January 13, 2017
2017 Session Begins; Education, Jobs & Working Families Top Priorities
2017 Session Begins; Education, Jobs & Working Families Top Priorities
The 2017 Legislative Session opened this week and lawmakers pledged to work together and focus on policies that will help working families and grow the economy, while keeping the state budget balanced.
Many issues are likely to come up this year, but priorities outlined by lawmakers include making K-12 schools the top priority in Iowa again; revitalizing rural Iowa; expanding job training opportunities; raising the minimum wage; improving water quality; expanding early childhood education; and encouraging more production and use of renewable energy.
Many lawmakers said the key to growing Iowa’s economy is building a skilled workforce, which Iowa businesses say is the biggest hurdle they face. That starts with access to quality preschool and continues with a guarantee of affordable job training or college after high school.
2017 Legislative Survey
In an effort to connect with more Iowans, lawmakers are still requesting Iowans participate in a brief survey about the 2017 session. Please click http://interspire.iowahdc.info/surveys.php?id=35 to complete the survey and share your views.
Branstad to Cut Millions from Community Colleges, State Universities
In his annual Condition of the State Address, Governor Terry Branstad said he will cut $35 million this month from Iowa’s 15 community colleges and three state universities. The Governor was forced to take action this week after he previously approved bills and significant tax changes that led to a downturn in Iowa’s economy and declining state revenues.
The higher education cuts were included in his plans to trim $114 million from the state budget in the current fiscal year (FY 17). Other budget cuts identified by the Governor include: $20 million from the Department of Human Services, $15 million from the Department of Corrections, $14 million from Medicaid, and $7.7 million from the Judicial Branch.
In addition to the targeted cuts to state agencies, the Governor is recommending using a total of $33.2 million in ending balances from other funds such as the Taxpayers Trust Fund, to keep the state budget balanced.
FY 2018 & 2019 Budget Proposal
The Governor also outlined his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2018, which lawmakers must approve before adjourning this session. He proposed a total appropriation of $7.457 billion from the general fund, which represents an increase of $219 million compared to his revised FY 2017 budget. That recommendation includes a 2% increase for state school aid and a $36 million increase for Medicaid.
The Governor recommended an increase of 2% in state school aid for FY 2019 as well, which leads to an overall general fund appropriation of $7.623 million. The Governor’s FY 2019 general fund budget proposal appropriates $166 million more than his FY 2018 proposal.
Now that lawmakers have received the Governor’s budget, they will begin crafting their priorities in the state budget.
Voter Suppression Bill Proposed by Secretary of State
Iowa has a long history of making it as easy as possible for eligible voters in the state to have their voices heard and cast their ballots. However, a new hurdle could be put in place for students, the elderly, and low income Iowans who want to vote this year.
Despite recently stating that Iowa is one of the best states in the nation for voter integrity and participation, Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate has introduced a proposal that would require new regulations for eligible voters. The Secretary has also proposed reducing the number of days someone has to request an absentee ballot.
The new proposal also includes requiring voters to show an ID before voting. Accepted forms of identifications include a driver’s license, passport, or military ID. Students would not be allowed to use their college or student IDs.
According to one estimate, approximately 145,000 Iowans do not have the required forms of identification to have their vote counted. The Secretary of State says his plan would provide a free signature verification card for those who do not have the required identification.
Many lawmakers have expressed concerns that the proposals would make it more difficult for Iowans to vote and reduce voter turnout.
Chief Justice Calls for Investment to Prevent Cuts
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady delivered the annual State of Judiciary speech to the Legislature this week. The Chief Justice called for investment in the judicial branch to maintain the work the court is doing and to prevent cuts to services.
The Chief Justice focused on successes the courts have recently implemented, including reducing litigation costs, pursuing efficiencies, and using the latest technology. In particular, new models and programs for juveniles in the court system were highlighted that have significantly reduced the number of juveniles entering the adult prison system and kept more families together.
The potential impacts of a reduced budget for the judicial branch were stressed by the Chief Justice when he said, “I look to the future because that is where the positive change we seek today will continue to be found. But this future is closely tethered to the ability of the judicial branch to continue to deliver services to Iowans, and problems are beginning to emerge.”
Chief Justice Cady then noted that the judicial branch needs a commitment to invest in the court system to maintain all services for all Iowans. In particular, he noted that without sustained funding, it is possible that part-time hours for courthouses could be implemented, specialty courts could be eliminated, and there could be fewer services for troubled youth.
Medicaid Privatization Public Meetings Scheduled for 2017
The privatization of Medicaid last year has been plagued with trouble for patients and providers. The Governor has even agreed to pay the private companies an additional $33 million due to them not making enough money.
To assist Iowans in providing real feedback regarding the new managed care system, the Iowa Legislature requires the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) to hold monthly public meetings for providers, patients, and advocates. The meetings will have staff from the three private managed care organizations (MCO), as well as staff from the DHS and the Iowa Medicaid Enterprise. Attendees that wish to speak are asked to limit their comments to no more than five minutes and are encouraged to submit their comments in writing. More information about the meetings can be found here: https://dhs.iowa.gov/iahealthlink/IHL-Public-Comment-Meetings.
