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Federal COVID Package: What It Includes (and Doesn't)
03.27.20
(March 27, 2020)   Yesterday the Senate uanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S. 3548). Read the... Read More...
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03.15.20
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INFONET 2020 Issue #3

Issue 3, February 23, 2020

Articles in This Issue:


FIRST LEGISLATIVE DEADLINE HITS

There are an impossible number of bills introduced in the Iowa Legislature each year.  Without deadlines, legislators could easily get off track and find it hard to finish their work within the four months of the legislative session. To keep things focused, legislators set deadlines (which they call "funnels") for themselves.  

Like a shark, bills die if they fail to keep moving forward in the process.  The first legislative "funnel" deadline hit on Friday. To stay alive, bills had to make it out of their assigned committee. To make the cut, House bills must be voted out of House Committees, and Senate bills must be voted out of Senate Committees.  Bills that fail the funnel are dead.  But wait...

As you've come to expect in all things political, there is always a way around the rules. Bills could come back as amendments to other bills, so don't lose hope if a bill you liked didn't make it out of committee before Friday's deadline.  You can always ask your legislators to make an amendment to another bill. 

We are closing in on the halfway point of the 100-day legislative session. Over the next two weeks legislators will be debating bills, so it's a great time to email or call your legislator (since they won't be in committee and will be at their desks during debate).  Remember you can call your Senators (515.281.3371) and Representatives (515.281.3221) during the day when the switchboards are open, and you can watch or listen to debate online at www.legis.iowa.gov.  We've also made it easy for you to email your legislators here.

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IMPORTANT DATES & MARCH ADVOCACY CALL

While St. Patrick's Day, Spring Break, and March Madness may be important dates on your calendars, legislators will be planning their work around three other important dates in March.

  • The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) meets on March 12.  This group of three economists meets four times a year to look at how much money the state is collecting and how the economy is doing.  This is important because legislators will look at this estimate before setting their budget targets.  If the economy is looking good and revenues are coming in as predicted, legislators will have more money to spend.  If it looks bad, they may have to look for cuts.  We believe it'll be a good year, but that doesn't mean legislative leaders will use the full 99% of the revenues they are allowed to spend.  Some legislative leaders want the state to spend less and set aside more for tax cuts.  Either way, the REC March meeting starts off the budgeting process.  Leaders will decide how much they will spend in each budget area soon after the REC meets, giving budget subcommittees a total amount of money they are allowed to divvy up.

  • Legislative candidates have until the end of the day on March 13 to file their papers to run for office.  After this date, we will know which legislators are retiring, which ones have someone running against them in the Primary Election in June, and which ones have challengers in the November General Election. So far we know six Republican Senators are retiring: Jerry Behn of Boone, Michael Breitbach of Strawberry Point, Randy Feenstra of Hull, Tom Greene of Burlington, Tim Kapucian of Keystone, and Sen. Mark Segebart of Vail. Several Representatives are also announcing their retirements: Ashley Hinson (R-Marion), Dan Huseman (R-Aurelia), Tim Kacena (D-Sioux City), Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown), Louie Zumbach (R-Coggon), and Linda Upmeyer (R-Mason City).  We have heard rumors thay there may be others, but will wait to list them until we've seen it in writing.
  • The second "funnel" deadline is Friday, March 20.  It may be spring break week to many of you, but it's funnel week to legislators.  In order to keep on the lawmaking path, a bill must have been voted out of either the House or Senate, and then out of committee again on the opposite side.  So a House bill needs to be voted out of a Senate Committee, and a Senate bill must be voted out of a House committee.  Basically, committee work is done by March 20.  Tax and budget bills are considered "funnel-proof" so can be discussed at any time, as can bills coming out of the Government Oversight Committee.

It's a good time to remind you that our next Iowans with Disabilities in Action advocacy call/webinar is on Friday, March 13 at Noon.  At this time we'll discuss the bills on track to make the funnel, and what the REC estimates mean for budgets.  Join us!

