Niera Burt of the Cedar Valley Boys & Girls Clubs was recognized for her outstanding leadership within the Cedar Valley during a visit to the Statehouse this week.
CEDAR FALLS MEDICAID LISTENING POST
April 15, 2016 @ 4:00 pm at Cedar Falls Community Center, 528 Main St, Cedar Falls. Join us for a discussion of how privatized Medicaid is working in Iowa. We want to hear your experiences, as Senate Democrats continue to push for tough oversight and accountability that keeps our health care safety net strong. More information
FIRST REGIONAL ROBOTICS COMPETITION HELD AT UNI
I attended what is called the “First Stronghold,” a medieval-themed robotics competition that has been described as a high-tech game of capture the flag, last weekend at the UNI Dome. Fifty-two high school teams from Brazil, China, Iowa and surrounding states competed at the inaugural Iowa Regional.
The competition is a program that combines sports and technology to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. Along with STEM learning, the program focuses on developing the student’s cognitive and social skills, including group interaction and problem solving. High school participants have called it “the hardest fun you will ever have.” But it’s fun to watch also!
I’m proud to say that Cedar Falls High came in first place in the competition. My grandson’s team from Dike-New Harford was awarded the “Rookie Inspiration Award,” given for a “rookie team’s outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers, both within their school, as well as in their community.” Way to go Cedar Valley students!
My grandson Dylan Messerschmidt and the Dike New Harford Team hard at work in the “pits,” preparing their robot 6164 for the next round of competition at the Regional Robotics Competition event held at UNI.
NEW ATTRACTIONS TO ENHANCE AND EXPAND IOWA
Workforce development must be priority in Iowa, according to the Iowa Business Council’s 2016 report. To fill an expected 612,000 job openings by 2025, we need to attract and retain more workers.
That’s a challenge for Iowa, which has a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent and the slowest population growth in the country. The Business Council’s report indicates that Iowa is the only state whose total population did not grow at least 50 percent between 1900 and 2010. Our growth rate during that time was 36.5 percent. From 2010 to 2015, America’s population grew by 4 percent, while Iowa’s increased by only 2.5 percent.
Senate File 2280 is designed to spur Iowa’s economy by attracting more visitors and tourism, as well as more families to live, work and make their home here. It would provide resources to programs that enhance Iowa’s economic development, create recreational and cultural opportunities, and invest in natural resources.
The bill creates an Enhance Iowa Board, an Enhance Iowa Fund, a Sports Tourism program and fund, and provides additional resources to existing recreational, cultural and natural resources programs. Each fiscal year that the state has a surplus of more than $100 million, $25 million will go to these “Enhance Iowa” efforts. The money will be used for state and county parks, watershed protection, recreational trails, community attractions and tourism projects, and sporting events that attract visitors to the area.
SF 2280 has been approved by the Appropriations Committee and is ready for debate in the full Senate. For more information on this bill, see the Appropriations section at the back of this newsletter.
Marc Little is president of the Iowa Public Transit Association. Many Cedar Valley residents rely on public transportation to get to work, school, the doctor, shopping and more. The Iowa Public Transit Association speaks up for Iowa’s bus, cab and paratransit systems.
MEDICAID NIGHTMARE COMES TRUE APRIL 1ST
Despite our repeated efforts to stop or delay it, Governor Branstad’s ill-conceived plan to turn over management of Iowa Medicaid to three out-of-state companies becomes a reality for 560,000 Iowans on April 1ST.
Medicaid recipients, health care providers and advocates are worried and frustrated about how this major shake-up will impact our elderly and Iowans with disabilities. Senate Democrats will continue fighting for them by pushing for tough oversight and accountability to keep Iowa’s health care safety net strong.
Here are some resources to help Iowans transition to the new system:
- Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) will offer health coverage to most Medicaid recipients and work directly with them regarding their coverage beginning April 1st.
- Medicaid Member Services will assist Medicaid recipients with questions and concerns about health care coverage, MCO enrollment, and which MCOs their health care provider has signed up with.
