October 9, 2019
Parts of Voter ID Law Struck Down by Iowa Courts
Parts of Voter ID Law Struck Down by Iowa Courts
Parts of legislation that put substantial hurdles in front of voters trying to cast their vote have been deemed unconstitutional. A District Court judge ruled earlier this week that due to lack of training and potential for error, election officials are not allowed to throw ballots out due to a perceived difference in signature.
The judge also ruled that because there is now an identification requirement for those who wish to vote in person, everyone must be eligible for a voter identification card. Initially voter ID cards were only sent out to those who were not in the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) database. The court also ruled that additional requirements on an absentee ballot request are no longer required to be put on by the voter.
While those looking to make it harder for people to vote and voting rights advocates can both point to victories in the ruling, the ruling confirms what House Democrats sought from the beginning which was to guarantee that everyone could get a voter identification card if requiring a voter’s ID became law.
At the moment, it is unclear if the state who defended the law or the League of United Latin American Citizens and an Iowa State student who brought the suit will appeal the decision of the court.
2020 ACA Health Insurance Open Enrollment Begins Next Month
Open enrollment begins November 1, 2019 and ends December 15, 2019 for Iowans purchasing or chancing their Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual health insurance coverage for 2020.
Iowans can preview sample premium amounts for individual ACA-compliant health insurance plans at https://data.iowa.gov/d/xd92-u8rq. These sample premiums are NOT a substitute for www.healthcare.gov information, but will become official once they are posted to the official website. The sample premiums are based on geographical rating areas and do not account for the premium assistance tax credits available for many households.
Iowans who wish to purchase ACA-compliant coverage need to complete enrollment between November 1 and December 15, 2019 to have coverage effective by January 1, 2020. During open enrollment, Iowans may call 1-800-318-2596 or visit www.healthcare.gov for information regarding enrollment and to calculate applicable tax credits.
Local insurance agents, assisters, and Iowa’s navigator are available to help Iowans review which insurance plan may best fit their needs. Iowans can find local help by visiting https://localhelp.HealthCare.gov/.
Medica, Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, and Wellmark Value Health Plan will be offering ACA-compliant individual health insurance plans to Iowans for plan year 2020. Iowans in every county will have a choice of at least two carriers. Iowans who currently have coverage through the exchange and do not choose a plan for 2020 by the end of open enrollment will be re-enrolled into the same or similar plan.
Those considering changing insurance carriers should double-check to ensure preferred healthcare provider(s) are in-network and prescription drugs will continue to be covered.
FAFSA, Student Financial Aid Applications Can Now Be Filed
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) launched on October 1, with new or returning students who plan to attend college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, should complete as soon as possible. Information used on this FAFSA application would come from the 2018 tax return (the previous tax year).
To assist students and parents in the process, the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has been sharing tips @FAFSA. Also, new Homeroom blog released articles including ““7 Things You Need Before You Fill Out the 2020-21 FAFSA Form” and “11 Common FAFSA Mistakes.”
The Iowa College Aid Commission reports that in the 2019-20 cycle, Iowa slipped to 28th in the country on FAFSA completion rate. Compared to the 2018-19 cycle, it was a drop of 5%. Nationally, FASFA completion has fallen as well.
To combat this, Iowa College Student Aid, in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa Area Education Agencies, started a new FAFSA Completion Initiative that allowed high school counselors to receive weekly updates on which students have completed the FAFSA. This allows for identification of students who may need additional assistance.
Trump Trade War Continues to Impact Farmers, Ag Industry
The President’s trade war is now entering its 22nd month, and the uncertainty over biofuel waivers continues to negatively impact Iowa. With a third ethanol plant closing in the last month and John Deere announcing layoffs over tariffs, the farm economy continues to slow.
After facing anger from Iowans and biofuels groups, the administration announced a deal for ethanol last week, but not many details were provided and no official action has been taken.
The announcement came after the Trump administration tripled the number of waivers granted to big oil companies that allow them to ignore renewable fuels blending requirements. The waivers granted have resulted in a loss of a billion gallons of ethanol, and decreased demand of 1.4 billion bushels of corn. These losses are compounded by the damage done by the administrations ongoing trade war.
Under the law, the EPA is directed to reallocate the gallons from the exempted refineries, but has not done so since the beginning of the Trump administration.