Friday, March 13 @ Noon

To join by phone: (646) 558-8656  or (669) 900-9128 
When asked, enter the following webinar ID: 104 444 278

To join by computer or iPhone/Android device:
Please click this URL to join. https://capture.zoom.us/j/104444278

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ADVOCATE BILLS SURVIVE FUNNEL

Two advocates joined us in our monthly call last week and shared the stories that drove them to ask for bills to fix problems affecting their lives as parents of children with disabilities.  We're happy to report that both bills made it out of committee and are ready for debate in the Iowa House of Representatives!  While these advocates are working hard to pass these bills, more voices will help make sure these bills do not get lost in the hundreds of bills sitting on the debate calendars.  

  • House File 2118 stops organ transplant discrimination against people with disabilities who require assistance to live independently before (and after) the surgery.  Several states have passed similar laws to make sure hospitals and the national transplant registry do not automatically reject a person because of their disability.  It's shocking to know that such a law is needed, and the committee voted it out unanimously.  Special thanks is due to Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R-Sioux) for sponsoring the bill, and subcommittee members Rep. Rob Bacon (R-Story), Rep. Timi Brown-Powers (D-Black Hawk), and Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Dubuque).  The bill has the support of Disability Rights Iowa, the Family Leader, Iowa DD Council, Iowa Association of Community Providers, National Disabilities Council, National Down Syndrome Congress, and the National Down Syndrome Society.  Rep. Bacon is in charge of the bill, and is the person who will need to ask for the bill to be brought up for debate.  Stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, and our website for updates.  We'll let you know when it gets on the debate calendar, and when it is being debated (if you want to listen in or watch it online).  Learn more about this issue here.  
  • House File 2097 requires the Department of Transportation to install adult changing stations in some of the state's modern rest areas.  This is considered a first step; advocates would like to see these in all large retail stores, entertainment venues, government buildings, and public spaces (like a zoo or park).  Community inclusion means having bathrooms that accommodate the needs of all people with disabilities; this bill takes a step toward that.  Credit for advancing this bill goes to bill sponsors Rep. Ann Meyer (R-Webster) and Rep. Kristin Sunde (D-Polk), both of whom also served on the subcommittee with Rep. Dan Huseman (R-Cherokee).  Rep. Meyer will also manage the bill during debate, and will need to address a fiscal note that has been filed.  Fiscal notes tell legislators how much it will cost to make the changes required in the bill. There are currently 38 rest areas in the state, of which 19 are considered modern. The cost to add adult changing stations to the modern facilities is relatively inexpensive ($20,000-25,000). The DOT estimates the cost to renovate the rest of the facilities to make these changes to be $80,000-$100,000 a year (which would convert four facilities a year).  These changes are paid with the Road Use Tax Fund (which comes from gas taxes and other vehicle-related fees).  This bill has the support of Disability Rights Iowa, Iowa DD Council, Iowa Association of Community Providers, and Easter Seals. 

You can take action on either of these bills using our Grassroots Action Center - there are sample emails ready to go if you want to take action on these issues.   Click here to get started.

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LEGISLATURE APPROVES NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC ASSISTANCE

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration announced it would be allowing (and encouraging) states to apply for a Medicaid waiver that would give states a block of money for their Medicaid program, and cut most of the strings that are typically attached to those dollars.  We'll discuss this in more detail, but it has a lot of people at the Capitol concerned, particularly since Governor Reynolds praised the move.  We'll update you more on this, but it would definitely make it easier for the state to enact work requirements and expand its "fraud control" efforts.

Two bills escaped the funnel on the Senate side, one requiring individuals receiving public assistance to work and the other requiring more fraud detection efforts by searching national and other state databases to make sure someone is not earning more income than they claim.  Both are likely to come with hefty price tags, and other states have found little if any fraud (certainly much less than is spent trying to find the fraud).  

  • Public Assistance Income Verification: The House killed their bill to require more frequent verification of eligibility for those receiving public assistance (Medicaid and food assistance, aka SNAP) after DHS said they would have to hire between 250-280 new employees to comply. The Senate decided to advance their more restrictive version (SF2272) which requires income verification of all household members for not only Medicaid and SNAP, but also the children's health insurance program (CHIP) and family investment program (FIP).  It also requires "cooperation with state child support enforcement," which no one in the room seemed to understand (what is cooperation, and does it vary from person to person?)  The number of databases checked for income verification are extensive and include other state databases that may or may not be accurately updated. People have 30 days to appeal decisions to end assistance. While the House didn't advance their bill, they did vote a bill out of committee that allows DHS to charge a person who drops off the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan because of failure to comply with the required wellness activities a re-instatement fee (HF 2492).
     
