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House adjourns; 2013 legislative session concludes

(Radio Iowa News) – The end of the 2013 legislative session was complicated by a group of 11 Republicans who had hoped to ban all taxpayer-funded abortions in the Medicaid program, including abortions for poor women who are the victims of rape and incest, but just after 11 o’clock this morning.

Democrats in the Iowa House joined with Republicans to take the final votes that concluded action for the year. The Senate had concluded its work early this morning at 12:01.

Top lawmakers say the legislature made “historic” accomplishments on education reform, tax relief, and environmental protection this year. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs also cited new investments in the state’s community colleges, to help Iowa workers improve their skills.

“We really accomplished great things. We are not Washington, D.C. We are not gridlock. We are people of good faith that worked together and solved problems,” Gronstal told reporters Wednesday evening. “…None of these bills are what we would write if we were doing it alone or if we were doing it with people of our own choosing, but the voters gave us a set of people to deal with and we decided it was better to govern than to play politics.”

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, called this was a “remarkable session” that met the “high expectations” of Iowans.

“We are not Washington, D.C. We do not offer ultimatums, push things off until they are nearing a cliff or wait for a crisis to react. We’re Iowans and I believe once again this General Assembly…has proved that we have come together to accomplish serious and meaningful work,” Paulsen said during a House speech this morning. “…If Washington operated more like Iowa, America would be much better off.”

Senate President Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, cited the health care reform compromise as the legislature’s landmark achievement.

“It’s amazing what happens when you talk to one another instead of over one another,” Jochum said last night. “And that’s how we finally reached agreement on a lot of issues that a lot of people thought we would not be able to achieve this year.”

House Republican Leader Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake said legislators took a “common sense” approach to problem-solving.

“Washington, D.C.’s divisive politics have no place here,” Upmeyer said during a speech in the House this morning. “This session we have shown that there is a better way. Working together toward a common goal means we can achieve truly great things.”

Senate Republican Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said the commercial property tax reduction legislators approved this week is “historic.”

“It’s a bill that holds good promise to see new investment in our state, higher paying jobs, new career opportunities for Iowans and allows Iowans to keep more of their hard-earned money,” Dix told reporters last night.

House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines said “more often than not,” the two parties worked together.

“Unlike the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington, D.C., the unwillingness to compromise…we chose to behave like adults,” McCarthy said during a speech in the House this morning, “to find common ground and to govern.”

Current policy regarding abortions for Medicaid patients will be preserved, so taxpayer financing will still be available for abortions in cases of rape, incest, to save the life of the mother or because the fetus is deformed and would not survive outside the womb. However, legislators did include language in a budget bill that forces the governor to approve any taxpayer-funded abortions sought under those circumstances.

An 11th hour deal means Iowa will accept federal money to extend health care coverage to as many as 150,000 Iowans, but it will be a sort of stipend for insurance premiums, but managed through the state.