September 6, 2018

    Failed Medicaid Privatization For-Profit Companies Get 7.5% Raise
    Legislature Seeking High School Students to Serve in the Page Program
    Traffic Camera Fight Revived in Supreme Court
    State Budget Cuts Bring Disadvantage to Iowa’s Public Safety
    Board of Regents Solidify a Public Comment Period
    Hunting Seasons Starting in September
    Water Update Shows Drought Across Quarter of the State

    Failed Medicaid Privatization For-Profit Companies Get 7.5% Raise

    Since the Governor unilaterally privatized Medicaid in 2016, people have been systematically denied critical care, essential medical equipment and have had their services severely reduced or cut altogether. Providers have had to close their doors, or like the University of Iowa Dental School, have stopped taking Medicaid patients altogether because the Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) are not paying them. In fact, the most recent report released by the State Ombudsman Office, the independent department responsible for investigating complaints against the state and local governments, found that there has been a 157% increase in Medicaid-related problems reported to the agency in 2017. Even with all of these issues, the MCOs are still getting a big raise from the Republican Lawmakers to the tune of $102.9 million, or a 7.5% increase.

    Every quarter, Governor Reynolds and Republican lawmakers continue to throw money at the MCOs without getting to the root of the problem. Democrats are concerned the State is shirking its responsibility, when it turns over the care of Iowans to private companies who seem more interested in lining their pockets with taxpayer money, than helping those individuals on Medicaid receive the services they need.

    Medicaid provides health care to 600,000 Iowans, including those in nursing homes. According to recent estimates, about 70% of Medicaid dollars are used for the elderly, severely disabled, and poor. Because this affects our most vulnerable population, it is imperative we understand the true impact privatization is having on our state.

    Legislature Seeking High School Students to Serve in the Page Program

    The Iowa Legislature is looking for high school students to learn more about the legislative process by applying to serve as a Legislative Page in the Iowa House of Representatives for the 2019 Legislative Session.

    Legislative Pages provide invaluable assistance to representatives and staff by running errands, delivering messages, and distributing bills and amendments. Pages also assist legislative members at committee meetings and help the chairperson by handing out materials during the meetings. Pages will work with staff and representatives in the Iowa State Capitol building.

    The Iowa House Chief Clerk’s office will be accepting applications until Friday, October 5, 2018.

    Guidelines to the program:

    • Must be 16 years of age
    • Applications are accepted for the Senate, House, or Legislative Services Agency
    • Uniforms are provided
    • Living arrangements are unsupervised and must be found on your own
    • Students are responsible for transportation to and from the State Capitol
    • This is a paid position and some excused absences are permitted
    • Students are expected to be able to handle any school responsibilities
    • Parental permission is required to participate in this program

    For more details and how to apply go to http://www.legis.iowa.gov/agencies/careers.

    Traffic Camera Fight Revived in Supreme Court

    After initially ruling that cities could turn back on their traffic cameras to police traffic, the Supreme Court is reviving the issue with a class action lawsuit against traffic camera enforcement. The class action lawsuit revolves around the type of fine the drivers receive. The court has ruled that the fines are to be considered municipal fines, which carry a higher burden of proof. The city had been issuing citations as civil procedures. This change reverses a lower court decision.

    The lawsuit was filed by a group who argue that the speed camera citations violate due process and several aspects of the Iowa Constitution. The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that the citations do not violate the Iowa Constitution.

    Some cities like Des Moines have begun issuing citations again after having their cameras turned off, while the city of Cedar Rapids is waiting for direction from the city council to turn their cameras back on.

    State Budget Cuts Bring Disadvantage to Iowa’s Public Safety

    This September, the Iowa Civil and Human Rights Commission will host a discussion with the Des Moines police department and community partners on how to reduce violence and strengthen relations with local law enforcement officials. ‘Bridging the Gap’ is scheduled for Monday, September 17 from 6 to 8 pm at the Central Library located in downtown Des Moines. City officials encourage citizens to attend, engage in dialogue, and vote for ideas to be implemented in the future.

    During 2017, 25 homicides were recorded in Des Moines, the most in the city since 1978. According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, violent crimes have increased 50% statewide. This includes homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, and sexual assault.

