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Tempers Flair During CDAC Vote

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It's been a very quiet session.  Not much politics, which is a bit surprising since half of the Iowa Senate and all of the Iowa House of Representatives face elections again this November.  But the Senate debate over the Consumer Directed Attendant Care (CDAC) program was anything but quiet.

On Tuesday (March 5) the Senate unanimously passed Senate File 2320, which reverses changes made to the CDAC program by the Iowa Legislature last year.  Last year, the Iowa Legislature directed the Department of Human Services to implement "cost saving measures" to the CDAC program.  The Department filed rules that required CDAC providers to be affiliated with an agency (while continuing to allow people to self-direct their care with independent providers through the Consumer Choices Option) and did not allow legal guardians to be paid to provide CDAC services.  Hundreds of providers, families, and people using CDAC services contacted the Department in opposition to the rules.  The Department decided to pull the rules, and ask the Legislature for direction.

Senator Tom Courtney and Senator Mark Chelgren both had bills this year to fix this issue.  Senator Chelgren's bill would have reversed last year's decision, and returned the program to the way it was before.  Senator Courtney's bill (which is the one being debated) delays the changes by two years (July 1, 2016) and makes them only apply to new contracts (so all existing CDAC providers may remain independent).  The bill also clarifies that people still have the option to self-direct care independently using the Consumer Choices Option (CCO) and allows a person to be a legal guardian and provide CDAC services.

But it wasn't the merits of the bill that caused the fight to break out.  During the debate, Senator Chelgren said that Senator Courtney did not respond to an Ottumwa woman's concerns when she called him.  He told Senator Courtney to "not let that happen again."  Senator Courtney shot back, saying he also had heard from people who had called him (Senator Chelgren) and that he seemed uninterested in their concerns.  Senator Chelgren immediately jumped up and accused Senator Courtney of attacking his charachter.  Senator Courtney responded with, "You started this, pal."

Lets just say that it didn't end there. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal quickly called a lunch break "so some Senators can regulate their blood sugar levels."  While this was an unusally dramatic event in a mostly dull session, the good news is the Senate File 2320 passed 49-0 out of the Senate and is on track to get out of the House Human Resources Committee before next week's funnel deadline.

It looks like smooth sailing for CDAC!