September 13, 2017

    Iowa National Guard Deployed to Texas and Florida
    16,000 Iowans Lose Wages in Overtime Pay Changes
    Iowa ACT Scores #1 in the Nation
    Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board Meets
    Crackdown on Texting and Driving and School Bus Safety Violations
    Corrections Needs More Money for Pharmaceuticals
    Report Shows Increasing Amount of Students in STEM Education

    Iowa National Guard Deployed to Texas and Florida

    Members of the Iowa National Guard have been deployed to Texas and Florida to support response operations for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, Category 4 hurricanes that severely damaged both states. In total, 11 soldiers and two helicopters have been deployed to Texas, and 19 soldiers and four helicopters are on their way to Florida. Both deployments will assist in moving supplies, equipment and people who were impacted by the hurricanes.

    Under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), all 50 states, two territories and the District of Columbia can request support from the other states in times of crisis. EMAC allows for mutual aid and assistance from other states during federally-declared or Governor-declared emergencies.

    For more information regarding the Iowa National Guard and this deployment, please visit http://www.iowanationalguard.com.

    16,000 Iowans Lose Wages in Overtime Pay Changes

    An estimated 16,000 Iowans will lose wages this year after Republican lawmakers and Governor Reynolds made significant changes to overtime pay last session.

    Nurses, social workers, and public defenders are among the 3,000 Iowans who will no longer be paid overtime while an additional 13,000 state employees will see their overtime pay reduced this year.

    Nurses at state institutions have been particularly hard hit by the overtime changes. Nurses are often scheduled for mandatory overtime to ensure that necessary staffing levels are met and patients receive the best care possible. If nurses leave their shifts prior to their replacement, they lose their licenses.

    More than 21 percent of the positions no longer receiving overtime are at the Department of Human Services (DHS), raising questions about how the agency will keep Iowa’s vulnerable populations like seniors and children safe. Overall, DHS has lost 700 positions over the last several years.

    Critics of the overtime changes say it’s unfair for Iowans to work overtime without compensation and will also make it harder to recruit and retain qualified individuals to work in critical positions with lower wages. In light of recent starvation deaths of two foster children, others expressed concerns about huge caseload sizes for social workers who will now be forced to work overtime without pay.

    In comments to the press this week, Governor Kim Reynolds minimized the overtime pay changes and said it would have a “relatively small impact.”

    Iowa ACT Scores #1 in the Nation

    Once again, Iowa's ACT scores lead the nation. This year’s 2017 class had a composite score of 21.9, which is the highest average ACT score in states with at least 60% participation. The national average was 21. Iowa had the highest scores in three of the four benchmark categories for college readiness, and with 71% of students meeting college readiness in English, was the only state to score in the 70s for English readiness.

    Nationally, there was an increase to 39% of students ready for college course work in three out of four subject areas. Less than 25% of “underserved” students (low-income, minority and first generation college students) met that bar, compared to more than 50% of students who were not from an underserved population.

    Iowa's average composite score decreased from a year ago from the nation leading 22.1. There were 24 students from Iowa’s graduating class that scored a perfect 36 compared 10 students in 2016. There are 17 states including Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota that require all 11th graders to take the ACT test, and they provide funding to public students to take the test. Illinois dropped the requirement and saw there composite score rise sharply.

    According to ACT, Iowa had just a slight decline in scores for Hispanic, Asian and African Americans which can be attributed to an ever increasing number of minorities taking the test. Within those groups, just over 3,100 students took the test, an increase of nearly 400 people.

    Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board Meets

    After changes to Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol law were made last session, the members of the Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board held their first meeting last week.

    Under Iowa’s new law, the Board is responsible for assisting the Department of Public Health (DPH) with the selection of manufacturers and dispensaries of cannabidiol as well as deciding whether more medical conditions should be approved for the use of cannabidiol in Iowa.

    During the first meeting, the Attorney General’s Office also advised the Board and DPH to hold off on implementing a portion of the new law that requires the agency to select and license up to two out-of-state dispensaries from a bordering state. The bringing of cannabidiol across a state’s border to be sold in Iowa could cause Iowa’s law to be under increased scrutiny from the federal government, according the Attorney General. President Trump’s new administration hasn’t issued a statement to state’s regarding the implementation of their medical marijuana programs.

