DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A group of lawmakers tasked with evaluating Iowa's response to the opioid epidemic will miss a deadline for completing a report that offers findings and recommendations for addressing the issue next legislative session.
The six-member Opioid Epidemic Evaluation Study Committee was supposed to deliver an opioids report to GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Republican-controlled Legislature by Nov. 15. The report wasn't available Wednesday, following a request from The Associated Press.
It's unclear when the report will be ready, though lawmakers on the committee insisted they were working behind-the-scenes to introduce legislation next session aimed at responding to the growing use of opioids, which include both prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone and illegal substances such as heroin. The state has recorded growing abuse of opioids over several years, and lawmakers have indicated it will be a priority when they return to the state Capitol in 2018. It's still unclear what such legislation will look like.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has also highlighted the issue, holding an awareness week recently and outlining some general priorities for monitoring and treating abuse. She was traveling Wednesday and wasn't immediately available to comment on whether she had expected a report from the committee by Wednesday.
Rep. David Heaton, a Mount Pleasant Republican and committee co-chair, said the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency was supposed to write a report based on a two-day committee meeting last month at which professionals discussed the impact of opioids on the state. The two GOP lawmakers who co-chair the committee were then supposed to review a draft. That hadn't happened when Heaton was reached by phone Wednesday.
"I'm not going to chew anybody out for not having it ready," he said. "I just want it."
An LSA official blamed the delay on staffing limitations, noting in an email that the timeline for completing legislative report drafts was subject to the availability and workload of the team that produces reports for the Legislature.
A House Republican aide said the report will ultimately include committee recommendations that go beyond the two-day meeting. Rep. Charles Isenhart, a Dubuque Democrat who is on the committee, said he hasn't had a lot of communication with the other lawmakers tasked with presenting the report.
Isenhart said the committee should have made the deadline. He noted he was on a similar interim opioids committee in 2016. That committee never met, according to Isenhart.
"My main fear is that the public and folks who care about this and are also relying on us, will see us missing this deadline as a sign that we're fumbling the ball again," he said.