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    March 13, 2020

    A Bill to Help Decrease the Cost of Insulin Passes House
    New Legislation Addresses Making Child Care More Affordable
    House Increases Protections for Police and Firefighters
    Deaf and Hard of Hearing Student Assistance Passes House
    Prohibition on Use of “LGBTQ+ Panic Defense” Passes
    Telehealth Continues to Make Healthcare More Accessible
    Employment Leave for Adoptive Parents
    Bills Address Health Care Professionals in Rural Iowa
    Adult Changing Stations to be Installed at Iowa Rest Stops
    Trump Administration Reverses Course Again on RFS Waiver
    Helping Members of the Armed Forces Hunt and Fish in Iowa
    Lake Water Quality Improvement Meetings Scheduled


    A Bill to Help Decrease the Cost of Insulin Passes House

    A bill designed to cap prescription insulin costs at $100 passed the House this week. Currently, insulin prices for those who are insured vary, but some brands have reached up to $300 or more for one vial (or enough for one month). The cost of insulin has continually increased over the last decade. The list prices of common insulin types have almost tripled from 10 years ago. For one patient that spoke at the subcommittee meeting, they paid $20 out-of-pocket in 1997 per vial, and now they have to pay $294 for the exact same medication.

    Though this bill is a great start, more work needs to be done to make sure people can afford this life-sustaining medication. House Democrats offered an amendment to cap the cost at $50, which other states have recently passed. However, the Majority Party refused to even allow the amendment to be considered for a floor vote.

    Not taking insulin or insulin-rationing is a life-or-death situation. House Democrats will continue to work trying to lower the cost and make this medication available to everyone.

    House File 2138 now goes to the Senate for consideration.


    New Legislation Addresses Making Child Care More Affordable

    In Iowa we are facing a child care crisis in both urban and rural areas. While it directly impacts families with small kids, it also hurts Iowa’s economy and is a huge barrier in recruiting and building a skilled workforce.

    This week, several bills trying to address this issue were voted on in the House. Even though the bills did not go far enough, or directly help families that need assistance, a few small steps were made in the right direction.

    One bill, House File 2270, raised rates for providers who accept child care assistance. Another bill, House File 2424, created a state-funded program to allow families to gradually get off this assistance while avoiding the “cliff effect.” For a family that is near the income limit, even a slight raise would disqualify them for the benefit and be subject to the full child care costs, which is called the “cliff effect.”

    During this debate, Democratic lawmakers offered a comprehensive amendment that would have helped Iowa families that need assistance, as well as helping small businesses. This amendment would have adjusted the eligibility requirements and would have opened up the program to an additional 7,300 kids. In comparison, the small steps taken by the majority party only affected 130 kids. However, the amendment was voted down by the Majority Party.

    House File 2270 and House File 2424 now go the Senate for consideration.


    House Increases Protections for Police and Firefighters

    Step were taken this week to increase health care protections for firefighters and police officers who are members of the Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System (411). The system covers police and firefighters from the 49 largest cities in Iowa. There are currently 8,608 members and 4,086 of them currently considered “active.”

    The legislation, passed by the Iowa House, will provide more coverage for police and fire fighters who have injuries that occur over the length of their career and may not be the result of a singular incident. The changes will also impact how long the benefits are for.

    In 1992, 87 local fire and police retirement systems were consolidated into one statewide system. Cities that have a population over 8,000 as of the 1990 census and have fire and police officers appointed under the civil service law participate in the 411 system.

    Unlike a lot of retirement systems, many members of the system do not receive social security benefits and the system serves as a disability system as well.


    Deaf and Hard of Hearing Student Assistance Passes House

    A bill that creates language development milestones in both English and American Sign Language for deaf and hard of hearing children ages 1 through 8 has moved forward.

    Once the language development milestones are established, it will provide a tool to assess the progress that deaf and hearing-impaired children are making. These tools will help parents and educators identify the areas of development that are falling short so they can be addressed.

    Too many deaf and hard-of-hearing children come to school lacking language, or having very limited language at a critical time to learn. The bill tries to address deaf and hard of hearing children and their readiness to learn when they enter school. It will help them be ready to meet grade level benchmarks.

    The long-term impact of high-quality services that support equitable early language acquisition in deaf and hard-of-hearing children should reduce the incidence of language deprivation and less need for intensive remedial education services provided by the school.

    House File 2539 passed the House, and now moves to the Senate for consideration.


    Prohibition on Use of “LGBTQ+ Panic Defense” Passes

    A bill that would prohibit the use of a so called “LGBTQ+ Panic” defense passed the House last week. The bill creates a restriction on a justification defense for a person that commits a violent crime solely because of a nonviolent sexual advance. Violent crimes are any forcible felonies, such as felonious assault, sexual abuse, kidnapping, or murder.

    The LGBTQ+ panic defense is a legal strategy where a defendant blames the victim’s sexual orientation for a violent reaction. The defense attempts to use a victim’s sexual orientation, and nonviolent sexual advance, as an excuse for a violent crime against the victim. The defendant often claims that the sexual advance by someone that is LGBTQ+ trigged the violent outburst, that the advance was provocative enough to induce a violent response, or as part of a self-defense claim.

    According to the National LGBTQ Bar Association and Foundation, while the adult LGBTQ+ community make up 4.5 percent of population, hate crime statistics show that these crimes against the community make up 17.6 percent of the single bias hate crime incidents. The most recent years that data are available shows these percentages actually increased from 2016 to 2017. Research further shows that 1 out of every 5 lesbian, gay, or bisexual people in the U.S. will experience a hate crime during their lifetime, and 1 in 4 transgender people will.


