DES MOINES | The Iowa House passed a $1.85 billion Health and Human Services bill Thursday night after a day of behind-the-scene negotiating over whether the Republican majority would accept abortion-related amendments on the floor.

Abortion politics typically come into play in the HHS budget because it includes state Medicaid dollars. In order to get federal matching dollars for Medicaid costs, the state has to abide by federal guidelines which include paying for abortions in certain circumstances.

Last year, for instance, the bill was only passed after an agreement was struck that required the governor to sign off on reimbursement for any potential Medicaid-qualified abortion.

Thursday night, the abortion-related amendments were introduced which gave their sponsors a chance to make a point, then withdrawn.

“They know it is state-sanctioned killing of unborn children,” said state Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, who introduced and withdrew an amendment that would “permanently” prohibit the state from allowing tax money to get used for abortions.

The lion’s share of the $1.85 billion — about $1.58 billion — goes to cover Medicaid costs.

The legislation also created a grant program to help needy parents cover funeral costs for their children. The $100,000 set aside came after a lobbying effort by the La Porte-based non-profit “Sing Me to Heaven” whose founders enlisted Rep. Bob Kressig, D-Cedar Falls, to their cause. The allocation came on as an amendment offered by Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R-Le Mars.

Most amendments were either voted down by the majority Republicans or ruled “not germane” to the discussion.

Floor manager Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, was almost apologetic at the beginning of the 3.5-hour debate saying he would oppose most of the amendments.

“I am at my target level. There are a lot of things that I’m going to hear tonight that I’d like to do, but I’m at my target,” he said, referring to the dollar amounts lawmakers get from leadership at the start of budget negotiations.

More money for smoking prevention programs, food banks, nursing programs and to reopen the juvenile home in Toledo were all rejected.

“We are the breadbasket of the world, but many Iowans go to bed hungry at night,” said Rep. Dan Kelly, D-Newton, who unsuccessfully tried to get more money for the state’s food bank system.

The bill passed on a largely party-line vote of 51-47. It now goes to the Iowa Senate.


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