Toll Free: 1-800-338-8366
- Iowa Medicaid Provider Services will enroll health care providers with Iowa Medicaid and assist with eligibility and MCO questions. Providers must also contract with MCOs to be reimbursed for health care services to Medicaid members.
Toll Free: 1-800-338-7909
Special Hours for Managed Care Transition
The Iowa Medicaid Enterprise (IME) will have call staff available Saturday, April 2, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist members and providers with the transition to managed care. The Managed Care Organizations will also have special hours.
IME Member Services
Toll Free: 1-800-338-8366
Des Moines Area: 515-256-4606
IME Provider Services
Toll Free: 1-800-338-7909
Des Moines Area: 515-256-4609
Amerigroup Iowa, Inc.
Provider Services: 1-800-454-3730
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 2-3
Member Services: 1-800-600-4441
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 2-3
AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa, Inc.
Provider Services: 1-855-287-7855
8 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 2-3
Member Services: 1-855-332-2440
24 hours a day, seven days a week.
UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, Inc.
Provider Services: 1-888-650-3462
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 2-3
Member Services: 1-800-464-9484
7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 2-3
LIFESAVING DRUG TO COUNTERACT OVERDOSE
Prescription overdoses kill more Americans each year than all other drugs combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 44 people die from a prescription painkiller overdose every day.
Though Iowa ranks 45th in the nation for overdose fatalities, the number of drug related deaths in Iowa--a majority of which are related to prescription medications--has more than quadrupled in recent years, increasing from 12 in 2005 to 52 in 2014. Between 2009 and 2014, 646 Iowans lost their lives to opioids.
SF 2218, which has passed the House and Senate, would provide better access to a life-saving emergency drug that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose. First responders, emergency medical service providers, police, firefighters and licensed health care professionals could maintain a supply of the opioid antagonist and administer it in cases of an overdose. A “person in a position to assist,” including a family member, friend, caregiver, substance abuse facility employee and others, could also administer the emergency drug.
The Iowa Department of Public Health will establish standards and procedures for prescribing, distributing, storing and maintaining a supply of the antagonist, as well as for the training and authorizing people to administer it.
First responders, EMS providers, law enforcement, fire departments and prescribers will be immune from legal liability for administering the antagonist as long as they act in good faith. The opioid antagonist will not harm a person if it turns out they were not overdosing.
SF 2218 has been sent to the Governor for his signature.
PRESERVING RESOURCES IS AN INVESTMENT IN OUR FUTURE
We’re always looking for ways to make Iowa a better place to live, work and raise a family. Our natural and cultural resources are an important part of that effort. The foundation of Iowa’s economy and way of life is rooted in our rich soils, plentiful water and natural areas, which have given us a strong agriculture or manufacturing economy, and spur recreation and tourism.
To ensure wise use of these resources, the Legislature created the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program in 1989 to improve land and wildlife habitat, maintain parks, enhance soil and water quality, and preserve Iowa’s history and culture for future generations. Since its inception, REAP has supported thousands of projects in Iowa’s 99 counties. The state has invested more than $300 million, which has leveraged two to three times as much in private, local and federal money to improve our state.
REAP funding goes toward projects in these seven categories: State Open Spaces, City Parks & Opens Spaces, Soil & Water Conservation, County Conservation, Land Management, Historic Resources and Roadside Vegetation. REAP money is divvied up according to a formula that has the approval of a wide range of interest groups.
For more than 25 years, REAP has been a successful, nationally recognized program. As we finalize the state budget, funding for REAP and similar efforts will continue doing good things for Iowa’s economy and quality of life.