    Created in House File 524 last session, the Medical Cannabidiol Advisory Board consists of nine members: eight medical practitioners and one law enforcement representative. The practitioner representing gastroenterology still hasn’t been appointed, and the Governor’s Office is seeking applications to fill that position.

    The Board’s next meeting is expected to be held on Sept. 22, and information about Iowa’s medical cannabidiol law and the Board can be found at http://idph.iowa.gov/mcarcp. This website also has information on how to obtain a cannabidiol registration card.

    Crackdown on Texting and Driving and School Bus Safety Violations

    Iowa legislators have taken steps to end distracted driving in Iowa and the Iowa State Patrol has ramped up efforts as well. In 2016, the state patrol issued a total of 174 tickets for texting and driving, but has already issued 230 tickets since a tougher law was implemented on July 1.

    To enforce the new ban on texting while driving, the Iowa State patrol has implemented efforts like using unmarked vehicles, including recreational vehicles and pickup trucks. State patrol officers have also dressed up as construction workers on the side of the road to catch motorist’s texting and driving.

    Driving Safely Around School Buses

    With the new school year starting, motorists have begun seeing more school buses on the road, and it is important that fellow travelers use extra caution while driving around them. Riding in a school bus is one of the safest ways a student can get to school, but there are risks when getting on or off a bus for students.

    Iowa has recently increased the penalties for those passing a stopped school bus and can result in the suspension of a person’s driving privileges if they are convicted. There were 581 convictions in 2016 for failure to stop for a school bus.

    If a driver sees the flashing lights on a yellow school bus, Iowa law requires a driver to:

      • Come to a complete stop as quickly as possible
      • Stop at least 15 feet from the bus
      • Stay stopped until the flashing lights are no longer flashing and the stop arm is no longer displayed

    Corrections Needs More Money for Pharmaceuticals

    At their September meeting, the Board of Corrections adopted a budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 which asks for an increase of $1 million for pharmaceuticals and noted that they cannot afford to lose any more correctional officers. The Board members will be writing a letter to the Governor expressing the dire need for salary adjustment money for fiscal year 2019.

    Fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) runs from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, and the Department of Corrections (DOC) report that they haven’t been getting an increase in funding to correspond with the medical needs of prisoners. With more prisoners over the age of 50 and an aging population, the need for medications has increased. The medical director of the DOC mentioned that while there’s not high costs associated with the treatment of opioids, the high costs come with the treatment of the developed blood borne diseases of Hepatitis C and HIV that opioid addicts are likely to get.

    The DOC also reported that they cannot afford to go down in staffing numbers, so they are asking for salary adjustment money in FY 2019. Salary adjustment money covers the adjustments to salaries that were negotiated through contracts that the agency is obligated to pay. Of the department’s total budget, 81% is spent on personnel and 14% on food, medical, and housing.

    Report Shows Increasing Amount of Students in STEM Education

    Iowa continues to lead in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education. Results from the 2015-16 Iowa STEM Evaluation Report show that on the Iowa Assessments, students who participate in the STEM Scale-Up Program score on average of 7% higher in National Percentile Rank in mathematics, 6% higher in science, and 4% higher in reading.

    Other key highlights of the report include the following:

      • In 2014-15, there were an estimated 8,744 vacancies in STEM jobs statewide.
      • From 2012 to 2015, the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses in STEM-related subjects increased from 4,968 to 6,067, as well as the number of students who qualified to receive college credit from these courses.
      • ACT says 55% of students aspire to a STEM bachelor’s degree compared to 49% five years ago.
      • Iowa minority students have increased in percentage of those who have received a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field. Within African Americans, 38% aspired to a bachelor’s degree in 2011 and 47% did so in 2014.
      • Hispanics with a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field has increased from 46% in 2011 to 55% in 2015.
      • The number of females graduating with degrees in STEM fields at Iowa’s 4-year public universities has increased by 16% from the 2012-13 to 2013-14 school years.