June 28, 2018
New Laws Starting July 1
New Laws Starting July 1
A host of new laws will take effect on July 1, the start of the state’s new fiscal year.
In education, lawmakers worked together this year to stop food shaming in Iowa’s schools. The new legislation will prevent students who have a meal debt from being punished.
Another bi-partisan bill will expand and reform Iowa’s mental health system. The new law will allow more Iowans to access mental health services and will also provide several new choices to patients and their physicians in determining what type of assistance they may need. However, many Iowans are concerned implementation of the new law will fall short if the Legislature doesn’t authorize new resources in the near future.
The legislature also took the first steps in curbing the abuse of opioids in Iowa. The new law will create a system to allow authorized prescribers and pharmacists to view information about their patients’ use of controlled substances.
Another piece of legislation going into effect next month is a new workforce initiative, Future Ready Iowa. The program creates a volunteer mentoring program, a registered apprenticeship development program, employer innovation fund, summer youth intern program, and a skilled workforce scholarship.
A host of other bills also take effect July 1 that Iowans many notice, including: protections from fraud scanning devices at gas pumps and ATMs; expanding the state’s “move over” law to include everyone; the start of a new initiative to clean up Iowa’s waterways; and expanding support for veterans in need of housing and a variety of other services from the Veteran’s Trust Fund.
For more information and a full list of bills, log on to https://iowahouse.org.
Enjoy the Outdoors this 4th of July
With the Fourth of July right around the corner, it is a good time to get outside and enjoy Iowa’s state parks. Backbone State Park near Strawberry Point was recently recognized among the Top 50 Mom-Approved Places to Fish and Boat, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. For a list of all of Iowa’s state parks go to http://www.iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go/State-Parks/Iowa-State-Parks.
Many state parks offer camping and cabin rentals. This year 75% of campsites can be reserved online and 25% can be reserved at the park on a first-come first-serve basis. Campsites are still available for the Fourth of July holiday. To reserve a campsite go to https://iowastateparks.reserveamerica.com/welcome.do?tti=home.
U.S. Supreme Court Decision Opens up Collection of Internet Sales Taxes
The State of Iowa may see additional sales tax revenues as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair. The decision opens the door for states that have a sales tax to have retailers’ who do not have a physical presence in the state to collect the state’s sales tax. The combination of this court case and the recent enactment of sales tax law changes from the 2018 legislative session mean more Iowans will be paying the sales tax on their internet purchases.
Under the new law out of state retailers will be required to collect sales taxes on sales made on or after January 1, 2019. Under the new law, an out of state retailer is required to collect sales tax if the retailer has a certain amount of minimum sales or presence in the state. In addition, so called “marketplace facilitators” that connect sellers and buyers will also have to pay Iowa state sales tax.
State sales tax is expanded to a variety of digital products under the tax expansion. Digital products that are taxed include digital audio-visual works, digital audio, digital books, and other similar digital products. Digital subscription services, such as Netflix or Hulu, will be taxed as well. Digital information services, such as analyzing data and placing it in a database, will also be taxed.
These sales tax changes are estimated raise $66 million in revenues with $11 million of it going to school infrastructure fund SAVE.
DOT Seeks Input for Rest Area Closures
Iowans can now give their input on how useful rest stops are to travelers. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) is working through a 20-year plan for rest areas, which includes shutting down nearly one-third of rest stops along Iowa interstate highways.
The state currently has 38 rest areas that are considered full service and 16 that are parking only rest areas. The DOT will look at numerous factors that include usage by both every day travelers, as well as commercial drivers. The DOT will also look at the age of the facilities, services provided, and distance between stops.
Rest areas currently cost around $3.7 million a year to operate.
Iowans can go to http://www.iowadot.gov/restareaplan to give their input and receive more information.
Traffic Camera’s Going Back Up on State Roads
Drivers in some Iowa cities could be getting citations once again from traffic cameras in some cities across Iowa after a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling. The Iowa Supreme Court in a 6-0 decision sided with the cities of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Muscatine who argued the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) did not have the authority to tell the cities to take down their traffic cameras on state roads. The decision does not impact cameras on city or county roads.
The court stated that the DOT does not have the authority granted by the legislature to enforce traffic camera regulations. Cities will no longer have to submit safety reports to the DOT.
The Legislature dealt with two separate pieces of legislation this past session, one that would have completely banned traffic cameras and another that would have put more regulations on them to justify their need. Neither of the two proposals became law.
The city of Des Moines and Muscatine have said they will resume issuing citations from their traffic cameras.
Dyslexia Task Force Anxious to Get Started
A dyslexia task force to study and make recommendations on student screening, interventions, teacher preparation and training, classroom accommodations, and assistive technology for dyslexia will start at the beginning of the state’s fiscal year, July 1.
