March 8, 2019
Democrats Release New Plan to Put Iowans First
Democrats Release New Plan to Put Iowans First
Democratic lawmakers outlined their agenda called Putting Iowans First at the State Capitol this week. After hearing from Iowans frustrated by the growing influence of special interests in the Legislature, lawmakers developed the agenda for the legislative session to put everyday Iowans back at the front of the line again.
The agenda is centered around the idea that every Iowan deserves a decent paying job, affordable health care, and the chance to lead a good life. The Putting Iowans First plan has four key priorities; bringing better jobs to your community; affordable, accessible health care for all Iowans; making Iowa schools #1 again; and revitalizing small towns and rural areas. Lawmakers will be working on legislation throughout the year to enact the agenda.
In recent years, majority party lawmakers have imposed policies that don’t reflect Iowa values and aren’t in the best interest of everyday Iowans. At the same time, they have moved millionaires, corporations, and other special interests to the front of the line — at the expense of working Iowans. This includes stagnant wages, rising health care costs, and more Iowans living paycheck to paycheck.
For more information on the Putting Iowans First plan, go to www.IowansFirst.com.
Protect Conservation & Recreation in Iowa
Iowa has one of the lowest numbers of acres of land available for public use and currently is ranked 47th in the nation. Two bills under consideration in the Legislature this year would put the future of Iowa’s state parks, recreational trails, conservation and wildlife areas in jeopardy.
House File 542 would prohibit the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and county conservation boards from using state money to acquire land which will severely limit conservation and new recreational opportunities in Iowa. Land for bike trails and expanding land for public use would be difficult because state funds couldn’t be used. The bill also eliminates tax credits for people and corporations that either donate land or use their land for public good, mainly water quality projects.
This week the bill missed the deadline to advance in the Iowa House Natural Resources Committee, however a similar bill is also being considered in the Iowa Senate, Senate Study Bill 1221. The bill prohibits the state from acquiring land for water pollution control projects and it limits what kinds of land the state can purchase. The bill passed out of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee this week and can be debated in the Senate.
Iowans concerned about protecting conservation and recreation in Iowa can visit https://bit.ly/2C5wsuMto learn more or leave a comment.
New MCO Joining Iowa’s Medicaid Network
On July 1, 2019, Iowa Total Care, Iowa’s new Managed Care Organization (MCO) will begin providing services to Medicaid members. Most members will be receiving letters assigning them to one of the three MCOs (Amerigroup, UnitedHealthcare, and Iowa Total Care). Members may be assigned to a different MCO from their current one. However, if they choose, the member may stay with their current MCO. Members will have until June 18, 2019 to contact IME Member Services (1-800-338-8366) to change their assigned MCO, and may change MCOs for any reason until September 30, 2019.
Members with questions regarding this open choice period can contact the MCOs at:
Amerigroup Iowa: 1-800-600-4441
For more information about Iowa Total Care and the open choice period, please visit www.IAHealthLink.gov.
Iowa Utilities Board Schedules Public Meetings for Alliant Energy’s Proposed Rate Increases
Alliant Energy recently filed applications with the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) requesting a 24.45% retail rate increase for residential electric customers and 25% rate increase for residential gas customers beginning 2020. Alliant has also requested for an interim electric rate increase of $89.9 million among all classes, beginning April 1, 2019. Complete information on the rate increases is available on the IUB’s online filing system under RPU-2019-0001 (electric) and RPU-2019-0002 (gas).
The IUB will hold ten public comment meetings in April and May to provide Alliant customers an opportunity to express their views about Alliant’s proposed rate increases and the utility’s overall quality of service. IUB is working to arrange for remote participation via online webinar at the venues.
The following public comment meetings are scheduled:
• Marshalltown: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at Iowa Valley Education Center, 3702 S. Center St.
• Storm Lake: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at Buena Vista University, Science Center, 610 W. Fourth St.
• Mason City: 11:30 a.m. Thursday May 2, at the Historic Park Inn, 7 W. State St.
• Decorah: 6 p.m. Thursday, May 2, at the Hotel Winneshiek, 104 E. Water St.