    During the 2018 session, both the Governor and Republican lawmakers approved a $23.3 million budget cut, which included a $1.9 million decrease from the Department of Public Safety’s general fund; $4.6 million decrease to the Iowa Courts; $2.9 million decrease to Iowa’s Public Health’s substance abuse treatment program; $9.1 million decrease to the Department of Corrections; and $500,000 decrease to the Attorney General’s administrative fund. All of this combined has created numerous financial obstacles for local law enforcement, public safety officials, prosecutors, correctional facilities, treatment programs, and court officials to assist victims of violent crimes and bringing criminals to justice.

    Iowa budget cuts have also caused the Department of Criminal Investigation to experience a significant backlog and have contributed to the Department’s delay with DNA analysis processing for violent crime evidence. As of January 31, 2018, the Department’s backlog of DNA case assignments was 1,129 with an average turnaround time of 200 days. As a result, some Iowa sexual assault survivors have had to delay court proceedings against their aggressors due to the evidence kit’s four-to-six week processing time.

    To find more information on the “Bridging the Gap” event go to: https://www.dmgov.org/Departments/HumanRights/Pages/bridgingthegap.aspx?Tab=Bridging+the+Gap.

    Board of Regents Solidify a Public Comment Period

    In the past the Iowa Board of Regents has struggled with how to have a public comment period during their open meetings. With multiple issues and institutions, and already having an extensive sometimes two-day agenda, it has been difficult to develop a plan and implement a comment period.

    Now the board has agreed to make permanent a pilot program that allotted thirty minutes for public comment during regularly scheduled, in-person board meetings. Board President Mike Richards has said the move should provide transparency, accountability, and oversight with the state universities.

    The public comment policy will allow members of the public wanting to speak to fill out an online request at least 48 hours before a meeting. They will get confirmation no later than 24 hours in advance. The comment period will last no longer than 30 minutes, and speakers are capped at three minutes, which would be a maximum of 10 people per meeting.

    Hunting Seasons Starting in September

    With the unofficial end of summer, fall hunting season is in full swing. September 1st marked the start of dove, snipe, rail, cottontail rabbit, Canada goose, teal, and squirrel hunting. Later in the month the youth deer season and disabled hunter deer season starts, as well as waterfowl. Doves, teal, squirrels, and rabbits are good for novice hunters. The animals are plentiful which means hunters have less competition from others. For more information about hunting and to purchase licenses visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting.

    Increase in Pheasants Across Iowa Hunters received some good news last week when the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently completed a population survey of pheasant, quail, partridge, cottontail rabbits, and jackrabbits. The DNR found an increase in population of pheasants across the state. All regions reported higher numbers with the exception of the northwest portion of the state which had numbers similar to last year. The survey also reported higher numbers of quail and cottontail rabbits. The number of partridges remained steady with the numbers from 2017 but jackrabbits saw a decline in population due to habitat change. The DNR conducts the roadside survey every August. To read the full report and see game distribution maps visit http://www.iowadnr.gov/pheasantsurvey.

    Water Update Shows Drought Across Quarter of the State

    Varied patterns of rainfall continued across the state according to the monthly Water Summary Update. Drought conditions continued across approximately a quarter of the state along the southern border. Stream flows across much of the rest of the state remained much above normal conditions.

    Drought conditions worsened across the southern tier of counties in Iowa. Moderate drought conditions persisted across parts of 7 southern counties. According to the US Drought Monitor, about 23% of the state was experiencing abnormally dry or worse conditions. The area of the state experiencing extreme to severe drought has increased over the last month.

    The south central portion of the state saw rainfall deficits of 25-50% of expected rainfall. Des Moines experienced the second driest month of July since 1900. The state received an average of over 1 inch less rain than the 30 year climatological expectation.

    Streamflows in the northern part of the state were above or much above normal flows. Streamflows in the rest of the state were generally normal to below normal. The Missouri River is experiencing above average levels because of a heavy winter snowpack and early season rainfall.

    Monthly water updates can be found at http://www.iowadnr.gov/watersummaryupdate.