Earlier this week, the first monthly meeting for 2017 was held in Fort Madison at the Public Library. Over the next eleven months, meetings will be held in Spirit Lake, Shenandoah, Mason City, Sioux City, Bettendorf, Dubuque, and Des Moines. A full schedule dates and locations can be found here: https://dhs.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/IA_Health_Link_Public_Comment_Meeting_Schedule_2017.pdf.
At the end of the year, a summary of comments will be given to the Legislative Health Policy Oversight Committee for their review.
Veterans Day on the Hill
On January 18th, veterans and their families will travel to Des Moines for Veterans Day at the Capitol. Throughout the day, veterans will meet with legislators to discuss the priorities of the Veterans Coalition.
The Veterans Coalition is a group of representatives from various veterans’ organizations across Iowa who work collectively to develop and advance policy ideas to assist veterans and their families.
For the 2017 Legislative session, the Veterans Coalition will work to protect programs and agencies such as the Iowa Veterans Home, the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund and the Military Home Ownership Program. The Coalition is also interested in allowing veterans with a 50% or greater service-connected disability to receive a veteran license plate with all fees and registration waived for one year.
Finally, the Coalition will work towards increasing the Military Property Tax Exemption from $1,852 to $3,700. Throughout this year’s Legislative session, the Veterans Committees in the House and Senate will review the proposals that the Coalition brings forward.
Last year, lawmakers passed several bills to help Iowa’s veterans. Unclaimed veteran cremated remains were given a proper burial at a state or federal veterans cemetery, veterans preference information became easier to understand for companies in Iowa, and a law was enacted that prevents veterans from having to go to multiple places to receive a special designation on their driver’s license.
The Iowa Legislature will continue to work towards helping our veterans and making sure they get the care they deserve.
New STEM Youth Advisory Board Seeking Members
The Iowa Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Advisory Council has identified youth perspective as a priority moving forward. As a result, an Iowa STEM Youth Advisory Board is being formed, and is now seeking members. Fifth-graders to college seniors are invited to apply.
Chaired by Kwizera Imani, an Aerospace Engineering undergraduate at Iowa State University, the board will provide a youth perspective to the STEM Council. They will offer input on policy and programs, and communicate to peers and communities the STEM programs available to Iowans. After the 15-member Board is assembled, most meetings will be conducted via videoconferencing, with one or two in-person gatherings per year. Terms will be two years, with the opportunity for renewal.
Deadline is January 31st
In the application process, students are asked about their STEM activities; what inspired them to be interested in STEM; and if they are comfortable with public speaking. If an applicant is under 18, a parent or guardian permission form can be downloaded here. If they are over 18 years old, a media waiver request form can be downloaded here.
Applicants need to have the form signed and scanned in PDF form before submitting. In addition, a letter from an unrelated acquaintance is required. Applications for the Board will be accepted until January 31, 2017 at 5:00 P.M. CST. Questions can be directed to Kari Jastorff, program manager, by e-mailing at mailto:Jastorff@IowaSTEM.gov or calling 319-273-2959.
New Law to Crack Down on Disability Placard Fraud
A new Iowa law cracks down on people that reuse permanent disability placards without having a disability. It was authored by Democratic Representatives and is supported by disability rights organizations.
The law that went into effect the first of the year establishes a five-year renewal process. It only effects newly issued permanent disability placards, and requires them to be a different color than the temporary placards. The placards can be renewed by a statement from your doctor to the Department of Transportation (DOT).
There are approximately 530,000 lifetime disability permits in circulation according to the DOT. They will be writing rules to make the process as easy as possible, including renewing electronically instead of having to go to a DOT licensing station.
Coaches Given More Time to Obtain CPR Training
A new rule that would require Iowa coaches to obtain Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training has been delayed by the Legislative Rules Committee. Now coaches, particularly those in the middle of a basketball season, will have more time to obtain the training. Previously, they only had a month to comply with the sudden Board of Education Examiners rule change.
Coaches who will be affected by this proposed change should seek out CPR training now to prevent any licensure delays. Official CPR training through reputable organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, or other trainings that meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines will be accepted. Online-only programs do not meet the OSHA requirements and will not be accepted.
The CPR requirement is added to the list of minimum requirements for coaches which already includes training in the care of athletic injuries and medical safety, and a mandatory background check. Typically, CPR certification is valid for two years, and coaching applicants will need to provide a copy of their certificate card.
Unless further changes happen during the Legislative session, the new rule goes into effect after the Legislature adjourns. Only 16% of Iowa high schools currently have a full-time athletic trainer onsite to provide emergency care. In addition, Iowa high school students currently must go through a recognized CPR course prior to graduation, but until this rule change, CPR training has not been required of coaches.