• Ottumwa: 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, at the Bridge View Center, 102 Church St.
• West Burlington: 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 22, at Southeastern Community College, Building 300, 1500 W. Agency Road.
• Clinton: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, at Clinton Community College, Tech Center, 1951 Manufacturing Drive.
• Dubuque: 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Hotel Julien, 200 Main St.
• Cedar Rapids: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at Kirkwood Community College, Main Campus, Iowa Hall, 6301 Kirkwood Boulevard S.W.
Last session, the Governor and Republican lawmakers passed legislation authored by Alliant Energy that granted utilities wide discretion over increasing utility rates. SF 2311 deregulated numerous utility statutes, decreased funding for weatherization assistance, and elevated utility demands over the affordability for Iowa consumers.
This session, Republican lawmakers are considering another utility authored bill in the House Commerce committee that deregulates utilities’ requirement to provide affordable solar energy rates to Iowa consumers.
Schools Could Be Required to Test for Radon
A bill has passed the House Education Committee that would require public schools to test for radon at least once by July 1, 2024, and once every five years after that by a person certified in radon detection. All new school construction is required to incorporate radon resistance construction techniques.
If the radon levels are above four picocuries per liter, a second test will be performed within 60 days. Mitigation may include further diagnostic testing, corrective measures and active mitigation. Mitigation will be performed within two years of the first test. Each school district is required to publish testing results on the district’s internet site in a timely manner.
The bill also clarifies that radon testing and mitigation is an authorized use under Secure an Advance Vision for Education (SAVE) fund or the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL).
• Iowa has the highest uranium concentration in the country.
• Testing is the only way to detect radon.
• The Surgeon General has reported that, "Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country.”
Sports Betting and Fantasy Sports Pass Committee
Iowans may soon be allowed to bet on their favorite sports teams after a bill was approved earlier this week to legalize sports betting and fantasy sports in Iowa. The bill would allow Iowans to bet on any professional, collegiate, or international team, or individual sporting event governed by the Olympic Committee, so long as the contestant is not under the age of 18. Eligible bettors must be age 21 or older and can place a bet at a “sports wagering area” in a casino or on a mobile device. To bet on a mobile device, an eligible bettor can establish an account at a casino and set up an “advance deposit” system.
Since it’s just the first step in the process, the proposal will have to go through several committees and will likely undergo changes before it becomes law. Many of the professional sports leagues would like some type of oversight of the betting, by requiring that official stats from their leagues be used for betting purposes.
Gaming issues rarely break down on party lines and will likely have both Republicans and Democrats voting for and against the proposals. Since the Supreme Court has made their ruling, eight states have currently legalized sports betting in their state.
Secretary Naig Stresses Need for Water Quality; Disease Protections
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig appeared before the joint Agricultural and Natural Resources budget subcommittee recently. Secretary Naig stressed the efforts of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) in improving water quality in the state. He also stated there is a need in the state for additional protections from foreign animal diseases, such as the avian influenza or the swine flu.
Secretary Naig highlighted the new water quality funding, including $15 million annually starting in FY 2021. The additional funding will help support soil conservation efforts, including nutrient management. The new funding will focus on priority watersheds. The Nutrient Reduction Strategy called for identifying priority watersheds that were later designed by the state Water Resources Coordinating Council. Priority will be given to edge of field practices, and IDALS will hire a new edge of field coordinator to provide technical assistance to local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The Nutrient Reduction Strategy was finalized in 2013 as a framework to assess nutrient loss in the state and called for up to $4 billion in funding for investment costs to address so called “nonpoint” sources of nutrient pollution in the state.
Preparation for foreign animal disease threats was also a focus of the Secretary. In 2015, the Avian Influenza outbreak cost the state $1.2 billion in economic impact to the state’s economy. IDALS requested additional funding in their departmental request to fund a transition to an electronic record keeping system to improve response times to any future outbreaks. In addition, the Department plans to update Foreign Animal Disease response plans to new threats and provide additional training to staff to be better prepared for future threats.