At this point of the legislative session the focus will shift from policy bills to appropriations bills. Budget targets for FY16 were established by Senate Democrats this past week, and House Republicans will probably unveil their budget targets this week. Our ongoing revenue for FY 2016 is $7.175 billion, and our ongoing spending for the current fiscal year is $6.994 billion, which means that we have $180 million new dollars for the FY16 budget.

The much discussed increase in Supplemental State Aid is still unresolved. The 1.25 percent increase that House Republicans proposed, along with the $50 million for teacher leadership, would take at least $95 million of the new money. The state's cost for Medicaid is projected to be up $209 million for FY16. Those two budget increases alone will require $304 million in new dollars, which means that the state's ending fund balance will be reduced by another $124 million this next fiscal year, leaving the state with virtually no ending fund balance at the end of FY16. Raising the SSA by 4 percent would increase the burden on the state budget by another $100 million, which is simply not affordable. All legislators are dedicated to funding education properly; but we must recognize the realities of our budget restraints as we try to wrap up the legislative session.

The Iowa Senate debated legislation Wednesday to permit the allowable form of medical cannabis to expand beyond cannabidiol. This would include any species of the genus cannabis plant, or any mixture or preparation of them, including whole plant extracts and resins. The bill passed in the Senate calls for the Department of Public Health to promulgate administrative rules to establish the form and quantity of medical cannabis allowed to be dispensed. Smoking of medical cannabis would be prohibited.

The bill utilizes the same registration card application, approval and dispensing processes as those used by the DPH and DOT for medical cannabidiol. However, the DPH is directed to establish medical cannabis registration card fees — $100 for patients ($25 for low-income persons) and $25 for caretakers — to cover administrative costs. Law enforcement has the same access to the registration list for the purpose of verifying compliance. All information from patients would be kept confidential.

The debilitating medical conditions list is expanded beyond intractable epilepsy to include cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, AIDS or HIV, glaucoma, hepatitis C, Crohn's Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, post-traumatic stress syndrome. Four medical cannabis manufacturers are to be selected and licensed by the DPH to possess, cultivate, supply and transport medical cannabis within the state. Twelve dispensaries would be licensed by the DPH across the state for the purpose of selling medical cannabis to patients and caregivers who possess a medical cannabis registration card. The locations of the dispensaries are to be based on the geographic need across the state. Licenses would be approved or re-issued by Dec. 1 of each year. Dispensaries are to be licensed by April 1, 2016, and must agree to begin supplying medical cannabis to patients by July 1, 2016. Senate File 484 now awaits action in the House.

I did not support this legislation. Marijuana hasn't been through rigorous testing as we expect with other medications; there is currently no dosage knowledge. Also, it is likely that some "legal" marijuana may be diverted for illegal uses. In addition, the use of marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

It's my hope we can wrap the session up in two or three weeks, but with the budget far from being agreed to, that's unlikely. As always, please feel free to call me or e-mail me at if you have questions or comments.

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