April 26, 2019
Federal Government Investigating Iowa Medicaid Privatization
Federal Government Investigating Iowa Medicaid Privatization
Just weeks after 420,000 Iowans on Medicaid learned they would be facing another health care disruption, the federal government announced plans to investigate the out of state private companies managing Medicaid in Iowa.
The U.S. Office of Inspector General said they will be investigating whether these managed care organizations (MCOs) are denying services and cutting care to the members they serve. Those that called for the investigation directly cited Iowa’s managed care disaster as an example of why this in-depth examination was necessary.
To help fix the Medicaid mess, House Democrats have proposed several different solutions to provide affordable, accessible health care to Iowans. However, House Republicans refused to take any of them, and in some cases, wouldn’t even allow the bills to come up for debate.
The investigative report is expected to be released sometime in 2020.
Legislature Takes First Step Towards Hemp Cultivation
Iowa farmers could have a new commodity to grow, process, and sell next year. Passing on a bi-partisan vote, Iowa Hemp Act regulates the licensing and growing of industrial hemp. Hemp is defined as a species of cannabis that does not exceed three-tenths of 1% THC.
The legislation directs the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to prepare a state plan and submit it to the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA). Once approved, IDALS assumes primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp.
Senate File 599 comes as a result of changes contained in the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and allowed the USDA to issue regulations and guidance on the commercial production of industrial hemp. Under the law, states submit a plan to the USDA and must include certain requirements, such as keeping track of land, testing methods, and disposal of plants or products that exceed the allowed THC concentration.
IDALS will have oversight responsibility over industrial hemp and will establish and administer the hemp license applications. As a condition of licensure, consent is given to IDALS and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) or local law enforcement entering the crop site at any time. An individual can hold a number of licenses at one time but cannot cultivate more than 40 acres.
Currently, 41 states have enacted legislation to establish industrial hemp cultivation and production programs. The bill now moves to the Governor for her approval.
Sports Betting and Fantasy Sports Pass the House
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 as well as individual sporting events governed by the Olympic Committee.
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 for the first 18 months.
While, Iowans will be allowed to bet on Iowa colleges and universities, they will not be allowed to make in play bets on individual athletes in an event where an Iowa college or university is a participant.
Gaming issues rarely break down on party lines and the legislation had both Republicans and Democrats voting for and against the proposal. Since the Supreme Court has made their ruling, eight states have currently legalized sports betting in their state.
“Logan’s Law” Passes the Iowa House
This week, a bill to encourage more organ donations, called Logan’s Law, unanimously passed the Iowa House.
Logan’s Law was written in memory of Logan Luft, a 15 year old from Charles City, who was killed in an ATV accident over the 4th of July in 2017. Before Logan passed away, he decided to be an organ donor and because of that decision five people received his organs.
After Logan passed away, his family learned of a bill in Minnesota that added organ donation tags on hunting and fishing licenses, just like the donor tags on a driver’s license. They contacted their State Representative and asked about doing the same thing in Iowa.
Logan’s law, Senate File 86, adds organ donor tags to hunting and fishing licenses and adds organ donation education to the hunter safety course. The law will increase awareness about organ donation and add an opportunity for people to sign up to be organ donors. Due to an amendment, Logan’s Law is headed back to the Senate where it previously passed unanimously.
GOP Lawmakers Strip Powers from Iowa Attorney General
Republican lawmakers voted to strip powers from Iowa’s Attorney General this week.
The partisan power grab, which was added to the Justice Systems Budget, will limit the Attorney General’s authority in legal matters. If signed into law, the Attorney General would be allowed to prosecute a case outside of Iowa only at the request of the Governor, the Executive Council, or the Legislature.
Since 2016, the Attorney General’s office has joined several federal lawsuits that mostly relate to consumer protection, anti-trust violations, and Medicaid fraud. They are designed to keep Iowans safe and hold bad actors accountable.
Several lawmakers offered a plan to keep the Iowa Attorney General independent and free of partisan influence from lawmakers and the Governor, but it was rejected on a party line vote.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is currently serving his tenth term.
Water Quality Education Grants Available
Grants are available for clean water awareness and education programs. Eligible programs will improve public knowledge and promote reduction of nonpoint sources of pollution and improved water quality. Projects that are selected will use innovative methods to reach a diverse audience of stakeholders.
The grant program was developed after the Department of Natural Resources completed a survey with the University of Northern Iowa to understand people’s knowledge of water quality and the potential for behavioral changes. The survey will be completed after the education grant projects are completed to measure the progress of the outreach.
Applications for grants must be received by May 31, 2019. Contracts will be awarded beginning no later than October 15, 2019. Projects must be completed within 18 months.
Additional information and grant applications can be found at iowadnr.gov/watershed.
For any questions or issues, contact Steve Konrady with the Department of Natural Resources, at 515-725-8388 or Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov.
Vietnam Veterans Recognition Ceremony
The annual recognition ceremony celebrating Vietnam veterans will be held Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at the Iowa State Capitol. Dan Gannon, the Chair of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs will officiate the ceremony, and the Keynote Speaker is Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation and former career US Foreign Service Officer.
The ceremony will begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on the State Capitol grounds (south of the capitol). Disabled American Veterans (DAV), will host a free luncheon following the ceremony at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center (Veterans Memorial Auditorium), located at 833 5th Ave., Des Moines, Iowa 50309. All are welcome to attend.
For more details on this ceremony, please call Dan Gannon, Chair - Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs; 515-991-5257, firstname.lastname@example.org or Steve Lukan, Executive Director, of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, 515-727-3444, email@example.com.