SENATE COMMITTEE REPORTS
SF 2280 - Enhance Iowa
SSB 3138 – Food banks and emergency feeding
SF 2280 establishes an Enhance Iowa Board to assume the powers and duties of the Vision Iowa Board, along with additional powers and duties. The bill establishes an Enhance Iowa Fund and a Sports Tourism Program and Fund. There is an appropriation of $25 million from the General Fund to the Enhance Iowa Fund for 10 fiscal years, beginning in fiscal year 2017. The $25 million appropriation occurs only if the General Fund receives a transfer of more than $100 million in that fiscal year from the Iowa Economic Emergency Fund.
Allocation of the $25 million:
- $1 million for Sports Tourism (new program)
- $3 million for Community Attraction & Tourism Fund (CAT)
- $2 million for River Enhancement Community Attraction & Tourism Fund (RECAT)*
- $6 million for grants, at the discretion of the Board to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Department of Agricultural & Land Stewardship (IDALS), divided in this manner:
- $2 million for State Parks Infrastructure (low head dam mitigation) or Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Account.
- $2 million for the watershed protection account in the Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.
- $2 million for trails (DNR, DOT, IDALS).
- $12.75 million at the discretion of the Enhance Iowa Board for all programs and purposes from the above list.*
- $250,000 to Iowa Economic Development Authority to administered and market the Enhance Iowa Program.
The purpose of Sports Tourism Program is to provide financial assistance for projects that promote sporting events for accredited colleges and universities, convention and visitors’ bureaus, a city, county or public organization. Projects are awarded based on:
- Impact on local, regional and state economies.
- Potential to attract Iowans and out-of-state visitors.
- Amount of positive advertising or media coverage the project generates.
- Quality, size and scope of the project.
- Ratio of public-to-private investment.
An amendment adopted in committee:
- Takes the State Treasurer off the board as an ex-officio member and adds two more review committees for a total of four. Keeps the CAT review committee and the RECAT/Vision Iowa review committee. Adds a departmental grant review committee and a sports tourism review committee.
- Adds $1 million to RECAT (total $3 million) and reduces $1 million to Enhance Iowa Fund.*
- Makes it clear that applications go to the authority first, then to the review committees, and finally to the full board.
- Tightens uses of financial assistance under Sports Tourism by striking page 9, lines 5-6 “other purposes directly related to the promotion of the sporting event.”
- Clarifies the board transition. It is the intent of the General Assembly that the Governor should appoint at least three but not more than seven members of the Vision Iowa Board to the Enhance Iowa Board.
[3/30: 18-2 (Garrett, Rozenboom “no”; Wilhelm excused)]
SSB 3138 provides for the distribution of raw and processed food to nonprofit food banks and nonprofit emergency feeding organizations, both of which distribute food to low-income and unemployed families and individuals. The bill provides for the donation of food by sponsors of legislative events conducted on the premises of the state Capitol; the establishment of three distribution programs, two within the Department of Agricultural & Land Stewardship and including appropriations, and one within the Iowa Department of Corrections.
DIVISION I - FOOD SERVED ON STATE CAPITOL PREMISES. The Secretary of the Senate and Chief Clerk of the House must have sponsors of Statehouse events that provide food to all members of the Legislature during session offer to donate leftovers to a food bank or an emergency feeding organization. The Legislative Council may also require approved people to donate leftovers to a food bank or emergency feeding organization.
The food must appear to be wholesome, which means food that meets all quality and labeling standards or requirements adopted by federal and state government and the city of Des Moines, even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other conditions.
DIVISION II - PROGRAMS AND APPROPRIATIONS. An Iowa food bank association must manage two programs under a contract with the Department of Agricultural & Land Stewardship, which must oversee the programs. The Department of Agricultural & Land Stewardship must cooperate with Department of Inspections & Appeals and the Department of Human Services.
- Defines emergency feeding organization to match Code 190B.201 (Farm to food donation tax credit).
- Defines food bank to match Code 190B.201 (Farm to food donation tax credit).
- Amends emergency feeding organization and food bank definitions to include those “that serves Iowans.” This will allow operations in Omaha that serve Iowans to participate.
The programs allow the association to purchase or otherwise acquire eligible agricultural products, which include food and ag commodities that can be processed into food.