  • Work Requirements & Child Care Cliff (SF 2366): The Senate Labor & Business Relations Committee saved a work requirement bill from the funnel; the bill requires all "able-bodied" recipients of Medicaid and SNAP to work, volunteer, or be in a training or education program for at least 20 hours a week, unless they have a disability recognized by the federal government, are under 18 or over 64, pregnant or caring for a child under the age of one, caring for a dependent child with a serious medical condition or disability, receiving and complying with unemployment compensation, or participating in a drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program. The bill also includes the Governor's solution to fixing the childcare cliff by phasing out assistance (rather than dropping them suddenly for earning $1 more than allowed). Families earning 185-224% of the federal poverty level would pay half the costs of childcare and those at 225% of the federal poverty level would contribute based on a sliding fee scale.  Special needs childcare would require families to share 50% of the cost if their incomes are between 200-249% of the federal poverty level, and a sliding fee scale would be applied for those at 250% of the federal poverty level.  Wondering what the federal poverty levels are for each family size?  You can find them here.  
If you are worried how this may impact you, ask your elected official if and how it might impact your services and suggest ways to improve the bill so that people do not lose assistance accidentally. 

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BILLS SURVIVING (AND FAILING) FUNNEL

The following bills made it through the first step in the legislative process - making it out of committee.  It's time for what is called floor debate, when legislators sit in the House and Senate chambers to discuss bills on their daily debate calendar.  Here's a few of the bills that survived the first funnel.  A full list can be found in the "Active" section of our Bill Tracker.

  • HF 2097 - Adult Changing Stations (noted earlier)
     
  • HF 2118 - Transplant Discrimination (also noted earlier)
     
  • HF 2120 - Requires schools to develop plans to help students at risk of suicide with awareness of the challenges presented by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). 
     
  • HF 2138 - Caps the amount private insurance can charge for insulin cost-sharing at $100 for a 30-day supply.
     
  • HF 2151 - Allows the formation of a new MH/DS region but requires counties in it to be contiguous (this is being done for Webster County).  The bill had originally gotten rid of the requirement that counties in a region be contiguous (that is, borders touch each other); that was changed before the bill passed out of committee.
     
  • HF 2222 - Requires the state to ask Medicaid for a waiver to allow federal Medicaid funds to be used to provide services in larger mental health facilities (those with more than 16 beds).  This would allow the state to spend less state dollars at the state institutions, which are currently funded with 100% state funds.
     
  • HF 2295 - Allows funds from a Special Needs Trust or Supplemental Needs Trust to be transferred to an Iowa ABLE savings plan to give families more flexibility in determining the best option for them.
     
  • HF 2345 - Encourages financial advisors, bankers, and others investment brokers to report actual or suspected financial exploitation of dependent adults and adults that are over the age of 65.  In addition, they are allowed to delay a transaction while they investigate suspected exploitation.  
     
  • HF 2396 - Replaces the terms "deaf" and "hearing impaired" with "deaf or hard of hearing" in Iowa's laws.
     
  • HF 2453 - Makes changes to the laws passed last year to address guardianships and conservatorships for minors. More details on this in our next issue.
     
  • HF 2456 - Allows commercial buildings with public space on lower level only to not have elevators.
     
  • HF 2470 - Waives licensing fees for all professions and trades for individuals with a household income less than 200% of the federal poverty level, and prohibits boards from disqualifying a person because of a criminal conviction (unless the board determines waiving a criminal conviction would risk the heatlh and safety of the public).  Requires Iowa's professional boards (inlcuding those that govern health professions) to give Iowa licenses to people who have moved to the state and were licensed in their profession in another state, as long as they have been practicing for one year, have no complaints or disciplinary actions against them, have never had their license revoked or suspended, passed an exam required by another state, and met the other state's minimum requirements for education and training.  Some are concerned this means unqualified professionals will be able to move to Iowa to practice, risking the safety of Iowans. Others say it gets rid of unnecessary red tape.
  • HF 2492 - Iowa Health & Wellness Plan Reenrollment Fee (noted earlier)
     
  • HSB 578 & SF 2321- Makes changes to last year's laws about opening, managing, and ending adult guardianships and conservatorships.  More on this in our next issue.
     
