March 16, 2018
Workforce Training Legislation Passes Iowa House
Workforce Training Legislation Passes Iowa House
Iowa currently faces a skills gap. That’s because there are not enough workers possessing the needed skills for the jobs available. Right now, 55% of jobs available in Iowa are middle skill jobs. These jobs require more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree; they require an associate’s degree, a training certificate, or an apprenticeship. However, only 32% of our workforce has this skill set.
Bi-partisan legislation approved this week seeks to remedy this problem. The Future Ready Iowa legislation brings forward the recommendations of the Future Ready Alliance with the goal of having 70% of Iowa’s workforce with education or training beyond high school by the year 2025.
The legislation creates a new apprenticeship program under the Economic Development Authority designed to incentivize small and medium sized apprenticeship programs to create new or more apprenticeships. The bill also creates a volunteer mentor program; a summer youth intern pilot program for at-risk youth; an Iowa Employer Innovation Program focused on training for high demand jobs; and a Future Ready Iowa Skilled Workforce Grant Program for state universities or accredited private colleges. Additionally, the legislation directs the Department of Workforce Development and area community colleges to identify and create a list of high demand jobs for these programs.
While the bill is a good first step, many lawmakers are concerned there will be no money to implement the bill. HF 2458 now moves on to the Senate for further consideration.
Prevention of Food Shaming in Schools
Under a bill passed by the Iowa House, Iowa schools are no longer allowed to do actions that humiliate or “shame” a student because they cannot pay for their meal. Those actions include:
• Requiring the student to consume the meal at a table set aside for students who owe a meal debt.
Schools are currently required to offer assistance to parents or guardians once a year in filling out Free and Reduced Lunch forms. Due to changing economic circumstances, this would now be required twice a year.
Some schools have set up a private account and accept donations to help pay for school lunch debt. The bill prevents the school from using those funds for another purpose (which has also happened in Iowa).
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
New Law to Protect Iowans at Gas Pumps and ATMS
You will now have more security when headed to gas pumps and ATMs if a House bill is signed by the Governor. The legislation helps protect consumers from devices designed to skim or scan credit card numbers used at places like gas pumps and ATMs. While the current Iowa law provided some protections for consumers, the bill will expand the types of devices that are covered to reflect new technology and assure that criminals using these devices can be prosecuted.
House File 2199 expands the type of scanning devices that are prohibited to include new wireless devices that rely on technologies such as radio frequencies or Bluetooth. These changes assure that the law prohibiting the types of devices keeps up with current technology used in these crimes. The bill also expands the crime to include both directly or indirectly using a scanning device.
A new crime is created to include a person that possesses a scanning device with the intent to use the device to steal credit card information. Under current law it is a crime to use a scanning device to read a credit card without permission, but this change will assure when police find these devices at places like ATMs and gas pumps that the criminals using the scanning device can be held responsible.
The bill was passed by the House earlier this session. The bill passed the Senate and will now become law if it is signed by the Governor.
State Budget Still Out of Balance
Iowa’s non-partisan budget experts said lawmakers will still have to take action this year to balance the state budget before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
For Fiscal Year 2018, the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) updated their revenue projections with a small increase of 0.4% growth. Despite the slight increase, the state budget remains unbalanced and the Legislature will have to address the budget shortfall before adjourning for the year.
Budget experts on the REC continued to express concern over the agriculture economy and the need for skilled workers in the state. They also expressed concern of how the federal policy changes to NAFTA, as well as the possible fallout from a trade war due to increased tariffs could impact Iowa’s economy.
2019 Budget Before adjourning for the year, lawmakers must also approve a state budget for Fiscal Year 2019. While the economy continues to grow slowly, the REC did increase the estimate for FY 19 by $206.8 million. That increase is largely the result of tax and budget changes made at the federal level.
As lawmakers and the Governor begin work on the budget, they will be challenged with how to address the $308.3 million in anticipated built-in increases for FY 19 and other tax plans offered by Republican laws that cost $1 billion annually.
Small Steps Taken to Fix the Medicaid Mess
Ever since the Governor unilaterally privatized Medicaid in April 2016, the results have been disastrous for Iowa. Iowan’s have been denied critical care, had their services drastically reduced or cut, and in some extreme cases, people have died from lack of care. However, last week small steps were taken to lessen the impact that privatization has had on our most vulnerable population.
