ending the pandemic. All the work is being done by President Biden and his administration at the federal level, while they're squabbling and fighting with each other behind closed doors."

House Minority Leader Todd Prichard of Charles City says Democrats had zero input on the massive tax plan Republicans developed.

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