February 17, 2017

    Republicans Fast Track Bill to Take Away Bargaining Rights from Teachers, Law Enforcement & Nurses
    House Republicans Move to Reduce Health Care Access
    Voter ID Bill Introduced in the Iowa House
    Changes to Deer Tagging Regulations
    IAble Program Launched
    Courts Establish Pilot Project to Help Resolve Family Situations

    Republicans Fast Track Bill to Take Away Bargaining Rights from Teachers, Law Enforcement & Nurses

    Over 4,500 Iowans packed the State Capitol on Monday night to speak out against a Republican bill that would deny teachers, firefighters, law enforcement, nurses, and other workers a voice in their own workplace. The bill also met fierce resistance over the weekend at town halls and public forums across Iowa.

    Written behind closed doors without input from Iowa workers, the bill being considered by Republicans would essentially gut Iowa’s bi-partisan collective bargaining law and take away rights from nearly 200,000 Iowans. Current state law requires Iowans and public employers (school, city, county, state, etc.) to sit down and work together to discuss issues and reach mutually agreeable solutions in the workplace.

    Many lawmakers oppose the changes proposed by Republicans and believe law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, and other Iowa workers deserve fairness and a voice in their own workplace. The House and Senate are both debated the bill this week and it may end up on the Governor’s desk by the end of the week.

    House Republicans Move to Reduce Health Care Access

    After being approved by the Iowa Senate last month, Republicans who control the Iowa House are moving a bill that will leave thousands of Iowa women without access to critical health care services like cancer screenings, birth control, and STD tests.

    A new poll out this week found 77% of Iowans support using state funding for family planning services provided by Planned Parenthood. Under current federal and state law, no public funding can used to cover abortion services.

    The bill will eliminate Iowa's family planning Medicaid program, defund Planned Parenthood, and then take money from foster care in an attempt to cover a portion of the millions in federal funds Iowa will lose if it passes.

    Specifically, the bill withdraws the state of Iowa from using the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver to cover family planning services. The waiver works like regular fee-for-service Medicaid. Any provider that provides approved family planning services may receive reimbursement for those services. Over 800 provider locations in Iowa are registered with the Department of Human Services to receive funding from the Medicaid Waiver, and as of December of 2016, there were over 12,200 Iowans receiving services covered by the waiver.

    The services covered by the waiver include:

    • Pap tests
    • Birth control counseling
    • Pelvic Exams
    • Pregnancy tests
    • Voluntary sterilization
    • Emergency contraception
    • Limited STD testing and treatment
    • Ultrasounds (if medically necessary and related to birth control services)
    • Yeast infection treatment
    • Multiple forms of birth control

    In addition, the cost of the services covered by the waiver is split between federal and state funding. The State of Iowa only pays 10% of the costs, while the federal government pays 90% of the costs. As a result, with the elimination of Iowa using the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver, the State of Iowa will have to pay an additional $5 million over the next two years to maintain the program with state-only funds.

    The bill now moves to the House Human Resources Committee for consideration.

    Voter ID Bill Introduced in the Iowa House

    Weeks after announcing his proposal to make voting harder for college students, elderly and low income Iowans, the Secretary of State’s “Voter Integrity” proposal is now available to the public. The proposal comes just months after the Secretary of State Paul Pate said that Iowa was one of the best states in the nation for voter integrity and participation.

    In 2016, 1.6 million Iowans cast their vote in the General Election. Of those 1.6 million votes, 10 have been deemed “irregular.” Most of these were human error and not actual voter fraud, including a felon who had their rights restored in another state but not in Iowa. There was one case of double voting with intent to vote twice, but the safeguards in place in our current system were able to identify the person. It is unclear if any of the proposals introduced by Secretary Pate would have prevented the 10 voting “irregularities.”

    Recently, the Association of County Auditors have come out against Pate’s proposal, arguing that the focus should be updating statewide voter technology and not trying to find a solution to a problem that does not exist. An estimated 260,349 Iowans could be disenfranchised by the Secretary of State’s legislative proposal.

    Changes to Deer Tagging Regulations

    Hunters may be given more time to tag a deer under a new bill that unanimously passed the Iowa House. The bill states that a hunter may remove a deer carcass before tagging it, if it is located in an unsafe area.

    Iowa has a very diverse landscape, and after taking a deer, a hunter may have to go through waterways, roadways, and brush to collect the carcass. Current law says that a hunter has to tag a deer right where the carcass was found.

    House File 254 now goes to the Iowa Senate for consideration.

    IAble Program Launched

    Earlier this month, the State Treasurer of Iowa announced the launch of IAble (Iowa Achieving a Better Life Experience), which is an Iowa’s tax-advantaged savings plan for persons with disabilities and their families. The program allows families the opportunity to plan for the future well-being of a loved one with a disability without the risk of losing their eligibility for certain assistance programs like Supplemental Security Insurance and Medicaid.

    IAble came about after the Iowa Legislature passed the Iowa ABLE (Iowa Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act in 2015, due to the federal government allowing states to create tax-advantaged investment accounts similar to college savings programs such as College Savings Iowa. With ABLE accounts, people with disabilities and their families may save up to $14,000 annually for qualified disability expenses, including but not limited to housing, transportation, assistive technology and education, among others. IAble, similar to College Savings Iowa, offers savers a variety of investment options to best meet their goals and comfort with risk.

    Together with 14 other states, Iowa is a member of the National ABLE Alliance. This multistate consortium allows IAble to offer low costs and high-quality investment options to eligible individuals in Iowa and across the nation. To open an IAble account for as little as $25, visit IAble.gov. Account owners can access their accounts online at any time, and even make withdrawals from the website. For more information about IAble, call 888-609-8910 or visit IAble.gov.

    Courts Establish Pilot Project to Help Resolve Family Situations

    The Iowa Supreme Court announced it would establish the Informal Family Law Trial pilot project in the Seventh Judicial District. The Seventh Judicial District is made up of Cedar, Clinton, Jackson, Muscatine, and Scott Counties. The pilot project will focus on resolving family law actions through an informal and expedited process.

    The pilot project was suggested to help streamline family law situations that end up in front of the courts. The informal process should prove to be more transparent for participants and create clearer expectations for participants, especially those that are self-represented and do not have the help of an attorney. The time allotted to each informal process will be clearly laid out in one hour, half day, or full day increments.

    Anyone wanting to participate in the informal process must voluntarily agree. If the process is not working for any of the parties, the process can be returned to regular court to be litigated.

    The pilot project was recommended by the Iowa Supreme Court Family Law Case Processing Reform Task Force. The Task Force submitted its report to the Supreme Court in May of 2016. Additional information can be found at http://www.iowacourts.gov/wfdata/frame9574-1263/File295.pdf.