  • HSB 680 - requires the Department of Education to hire an early language development coordinator, develop a resource guide for parents and guardians of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and identify language and literacy tools and assessments for use by teachers. The bill also sets up an advisory committee to develop language development milestones and resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing children (and includes parents and educators on the committee).
  • SF 2114 - Same as HF 2470, but does not include fee waivers and criminal conviction changes.
     
  • SF 2144 - Adds $300,000 to the current budget for Glenwood to address concerns raised by the US Department of Justice. This bill has already been signed into law.
     
  • SF 2177 - Makes several changes to improve Medicaid managed care processes. including case management services, workforce retention programs, uniform authorization criteria, and Medicaid MCO oversight ombudsman. 
     
  • SF 2235 - Establishes an advanced dyslexia specialist endorsement to qualify teachers who work with students with dyslexia, requires the Department of Education to hire a dyslexia consultant and appoint an Iowa Dyslexia Board,  requires each Area Education Agency (AEA) to hire or contract with a dyslexia specialist; and requires some school district employees to complete the Iowa Reading Research Center dyslexia overview module.
     
  • SF 2261 - Allows schools to provide behavioral health screenings to students in person or via telemedicine on school grounds, requires insurance coverage for these services, and allows parents and other family members to participate as appropriate. 
     
  • SF 2272 - Public Assistance Oversight (noted earlier)
     
  • SF 2288 - Gives schools and teachers immunity for "laying hands" on a child in a classroom if they are disruptive. That means the school and teacher cannot be sued for physically removing a child from a class.
     
  • SF 2301 - Requires insurance coverage for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders.
     
  • SF 2320 - Makes the Department of Public Health responsible for updating the list of sign language interpreters available for court proceedings, allows the court to ask about an interpreter's neutrality (not just their qualifications), and no longer allows the cost of the sign language interpreter (or any interpreters) to come from the Indigent Defense Fund (instead the court administrator would be responsible for reviewing and paying the fees).  
     
  • SF 2323 - Requires initial care plans for guardianships and conservatorships for minors and adults established before January 2020 be filed with the previously scheduled annual report.
     
  • SF 2341 - Criminalizes crimes against older and dependent Iowans, including financial exploitation and other forms of physical and emotional abuse.
     
  • SF 2360 & HSB 598 - Requires the Department of Education to set rules and provide grants for "therapeutic classrooms" to be used on a short-term basis to help students with behavioral disorders adjust (there would be fewer students per teacher, teachers would be trained in dealing with emotional and behavioral disorders) and allows a teacher to "lay hands" on a student that is disruptive, including students that are passive-resistant. Advocates for disability rights are extremely concerned about this bill and how teachers and school administrators will apply it.  Will students with disabilities become targets? Will the classrooms be in the same school, or in another community?  These bills are still works in progress; watch the website and social media for updates.
     
  • SF 2363 - Adds autism and PTSD to the list of conditions that can be treated with medical cannabidiol (mCBD), adds to the list of providers that can attest to the qualifying conditions (ARNPs, PAs, Advanced Practice Nurses, podiatrists), allows up to 25 grams of THC over a 90-day period, and makes other changes recommended by the mCBD Board.
     
  • SF 2366 - Medicaid Work Requirements (noted earlier)
     
  • SSB 3116 & HSB 657 - Governor's Invest in Iowa Act which raises the sales tax by a penny (to 7 cents) and uses the money from that increase to lower income taxes, allow more families to access the child and dependent care tax credit, and reduce property taxes by taking over nearly $80 million in MH/DS regional services funding.  The Governor cuts property taxes by $77.1 million; the bill itself does not appropriate any funds but her plan is to provide $80 million next year, $90 million the following year, and $95 million in the third year.  Regions have said this will not fill all the holes, particularly in the counties experiencing severe funding shortages (Polk & Scott Counties being two).  If this bill passes, all counties would set their property taxes at $12.50 per capita (that is, per person).  Counties currently collect between $25 and $47.28 per capita from property taxes.
     
