May 29, 2018

    Bi-Partisan Opioid Legislation Becomes Law
    State Treasurer’s College Savings Iowa Scholarship
    Free Dental Care for Veterans on June 9
    Public Forums Held to Discuss Alliant Energy Request for Rate Hike
    Transportation Board Recommends Seat Belts for School Buses
    Boating Safety Tips and Free Fishing Weekend
    Air Quality Permits Open for Public Comment

    Bi-Partisan Opioid Legislation Becomes Law

    In an effort to combat the national opioid crisis hitting Iowa, a bill relating to opioid abuse was signed into law this month.

    With opioid related overdose deaths reaching all time high this year, the bill expands the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which allows authorized prescribers and pharmacists to view information about their patients’ use of controlled substances. This is a tool used in determining appropriate prescribing and treatment of patients without fear of contributing to a patient’s abuse of or dependence on addictive drugs or diversion to illegal drugs.

    The bill, House File 2377, also mandates that prescribing practitioners and first responders utilize the PMP. Practitioners are to use the PMP when they prescribe controlled substances and first responders when they administer opioid antagonists, like naloxone, to patients.

    It also directs the Board of Pharmacy to issue a report to each prescribing practitioner that includes a summary of the practitioner’s history of prescribing controlled substances; a comparison to other practitioner’s prescribing activities, and educational updates. The Board will also identify patients who are at risk for potentially abusing or misusing prescription controlled substances and notifying the practitioners of the risk.

    Finally, the bill includes Good Samaritan language that provides certain protections to those who seek treatment for a drug-related overdose or a person who seeks treatment for another person who is experiencing a drug-related overdose. This provision gives these individuals certain protections against being prosecuted or arrested, with some exceptions.

    This bill will go into effect on July 1, 2018.

    State Treasurer’s College Savings Iowa Scholarship

    In an effort to encourage more families and individuals to start saving for college, state officials are reminding Iowans to sign up for College Savings Iowa.

    Often called a 529-College Savings Plan, Iowans can start saving with a minimum investment of $25. These accounts are tax-deferred, and participants are able to put in up to $3,319 per account per year.

    529-College Savings Day will be celebrated on May 29th. During the month of May Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald is encouraging people to go to the College Savings Iowa website at https://www.collegesavingsiowa.comto learn more. If you watch a three-minute video, you will be automatically enrolled for a drawing to win a $529 scholarship.

    The 529-College Savings Plan offers families a tax-advantaged way to save money for their children’s higher education. This money does not need to be used at Iowa schools, but can be used at any eligible educational institution in the United States including technical, vocational, and graduate schools. It can even be used at schools abroad. Finally, an account can be transferred from one eligible family member to another if the original beneficiary chooses not to attend college.

    For more information regarding College Savings Iowa, please visit https://www.collegesavingsiowa.com or call 888-672-9116.

    Free Dental Care for Veterans on June 9

    A new program will help Veterans be able to receive free dental care on June 9th. In Iowa alone, there is an estimated 211,540 veterans, and most do not receive dental benefits through the Veterans Administration.

    If you or someone you know is a veteran who would like to receive this free service, contact 1-844-AspenHMM (1-844-277-3646) to schedule an appointment in advance. The Aspen Dental locations participating include; Cedar Rapids, Coralville, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Dubuque, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Mason City, Muscatine, Sioux City, Waterloo, and West Burlington.

    For more information about this event, please visit: https://www.aspendental.com/about/healthy-mouth-movement.

    Public Forums Held to Discuss Alliant Energy Request for Rate Hike

    The Iowa Utilities Board has scheduled several public comment meetings regarding Alliant’s request to increase retail natural gas rates by 8.4%. Alliant is seeking to increase residential customer rates to raise an additional $19 million annually, which is estimated to increase an average customer’s bill from $52 to $60 per month. Alliant Energy currently provides natural gas service to 220,000 Iowa customers.

    The rate increase request comes less than a month after Governor Reynolds signed legislation that allows utility companies to roll back Iowa’s renewable energy efforts and slash energy efficiency rebates for Iowa consumers. SF 2311 gives utility companies, like Alliant Energy, superior position over consumers by granting them wide discretion over setting utility rates and elevates utility companies’ demands over the needs and affordability of Iowa consumers.