Earlier this summer, an ethanol plant in western Iowa was forced to shut down. Last month, the Siouxland Energy ethanol plant and W2 Fuel biodiesel plan both shut down production, which puts more jobs at risk and lowers demand for crops.
Also announced this month, John Deere said they would now be laying off 150 workers in the Quad Cities starting in October. This comes after scaling back production by 20% earlier this year due to low demand.
Last year, U.S. agricultural exports to China dropped by 50% and now China is threatening to ban all agricultural imports from the United States.
Thus far, the administration has pledged $28 billion in bailout funds for producers affected by the president’s actions. The $28 billion now more than doubles the auto bailout that occurred during the great recession.
Weight Limit Exceptions for Harvest Season
To support the transport of this year’s crops, the Governor has signed a proclamation allowing a temporary 60-day weight limit exemption for trucks operating on Iowa roads. The proclamation was effective October 1. The 2019 Harvest Weight Proclamation specifically increases the weight allowable for shipment of corn, soybeans, hay, straw, and stover, by 12.5% per axle (up to a maximum of 90,000 pounds) without the need for an oversize/overweight permit.
The Iowa Department of Transportation is directed to monitor the operation of this proclamation to ensure the public’s safety and facilitate the movement of the trucks involved Iowa’s harvest season.
Governor Blocks Attorney General’s Work
Governor Reynolds has denied ten requests from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to join multi-state legal actions related to federal or state policies on gun safety, immigration, regulation, and reproductive or LGBTQ rights. This past July, the Governor also denied the Attorney General permission to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging proposed rollback of air quality standards on coal-fired power plants.
The Attorney General has been granted permission from the Governor to join a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, which will grant Iowans a share of certain settlements in cases relating to the opioid epidemic.
Last May, the Attorney General made a “good-faith agreement” with the Governor to not prosecute any action or sign any briefs outside of Iowa without the Governor’s consent in exchange for the Governor’s partial veto of a bill that would have permanently constrained the Attorney General Office’s authority. As a result, the Governor line-item vetoed this portion of the Justice System Budget (SF 615) and signed the bill, effective date July 1, 2019.
Currently, no other state attorney general operates under similar constraints.
Time to Get Your Flu Shot
Despite the influenza season not officially starting until late fall, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) is recommending Iowans to obtain the vaccination. Already, cases of the flu have been reported across Iowa to IDPH.
The vaccination can take up to two weeks to become effective. IDPH recommends that every Iowan over six months of age should receive the flu vaccine. It is especially important for some people to be vaccinated against influenza because they are at higher risk of developing serious complications, like pneumonia, if they get sick with the flu. These groups include:
• Children, especially those younger than 2 years of age.
• Older adults, especially those aged 65 years and over.
• People who have certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
Importance of School Breakfast to Students
Student participation in breakfast programs leads to improved student health, reduced food insecurity, better test scores, and fewer distractions. If all states met the goal of reaching 70 low-income children with school breakfast for every 100 participating in school lunch, an additional 2.8 million low-income children would start the day with a healthy breakfast at school.
Unfortunately, Iowa is well below that goal. According to the latest school breakfast score card, Iowa was the third lowest-performing state in school year 2017–2018, serving breakfast to 43.7 students for every 100 who received free and reduced lunch.
Schools Offer Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
With Iowa’s abundant agriculture resources, it makes sense that Iowa schools should be able to take part in having lunches with fresh, locally grown, fruits and vegetables. Schools benefit with fresh food, and farmers benefit by selling more produce. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), has several programs to assist in this endeavor.
• The USDA Farm to School Census (2015) reports that 29% of Iowa School Districts participate in Farm to School Activities (i.e. serving local foods in meals, school gardens, farm field trips, etc.).
• A listing of the 2018 USDA Farm to School Awardees and includes seven Iowa school districts that implemented Farm to School activities (Vinton-Shellsburg, Waukee, and West Fork). An organization near Amana also has a project with four local school districts. On page eight starts a list of their activities.
There were 150 schools that participated in Iowa Local Food Day in 2018 that served 170,000 meals from local Iowa producers. This year’s Iowa Local Food Day is October 11th. Sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture, schools must serve at least two items (breakfast or lunch) with primarily locally-sourced ingredients. Colleges, universities, and childcare sites are also encouraged to participate. Learn more at: https://www.iowalocalfoodday.org/.