March 6, 2020
Supreme Court Considering Overturning the Affordable Care Act
Supreme Court Considering Overturning the Affordable Care Act
The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week they will decide the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) right after the November 2020 election. Last December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Texas vs. United States, a partisan lawsuit to dismantle the ACA. The Court’s decision could be a devastating blow to Iowans, particularly the nearly 1.3 million who could lose access to quality, affordable health insurance.
Because of the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no cost to consumers. More than 140 million Americans are enrolled in plans that provide free preventive services, including 133 million people with employer coverage. Repealing the Affordable Care Act means insurance companies would be able to impose annual and lifetime limits on coverage for those insured through their employer or on the individual market. In 2009, prior to the implementation of the ACA, 59 percent of workers covered by employer-sponsored health plans had a lifetime limit. Additionally, insurance companies could deny coverage or charge Iowans more because of a pre-existing condition.
Last month, Iowa House Democrats introduced legislation, HF 2327, that would provide protections to Iowans with pre-existing conditions if the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA later this year. The bill was not brought up for consideration by the House Majority Party.
This session, the Governor is seeking authorization for a waiver from the ACA to create a separate plan that could potentially deny those with pre-existing conditions insurance coverage or increase their rates to the point of unaffordability. House File 2403 passed the House Commerce Committee 13-10 and has been placed on the House Calendar for full consideration.
Bill Helps High School Students to Take Community College Courses
More high schoolers would be able to take college courses under a new bill under consideration by lawmakers this year.
Currently, Iowa allows high school students to take advanced level college courses at a community college while receiving high school credit for the class. The class is free to the high school student. Later, when going to college, the student would not need to take that college course already completed, which saves on tuition costs.
To qualify, a high school student has to meet proficiency standards in the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) in all areas of math, English and science. They also have to meet enrollment standards set by the local community college including any college assessment to determine knowledge of subject matter.
Now, under a bill that passed the House, the ISASP requirement would no longer be required. They would still have to meet the community college’s local assessment. For example, if a student excels in math, but is not proficient in English, they would be able to take the local community math test to qualify. Before they had to also be proficient in English and science to qualify for the math course.
Cracking Down on Human Trafficking
Human trafficking remains a problem in Iowa and lawmakers are working on a new bill this year to protect victims. Iowa’s geographical location with two converging interstates, I-35 and I-80 leads to an ongoing issue with trafficking.
Senate File 2235 implements a lifetime ban on holding a commercial driver’s license for anyone convicted of a felony involving the use of their vehicle for human trafficking. Human trafficking is the participation in an operation to recruit, harbor, transport, or obtain a person for the purpose of forced labor, involuntary servitude. It often involves forced commercial sexual activity with many trafficking victims being children.
According to a study of U.S. Department of Justice human trafficking task force cases, 83 percent of sex trafficking victims identified in the United States were U.S. citizens. The average age that U.S. citizens are first used for commercial sex is 12–14.
The legislation passed the House and Senate unanimously and now goes to the Governor for approval.
Legislation to Prevent Lawsuits to Silence First Amendment Passes
Lawmakers are working on a bill this session to provide protections of public participation by allowing lawsuits targeting this speech to be dismissed easier. House File 2339 would apply to any lawsuit arising out of a person’s free speech rights under the U.S. or Iowa Constitutions.
Similar Anti-SLAPP legislation, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, has been adopted by 29 other states in the country as of June 2019. House File 2339 is modeled off of the California legislation and at least 7 other states have legislation modeled off of the California statute.
Protection activities include any state or writing before a governmental body or official proceeding or any statement about an issue before a government body or official proceeding, any statement made in a public place in connection with an issue of public interest, or any conduct in furtherance of the right to petition or free speech regarding a public issue.
The bill allows someone being sued for exercising their First Amendment rights to bring a special motion to strike. If the court grants the special motion to strike the plaintiff can avoid a full, costly trial. If a person is successful on the special motion to strike that party may also recover costs and reasonable attorney fees. If a court finds a special motion to strike is frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delay, the court must award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the other party.
The bill passed the Iowa House on a unanimous vote and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill will have to be voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by March 20th to remain eligible to become law this year.
Iowa Seniors Have New Hunting & Fishing Options
Last week, the Iowa House passed two bills dealing with hunting and fishing licenses for Iowa’s seniors.
One bill establishes a lifetime trout stamp for Iowans over the age of 65. Currently, Iowans can get a lifetime fishing license at age 65, but must purchase a yearly trout stamp if fishing for trout. House File 2369 allows seniors to purchase a lifetime trout stamp as well. The cost of the lifetime trout stamp is yet to be set by the Department of Natural Resources.
Currently Iowans 70 and older can receive a special senior statewide antlerless deer crossbow tag. House File 2410, which passed last week, lowers the age to 65. Seniors who want this tag are only required to pay for a resident hunting license and not a wildlife habitat fee.
Both bills have yet to be considered by the full Iowa Senate, and are currently in the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
House Takes New Steps to Protect Pets
Action was taken to allow veterinarians to be involved in investigations on animal cruelty, animal fighting, and bestiality in the Iowa House this week.
The legislation made updates to the Iowa Veterinary Practice Act, including changes to allow a licensed veterinarian to be immune from administrative, civil, or criminal liability when working with a peace officer who is investigating animal mistreatment, bestiality, or an animal event.
The new changes do not apply to livestock in regards to animal mistreatment. The new changes also do not apply to game, fur bearing animals, fish, reptiles, or amphibians, unless they are owned and controlled by a person.
Changes for Iowa Seniors Renewing Driver’s Licenses
Older Iowans will have to take fewer trips to the DMV under a bill passed by the Iowa House. Under current law, if you were issued your driver’s license between 18 and 72 your license expires 8 years from your birthday of the issuance year. When renewing the license after 72, the license is effective for two years.
House File 2360 raises the upper limit of the eight year driver’s license from 72 to 78, and makes the license renewable every six for those individuals. Iowans over 70 are unable to renew their license online; to find the nearest Department of Transportation license issuance center visit: https://iowadot.gov/mvd/iowa-dot-locations.
Iowa Breweries Approved to Expand to Canned Cocktails
One of the most popular new changes from last session was the ability for Iowans to purchase “canned cocktails” at their local grocery store. The canned cocktails have been a hit at tailgates and backyard cook outs across the state of Iowa.
The Iowa House, this week, took a step that will allow Iowa Breweries to also start producing their own canned cocktails. The new change will allow for breweries in Iowa to purchase liquor from the Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) to produce their own canned cocktails and provide Iowa consumers more options.