    The Iowa Utilities Board has scheduled the following comment meetings in order to allow Alliant customers and the general public to express their views about the rate increase request and the overall quality of service throughout Iowa service territory:

    Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 6:00 pm
    Main Event Banquet Hall
    112 2nd Street SE
    Mason City, IA

    Monday, June 18th, 2018 at 5:30 pm
    King’s Pointe Ballroom
    1520 East Lakeshore Dr.
    Storm Lake, IA

    Thursday, June 21st, 2018 at 5:30 pm
    Fairfield Arts and Convention Center Expo Hall
    200 North Main Street
    Fairfield, IA

    Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 at 11:00 am
    Orpheum Theatre
    220 East Main Street
    Marshalltown, IA

    Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 at 5:30 pm
    Ames City Auditorium
    515 Clarke Avenue
    Ames, IA

    Additionally, Alliant representatives, IUB members, and Office of Consumer Advocate staff will be in attendance of all meetings.

    Transportation Board Recommends Seat Belts for School Buses

    Following a tragic accident in New Jersey involving a school bus that killed a student and a teacher, the board that oversees safety in school buses has passed a recommendation that states equip all new large school buses with lap and shoulder seat belts. It is just a recommendation and not binding.

    The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates transportation disasters, approved the recommendation. This past winter in Iowa there was a school bus in SW Iowa that caught fire, killing the driver and a student. That incident is still under investigation as to why the bus caught fire.

    During the past legislative session, a bill supported by many Democrats was introduced to require that all new buses purchased in Iowa have lap and shoulder seat belts. By requiring it on new bus purchases, there would not be a need to retrofit current buses. It also required students to wear them on school buses. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states introduced school bus seat belt legislation last year, but big cost estimates have tripped up lawmakers in several instances. In Iowa, House File 599 was introduced to the Education Committee last session, but was never debated.

    Boating Safety Tips and Free Fishing Weekend

    Summer is almost here and people are excited to spend time on Iowa’s waterways. The Department of Natural Resources has several tips for boating safely.

    Boating safety tips: • Check water conditions before heading out. Due to spring rain, water levels in many Iowa waterways are high and some areas have more debris than usual. • Before leaving the house check the boat trailer to make sure the lights are working and the boat is hooked up correctly. • Have a sober driver. • Carry a working fire extinguisher on board. • There must be a lifejacket on board for every person plus a throw away jacket in case of emergency. Children under the age of 13 must wear a lifejacket and it is encouraged for everyone to wear a lifejacket. • It is encouraged for boat drivers to take a boating safety class. The DNR has online classes available at http://www.iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/Boating/Boater-Education. • Help stop aquatic hitchhikers by draining all equipment when leaving the water. Wash off all plants, animals, mud, and dry the boat before moving it to another waterway.

    June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd is free fishing weekend in Iowa. Iowa residents can fish without a license all weekend. While no license is required, a trout tag is needed if fishing for trout. Many waterways across the state have events during free fishing weekend. For more information on free fishing weekend events and fishing tips visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/Fishing.

    Air Quality Permits Open for Public Comment

    Several air quality permits are currently in a required review period where the public is encouraged to share written comments on the permits. Written requests for a public hearing on any of the permits may also be submitted during this open comment period.

    The air quality permits, called Title V operating permits for the division of the federal Clean Air Act that requires the permits, are issued to facilities that could emit a large amount of air pollutants. The permits are reviewed and reissued every 5 years. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is tasked with reviewing the permits to assure that the applications comply with all state and federal air quality requirements.

    Written requests for a public hearing must include the person’s interest in the permit and the nature of the issues for the public hearing. If the DNR finds that there is a significant degree of relevant public interest in a draft permit the DNR will hold a public hearing. Public hearing requests and public comments can be sent to an address that is included on each permit application on the DNR website.

    The list of proposed Title V permit applications can be found at www.iowadnr.gov/titlev-draft. Each permit includes a copy of the draft permit, a fact sheet giving details on the permit, and public notice of the proposed permit.