Advocates for dyslexia are anxious for the Department of Education to appoint the members of the task force later this summer so they can get started. Members will include a representative from the University of Northern Iowa which is the only institution in Iowa with documented expertise in dyslexia to improve literacy in Iowa classrooms through their work at the Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy.
The group will seek best practices that are needed in Iowa’s K-12 system to address students with dyslexia. The group is also tasked with a suggested timeline for implementing their recommendations which may take into account the training of Iowa teachers before any changes in teaching are brought to the classroom. They will only have until November 15, 2019 to provide the Legislature their recommendations.
SF 2360 has come on the heels of other successful dyslexia legislation in Iowa. In 2014, SF 2319 defined “dyslexia” in law. In 2016, SF 2196 required teacher preparation for at-risk reading to include strategies that formally address dyslexia whether or not such students have been identified as needing special education.
Because dyslexia may not be recognized and diagnosed, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe, it is difficult to estimate how many are effected. The University of Michigan estimates that between 5-10% of the U.S. population has dyslexia, but this number can also be as high as 17%. Of people with reading difficulties, 70-80% are likely to have some form of dyslexia.
Public Forum Held to Discuss Health Insurance Rates
New rate increases on 63,500 individual health insurance policies may go up starting January 1, 2019. Wellmark has proposed an average increase of 8%, for consumers who bought plans before the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014 according to the insurance division. The Iowa Insurance Division has scheduled a public hearing regarding health insurance rate increases on August 18, 2018 at 10 a.m. The hearing will be held at Two Ruan Center, 601 Locust Street, Lobby Auditorium in Des Moines.
Iowa Insurance Division is required to hold a rate hearing for carriers filing rate increases above 5.6% in the individual market. Wellmark requested a new rate increase of 8.1% for grandfathered plans, or health insurance plans predating ACA. The company left the market in 2018 due to high costs and political instability, but announced last February they would sell ACA-compliant plans on and off the 2019 exchange. Their proposed rate filing is not subject to a rate hearing due to the new status within the 2019 ACA Iowa individual market.
Consumers unable to attend the hearing may participate online at https://iidiowa.adobeconnect.com/ratehearing or provide comments in the following manner:
• By postal mail to: Consumer Advocacy Office, Iowa Insurance Division, Two Ruan Center, 601 Locust Street, 4th Floor, Des Moines, IA 50309
• By phone: 515-725-4011 or toll-free at 877-955-1212
• By fax: 515-281-3059
Protect Yourself from Ticks
In 2017, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 254 cases of Lyme disease. This is up from 232 cases in 2016. Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that starts as a rash and if not treated can spread and have lasting impacts to an infected person’s health.
To prevent tick-borne disease like Lyme disease, it is best to avoid wooded and grassy areas. However, if you spend time in these areas it is best wear long-sleeved shirts and long, light-colored pants tucked into socks or boots; stay on trails when walking or hiking and avoid high grass, and use insect repellants. The repellants that contain DEET should be used in concentrations no higher than 15% for children and 30% for adults. Lastly, after spending time where ticks may live, check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks. Ticks tend to prefer the back of the knee, armpit, scalp, groin, and back of the neck.
Last year, the Iowa Legislature approved exempting licensed health care professionals from discipline by their respective licensing boards if the licensee recommends or provides treatment of Lyme disease or other tick-borne disease. This will help Iowans who need treatment for Lyme disease from having to travel out-of-state to receive treatments.
More information about tick prevention and Lyme disease can be found here: http://idph.iowa.gov/cade/disease-information/lyme-disease.
Computer Science Standards Approved
The Iowa State Board of Education has adopted new statewide computer science standards that outline what students should know for grades K-12. The board’s action was based on an Iowa team’s review and recommendation. The recommendations incorporated the national Computer Science Teacher Association standards.
The standards include fundamental concepts of computer science, and options for high school computer science courses through mathematics, science, or computer science graduation credits. During the 2016 session, SF 274 required a working group of education experts to develop the recommendations, which were then brought to the board after public input.
SF 274 also created a professional development incentive fund, which is designed to build the computer science teacher workforce in schools statewide. It will also help schools pay for professional learning or university coursework for teaching endorsements in computer science. The state board announced that a competitive application process will begin in July with awards announced in August. The standards are optional for Iowa schools, unless approved for an award through the professional development fund. There is $1 million available in the fund after Legislators set aside $500,000. An additional $500,000 was added from a 2007 settlement of an Iowa class-action anti-trust lawsuit filed against Microsoft Corp after the department gained approval from the principal players of that lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Iowans who had bought the company’s programs at allegedly inflated prices.