  • SSB 3142 - Automatically ends all state licensing boards if legislative action to restore them is not taken. A legislative review board (made up entirely of legislators) will review and make recommendations on all boards and commissions.

The following bills failed to make it through funnel and are therefore dead.  A full list can be found in the "Inactive" section of our Bill Tracker.

  • HF2007 - Requires all supports intensity scale (SIS) assessments be provided conflict-free.
  • HF2101 - Allows a parent/stepparent of a child to provide and be reimbursed for consumer directed attendant care.
  • HF2108 - Makes supported community living services available at the daily rate available to a child living at home.
  • HF2205 - Repeals the bottle deposit law ("bottle bill") in 2023.
  • HF2208 - Decriminalizes marijuana possession.
  • HF2223 - Establishes a paid family leave program.
  • HF2349 - Establishes a Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids Task Force.
  • HF2397 - Requires closed captioning in all online and television broadcasts.
  • SF 2017 - Creates a list of Community Choice Option/Consumer Directed Attendant Care providers.
  • SF2056 - Requires schools develop an individual intervention plan for students with seizure disorders.
  • SSB3088 - Eliminating licensure (and board) for sign language interpreters.
  • SSB3089 - Eliminating licensure (and board) for hearing aid specialists.

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GOVERNOR HITS ROAD TO INVEST IN IOWA

Governor Kim Reynolds proposed a plan this year that would cut income taxes, allow more people to get a childcare tax credit to help lower taxes further, invest millions to clean-up Iowa's waterways, help farmers pay for environmentally friendly farming practices, and lower property taxes by taking over nearly $80 million of the funding for regional mental health and disability services.  She wants to tell Iowans why she took this approach directly, and hear how you would change or improve it.  

You can hear the Governor, learn more about Invest in Iowa, and let her know your thoughts.  You can learn more about the plan by reading our earlier article here.   Planned meetings so far are below (watch social media and our webiste for additional meetings).

 

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DD COUNCIL STATE PLAN SURVEY

Every five years the Iowa DD Council writes a State Plan. We want to hear from you!

If you are a person with a disability, a family member of a person with a disability or an advocate for people with disabilities please answer a few questions for us.

Click here to take the survey.

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WAYS TO WATCH DEBATE (WITHOUT COMING TO DSM)

The legislative website now allows you to watch or listen to live debate in the House and Senate.  You can also watch archived videos of debate, and can even find debate on a specific bill.  Here are a few resources to keep handy:

  • Learn how a bill becomes a law in this video.
  • See which bills are on the debate list by looking at the daily debate calendars.
  • Watch or listen to live or archived debate here.  You can look up archives by day, or by bill number.

Remember, subcommittees, committees, and debate are all open to the public. You can come to the Capitol at any time to watch debate from the third floor galleries; there is an accessible viewing area for individuals in wheelchairs or with mobility issues (the stairs in the gallery are STEEP).  While you're there, go to the entrance to each chamber on the second floor and send in a note to your legislator!  If they aren't busy, they might just take you onto the floor for a photo op that may end up in their newsletters!

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ADVOCATE LOCALLY @ A FORUM

You can find a list of legislative forums that are held on Fridays and Saturdays near you here.

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ADVOCACY HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER!

The Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council wants to make advocacy easy.  That is why we have created a Grassroots Action Center to take the worry out of communicating with your elected officials.

 You can email the President, your US Senators, your US Representative, the Governor, and your state legislators with the click of a button.  You don’t need to know who represents you – just put in your address and the system will do the work for you.  Type a quick note about your issue and share your story – then click send. It takes no time, so try it out!  

Get started at: www.infonetiowa.org/take-action/.

(And if you really want to go crazy, you can use the easy social media posts in the system…with another click you can send your message via tweet to your elected official, or post a comment on their Facebook page) 

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GET THIS ISSUE IN PDF

Click here to download or read this issue as a PDF.

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