The program also provides for the packaging, storing and transporting of eligible ag products to nonprofit organizations for distribution. The Iowa agricultural products clearance program is established to distribute products to food banks and emergency feeding organizations. The Iowa emergency food purchase program is established to distribute food only to Iowa emergency feeding organizations. The bill appropriates money from the general fund to the department to support administration of the two programs and the contract.
The appropriation from the FY16 ending balance is $600,000. Of that, up to $500,000 is allocated for purchasing ag products for use as food, processing ag products into food, and packaging processed ag products. The remaining $100,000 is allocated for storage and transportation.
An additional $250,000 is appropriated from the FY16 ending balance to support the Iowa Emergency Food Purchase Program, which must be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Funds do not revert until June 30, 2019.
DIVISION III – PRISON GARDENING PROGRAM. The Iowa Department of Corrections will establish a Prison Gardening Program, which will plant gardens subject to security and space requirements at each correctional facility. Garden produce must be consumed within the prison or donated to a nonprofit organization. This section does not authorize the Department of Corrections or an inmate to claim a farm-to-food donation tax credit. Iowa Prison Industries is exempt from the Gardening Program.
[3/30: 17-3 (Chapman, Garrett, Schneider “no”; Wilhelm excused)]
HF 2429 - Gambling licenses
HF 2429 clarifies that the license fee for a gambling facility only applies when a new license is issued to a person for a facility that increases the number of licensed facilities in the county or counties. This applies to initial or renewed licenses issued to a qualified sponsoring organization on or after the effective date of this Act.
[3/30: 12-2 (Feenstra, Johnson “no”; Bertrand excused)]
HF 2437 – Annual Department of Transportation policy bill
HF 2437 is the Department of Transportation’s annual policy bill. It is identical to SF 2248, which passed the Senate on March 9, but died in the House.
DIVISION I creates a new category of vehicle called an autocyle. The bill:
- Defines autocycles as having two front wheels and one rear wheel, a steering wheel, one or more permanent seats that are not straddled, and foot pedals that control the brakes, acceleration and clutch.
- Establishes a motor vehicle category for autocycles in the Iowa Code.
- Under Iowa law, Autocycles:
- Must be registered and display one license plate.
- Must operate with two front headlamps.
- Must be operated under a class C driver’s license.
- Must adhere to lighting equipment requirements.
- Must adhere to brake requirements for motor vehicles.
- Must adhere to safety belt and child restraint requirements for motor vehicles.
- Must be permitted to transport packages in the vehicle.
DIVISION II simplifies the process for out-of-state salvage vehicles to be titled in Iowa. The bill allows a repaired vehicle to obtain an Iowa title indicating it was previously titled as salvage in another state by surrendering the out-of-state salvage title and salvage theft exam certificate. Current law requires repaired vehicles with salvage title from another state to apply for and be issued an Iowa salvage title before applying for and being issued an Iowa title indicating prior salvage.
This division increases to $50 the fee for a salvage theft exam and makes it due when the exam is scheduled. Under current law, a $30 fee for a salvage theft exam is due upon completion of the exam. The increase in fee is necessary to ensure appropriate compensation to keep people in the business of conducting the exams.
DIVISION IV puts Iowa on equal footing with 37 other states by allowing vehicles of excessive size and weight to have a weight of 46,000 pounds on a single tandem axle of the truck tractor and 46,000 pounds on a single tandem axle of the trailer, as long as each axle of each tandem group has at least four tires. Current law limits the weight to 20,000 pounds per axle, or 40,000 pounds per tandem axle.
DIVISION V makes registration fees for aerial applicators fairer by prohibiting them from receiving a registration refund. Currently, nonresident owners of aerial applicators are prohibited from receiving a refund, but some are getting around the system by becoming Iowa residents for short periods of time and receiving a refund when they leave the state. This allows them to operate more cheaply than legitimate Iowans who are aerial applicators.
[3/29: 12-0 (Feenstra absent)]