January 24, 2020
Providing Iowans with Accessible and Affordable Health Care
Providing Iowans with Accessible and Affordable Health Care
Iowa’s health care system continues to be in crisis as the number of Iowans without health insurance increases, Medicaid privatization problems continue, and the cost of insurance premiums and prescription drugs continue to rise.
Over 100 health care facilities and providers have been closed over the last decade, many in rural areas. While the state has recently reformed our mental health system, too many Iowans who need mental health services still can’t get them.
After listening to Iowans last summer and fall, House Democrats will be working this session to ensure access to quality, affordable health care for Iowans, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Other bills they will be working on this year include expanding mental health services for kids and adults; lowering the cost of prescription drugs; and encouraging more Iowans to become first responders in rural communities so families can get help in an emergency.
Veterans Day at the Statehouse
Veterans and their families traveled to Des Moines for Veterans Day on the Hill on Wednesday. Throughout the day, veterans met with legislators to discuss the priorities of the Veterans Commission.
For the 2020 Legislative session, the Veterans Commission will work to protect programs and agencies such as the Iowa Veterans Home, the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund, and the Military Home Ownership Program.
The Veterans Commission is a group of representatives from various veterans’ organizations across Iowa who work collectively to develop and advance policy ideas to assist veterans and their families.
Free Opioid Overdose Reversal Drug Program
A new program, “Tele-Naloxone,” to provide free naloxone by mail to all Iowans who need the opioid overdose reversal drug was launched by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and University of Iowa Health Care (UIHC).
The project is being funded by the federal State Opioid Response grant for the purpose of removing cost and access barriers to Iowans. Individuals wanting to obtain naloxone will participate in a brief consultation with a UIHC pharmacist using a mobile phone platform and will receive a free kit(s) via mail anywhere within the state.
Iowans may visit http://www.naloxoneiowa.org for more information about the drug, including:
• An instructional video on naloxone use;
For more information about the program itself, Iowans may visit www.NaloxoneIowa.org/telenaloxone.
Condition of the Iowa National Guard
As part of the annual Condition of the Guard, the Adjutant General, Major General Corell spoke of the continued work of the Iowa National Guard. This is MG Corell’s first year as the Adjutant General after Major General Orr retired last year.
Currently, there are approximately 100 members of the Iowa National Guard deployed around the world. However, by this time next year, the Major General believes the Iowa National Guard will have more than 2,000 soldiers, nearly 30 percent of its force structure, deployed overseas serving in such locations as Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This is largest number of Iowa personnel deployed since 2011. These mobilizations are expected to begin in May, and be completed by early next year.
Throughout his speech, MG Corell outlined four goals to guide the Iowa National Guard for the next year. These goals include fielding a competent and ready force, maintaining the right force structure, developing and maintaining sustainable infrastructure across the state, and taking care of service members, their families and employees. These goals include the possibility of closing some facilities across the state while adding more resources to others.
MG Corell concluded his condition with reiterating that the Iowa National Guard is strong and ready to rise to any challenge the nation or state faces in the future.
Governor’s Proposed Ag and Natural Resources Budget Discussed
The joint Agricultural and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee heard details on the Governor’s proposed budget from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.
The Governor’s budget proposes decreasing the general fund appropriations to the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) by $2.718 million next year and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) $2.729 million for Fiscal Year 2020. In addition, the Governor is proposing another $8.55 million in cuts to IDALS and $11.13 million to DNR from the Environment First Fund for FY 2020. The Environment First Fund provides additional funding for the protection, conservation, enhancement, and improvement of natural resources in the state using state infrastructure funding.
The Governor is also recommending a one-cent increase in the sales and use tax in the state. This increase would trigger the Natural Resource Trust Fund Act, implemented in 2010, and require the first 3/8 of a cent of that increase to be dedicated to natural resources. The Governor is proposing backfilling her cuts to natural resources, the environment, and agriculture from the regular funding sources of these programs with the increased revenue from the sales tax increase.
This includes continuing to fund REAP at just $12 million of the statutorily required $20 million, with $6 million of that total coming from the newly funded Natural Resources Trust Fund. REAP is the Resource Enhancement and Protection program. The program is designed to invest in the protection of the state’s natural and cultural resources. This funding level would continue underfunding the program at the lowest amount since Fiscal Year 2007.
Chickadee Tax Check-Off for Fish & Wildlife Fund
Tax season has started and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding people about the Fish and Wildlife Fund, also known as the chickadee check-off, on Iowa tax forms. The Fish and Wildlife Fund was established in the 1980s by the legislature to protect Iowa’s non-game wildlife. The fund helps different types of birds, turtles, butterflies, bees, and many other species. Funds are used for improving habitat, restoring natural wildlife, and providing education.
Unfortunately, the number of people donating the past two years has dropped. Last year more than 7,000 Iowans donated $140,000 to the fund, but it was an $8,000 decrease from the previous year. Iowans can find the Fish and Wildlife Fund on line 57 of the 1040 tax form and can select how much they want to contribute which is then either deducted from the refund or added to the total owed.
School Public Safety Bureau Proposed
In an effort to ensure schools and local law enforcement are prepared to both respond to and deter threats to the safety of students; the School Safety Bureau is being proposed. This will involve training, reporting, and law enforcement assistance.
The Bureau would include instructors dedicated to providing school safety training throughout the state upon request. In order to encourage reporting, the Bureau will implement a statewide tool that makes sharing safety concerns easy, anonymous, and monitored 24/7. This may eventually include a traditional tip line, a web-based application, and an intuitive app for smartphones. According to public safety officials, 13 other states have “app-based” reporting systems for students.
Almost every school safety threat contains a digital component. Threats are often communicated through social media, gaming platforms, and messaging apps that require specialized training and technology to access. The addition of special agents who are dedicated cyber experts would allow the Bureau to assist local law enforcement in pursuing the digital leads necessary to stop concerning behaviors in schools.
Program Helps Elementary Schools with Computer Science
The “Computer Science is Elementary” project aims to transform high-poverty elementary schools into showcases of outstanding computer science education, including career exploration with employer partners, beginning in the 2020-21 school year.
Building a strong foundation early for all students is critical to help prepare for a dynamic workforce where a growing number of jobs require computer science skills. The 12 schools that have received $50,000 grants through the Iowa STEM Council are:
• Denison Elementary, Denison Community School District