    Telehealth Continues to Make Healthcare More Accessible

    In Iowa, especially rural Iowa, there is often a problem accessing health care services. A bill was passed this week that will help with access across the state by better utilizing telehealth. Telehealth is the use of telecommunication services for doctor appointments. A person can receive mental health counseling, dentistry, primary care, and physical therapy among other services through a computer monitor without having to be in the actual facility.

    House File 2192 states that telehealth services are to be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person appointments. Because reimbursement rates will be the same, telehealth will hopefully become more prevalent across the state and provide more access to health services to more Iowans.

    The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.


    Employment Leave for Adoptive Parents

    Adoptive parents will now receive the same time-off benefits as biological parents from their employer after the Iowa House passed legislation this week. Currently the Family Medical Leave Act, FMLA, allows up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for the parent of an adopted child.

    The change from the Iowa House does not change the law regarding paid or paid time off but just requires employers to give the same time off that is currently offered to biological parents to parents who are adopting a child. According to the National Council of State Legislature (NCSL), 10 states currently offer adoptive parents more time off to bond with their child than the FMLA requires.


    Bills Address Health Care Professionals in Rural Iowa

    In an attempt to recruit health care professionals to rural areas, the Iowa House approved a bill to make changes to the Rural Iowa Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. The program targets refinancing of student loans for doctors if they agree to practice in rural areas.

    After refinancing an eligible federal loan with a private company, Senate File 2118 allows a recipient to still be eligible for the program. The bill also allows a loan under the program less than $200,000, to be divided into five loan repayment amounts.

    Also, the House Education Committee is considering Senate File 2251 that would make changes to the program by adding obstetrics and gynecology as fields eligible for the program. This would help advance the availability of women’s health care in rural Iowa. The bill would also allow someone to work part-time and be eligible for the program to assist young professionals who may be raising a family.


    Adult Changing Stations to be Installed at Iowa Rest Stops

    Caregivers and dependent adults often face challenges when traveling. Finding accessible, clean, and private restrooms is a particularly difficult issue, with many people being forced to be changed on a bathroom floor, back of a car, or even a parking lot.

    Fortunately, actions taken by the Iowa House will make these travels a bit easier after the passage of House File 2097, a bill that will start the process of installing adult changing tables at some Iowa rest areas. Under the legislation, the adult changing tables will be installed in newer rest areas across the state and in newly constructed rest rooms going forward.

    The bill now moves onto the Senate for further consideration.


    Trump Administration Reverses Course Again on RFS Waiver

    A federal court ruled the Trump Administration abused its discretion in granting small waiver exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard, and the Trump Administration appears to be set to appeal the ruling. If the Administration goes through with the appeal, it will once again be going back on its word to Iowa farmers and ethanol producers while siding with big oil.

    The case came as a result of waivers in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Under the RFS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can grant waivers to refineries that show compliance with the law is an economic hardship. These waivers then exempt the refineries from biofuel-blending requirements. Because of the exceptions, four Iowa biofuels plants have closed and decreased demand of 1.4 billion bushels of corn.

    The number of waivers granted under the Trump administration has more than tripled those awarded during the Obama Administration. If the court’s ruling is allowed to stand, it would significantly reduce the number of small refinery waivers the EPA can grant.


    Helping Members of the Armed Forces Hunt and Fish in Iowa

    Members of the Armed Forces and their spouses who are stationed at Rock Island Arsenal will now be able to hunt, fish, and trap in Iowa. Rock Island Arsenal is located on a 946-acre island on the Mississippi River. It is between Davenport, Iowa and Moline, Illinois and has manufactured military equipment since the 1880s.

    Technically, those living at the arsenal are considered residents of Illinois and are currently unable to get Iowa resident tags and licenses for hunting and fishing. This bill recognizes these members and their spouses as residents of Iowa solely for the purpose of getting resident hunting and fishing licenses. This is another way that House Democrats show respect and gratitude for the men and women serving in the Armed Forces.


    Lake Water Quality Improvement Meetings Scheduled

    Public meetings have been scheduled around the state to discuss water quality in lakes by the Department of Natural Resources. The meetings will review results of a DNR study to improve bacteria levels in lakes around the state. The study includes bacteria levels in the included lakes, the reasons for bacteria entering these systems, and potential solutions. The solutions are focused on beaches and swimming areas.

    The DNR states that many lakes around the state are on the impaired waters list for high levels of bacteria. This study currently focuses on three lakes, Nine Eagles Lake, Hickory Grove Lake, and Clear Lake. Additional lakes will be added to the study as more data is collected and analyzed.

    The meetings will be held from 6 pm to 7:30 pm on the following dates and locations:

    • Mar. 18, Lamoni Community Center, 108 South Chestnut St., Lamoni • Mar. 24, Nevada Community Senior Center, 1231 6th St., Nevada • Apr. 1, Lake View Room, 10 North Lake View Dr., Clear Lake Additionally, comments can be submitted by April 20th to: E-mail: jeff.berckes@dnr.iowa.gov Mail: Jeff Berckes, care of Iowa DNR, Wallace State Office Building, 502 E. Ninth St. Des Moines, Iowa 50319

    Additional information on the plan and public meetings can be found at http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/WaterQuality/WatershedImprovement/WatershedResearchData/WaterImprovementPlans/PublicMeetingsPlans.aspx.