A bipartisan bill that passed the House changed some provider processes, updated member services and created more Medicaid oversight. The biggest provisions in the bill include using standardized Medicaid provider enrollment forms and credentialing standards to lessen the confusion for those providers entering into contracts with the managed care organizations (MCOs). The bill directs that if a payment error is found, the MCO has to fully and correctly reprocess the claim and correct the system within 90 days, and directs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to both review and approve when a MCO reduces a member’s level of care. This bill also forces the MCOs to provide and pay for five days of services and treatment if a member is court-ordered to receive the services. This provision will help members who are in crisis, or have substance-abuse related issues to get the initial services they need without worrying if the treatment will be covered.
Finally, several oversight provisions were added. The bill directs DHS to create a workgroup to review health home programs, initiates a review process of prior authorizations by the MCOs, and guides DHS to hire an independent auditor to perform an audit of small dollar ($2,500 or less) claims paid or denied to Medicaid long-term services and supports providers.
Even though this is a good first step in addressing some of the problems of privatized Medicaid, there is still a lot of work to be done. MCOs are still businesses, and their first priority is to make profits-not take care of Iowans.
HF 2462 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Voter Regulations Create Problems
While the Legislature pushed through new regulations for voting last year, many Iowans were concerned about the unintended consequences. Those warnings were proven true last week when many voters were give the wrong ballots and some poll workers did not understand the new law at a local election.
Later the same week, lawmakers passed a bill to update provisions of the new voting regulations. Many lawmakers brought up concerns and attempted to fix the bill, but none of the suggestions were adopted so voters will still face significant hurdles heading to the polls later this year.
Voters who are voting in any upcoming local election, like the statewide June Primary, will need to show one of the following before being allowing to vote: a driver’s license, a non-operator ID, a passport, a military ID, or a veterans ID. If a registered voter does not have one of these photo ID’s, they may show a voter ID card if they were issued one by the Secretary of State or County Auditor.
Educators to Now Receive Suicide Prevention Training
Action was taken this week on a bill that addresses suicide prevention training for educators. It would require by July 1, 2019, school boards to have one hour of nationally recognized training on suicide prevention and post intervention for all licensed school personnel who have contact with students grades K-12.
Also by the same date, school boards are required to annually have evidence-based, evidence-supported training on the identification of “Adverse Childhood Experience” (ACE) strategies to mitigate toxic stress response for all licensed school personnel with regular contact with students in K- 12. The content of the training is required to be based on nationally recognized best practices.
ACE are potentially traumatic events occurring in childhood that can have negative, lasting effects on an individual’s health and well-being. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, in 2017, 433 people in Iowa died of suicide, and it is the second leading cause of death for Iowans ages 15-34. It is hoped that this bill would provide the proper training to educators to recognize the signs of possible suicide and prevent future tragedies.
Safe Haven Law Expands Abandoned Newborn Protection
A law that was designed to protect abandoned newborns was expanded this week in the Iowa House.
The bill, Senate File 360, expands the eligibility of an infant that can be turned over as part of the Newborn Safe Haven Act from up to fourteen days old to up to thirty days old. In addition, the bill allows a parent to make telephone contact with a 911 service and relinquish physical custody of the newborn infant to a first responder who responds to the 911 telephone call.
Iowa implemented the Safe Haven law in 2001, and since its inception, 30 infants have been relinquished to the state’s care.
The bill now goes to the Governor for her signature.
House Advances Bill to Give Driver’s Licenses Back to Iowans
Iowans can lose their driver’s license for various reasons, many of which have nothing to do with actual driving violations. In 2017, there were 146,703 Iowans who had their driver’s license suspended and 46% of them were a failure to pay fines.
The Legislature took a step this week to help 4,646 Iowans who have a suspended or revoked license because of a drug offense by passing a resolution in opposition to the federal law. The suspension of a driver’s license can be an economic barrier for those trying to get back on their feet.
The resolution was passed by both chambers and now heads to the Governor’s office for her signature. If signed by the Governor, the legislature can than restore licenses for those convicted of a drug offense without the threat of losing federal highway dollars.
Sign Language Included as a World Language Offered in High School
Iowa schools will now be allowed to teach sign language in what would be considered a world language class. Currently schools are prohibited by Iowa law from using an American Sign Language course to meet accreditation standards as part of a foreign language class.
Iowa has two community colleges that provide training to be a licensed sign language interpreter, while others offer some sign language courses. In making the name change of foreign language courses to world language courses, the bill would allow sign language to be taught in Iowa high schools as a recognized world language. It would have the same level as current foreign language courses, in hopes that more high schools will now offer sign language courses.
Iowa currently requires four years of foreign language, but the Department of Education is allowed to waive the third and fourth year if no students have enrolled in the class. The waiver does not change under the bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration.