The legislative process is in full swing at the Statehouse. Traditionally, much of the first week is dedicated to formal speeches and settling back into the Capitol. By the second and third weeks, lawmakers begin filing their bills and legislation is assigned to committees for consideration.
As the Senate President, one of the responsibilities of my office is to assign a senator’s bill to committee. For example, a bill dealing with the operation of certain motorboats on Lake McBride was assigned to the Natural Resources and Environment Committee. Many times if a bill deals with licensure, it is designated to the State Government Committee. Legislation addressing taxes and revenues is usually assigned to Ways and Means.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of bills are drafted over the course of a legislative session. Since gaveling in on January 9, the Senate President’s office has assigned more than 100 bills to committees.
Once receiving the committee assignment, it is the responsibility of the committee chair to assign the bill to a subcommittee. When the bill passes out of subcommittee it goes to the full committee for consideration.
Bills are not debated before the full Senate until they have passed with a majority vote in the subcommittee and committee.
The first debate of 2017 was held Thursday in the Senate. It was legislation related to necessary cuts to our current fiscal year budget. Though our state revenues continue to grow, they fell more than $100 million short of what was anticipated and previously budget. Therefore, addressing the shortfall and the identified budget cuts required legislative action.
This deappropriations bill also created some much-needed conversations about budgeting and how we move forward as lawmakers. The state budget currently sits at more than $7 billion. And, of that money, more than 80 percent goes toward education, Medicaid and human services. Any time you are forced to make cuts, it is going to have an impact on certain departments and the services they provide. It is important in budgeting that lawmakers are mindful of the fact that state revenues fell short of expectations in recent years.
With the first debate now behind us, I expect activity to significantly ramp up in the coming weeks in the Iowa Senate.