Legislators Now "Off" The Clock As 110-Day Session Passes

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By Chris Earl

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Amid an environment that does not feel quite an tense as the 2011 legislative session, Iowa lawmakers passed through another year in which no budget deal was reached in the standard 110 days.

On Friday, many Eastern Iowa lawmakers were back in their home districts as the Senate and House were out for the weekend. Committees return to Des Moines on Monday with full session returning for Tuesday.

The focus remains on a $487 million gap between what Senate Democrats want to spend for the overall budget number and what House Republicans are targeting. Education funding, property tax rates and Medicaid funding remain primary sticking points within the overall budget.

In Cedar Rapids, Rep. Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) spent his morning walking the picket line with striking carpenters.

"If they got an agreement in place, I think the earliest you would be looking at is two weeks from today," said Murphy. "But I also think it's very possible we could be looking at June 30, like we were two years ago."

Lee Hein spent his Friday with his tractors in the shed instead of the field. The Republican from Jones County said he is optimistic a deal can be met.

"By next weekend, we're going to have a lot of agreements on different things," said Hein on the porch of his home in rural Monticello. "I thought we would have had an agreement on the education reform bill three weeks ago but Senate Democrats don't seem to want to come to an agreement."

Those are the dynamics that have been in play since the 2010 elections. Republicans control the governor's office and the House while Democrats have held their majority in the Senate.

Republican Walt Rogers, of Cedar Falls, and Democrat Art Staed, of Cedar Rapids, spent their Friday afternoon in the studios of WMT-AM, talking with host Bob Bruce and taking calls on when progress will mean a final deal in Des Moines.

"I'm hoping that we get it done next week and I think that's possible," said Staed. "But it's going to take some changes and some attitudes."

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