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Medical Marijuana Passes; Bullying Prevention Fails

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Lawmakers have spent a lot of time over the last two years trying to find ways to prevent bullying in schools, and by students using social media.  The Govenror has sponsored two conferences on the topic and proposed major legisltation that would require schools to take action whether or not the bullying happens on school grounds and during the school day.  Despite all the talk, the Legislature left town without addressing this issue.  No legislation was passed, and advocates say the problem is not going to go away (and ignoring it may make it worse).

The Governor also asked the Legislature to look for ways to encourage companies to provide broadband (high-speed) Internet to rural areas of the state.  It was another issue with lots of talk, but no action in the end.  In a surprising twist, early in the morning on the final day of session, Iowa lawmakers passed a bill that decriminializes the use of Cannabidiol (oil derived from marijuana/cannabis) for patients who have seizure disorders that are not well-controlled by other medications.  To be immune from criminal penalties for possession, the person must be diagnosed with intractable epilepsy by an Iowa-licensed neurologist, obtain a card from the Department of Public Health, and keep only 32 ounces of the product on hand.  Iowans are not able to sell this product, so people will have to travel to one of the 20 states that have legalized it, and transport it back (a federal crime).  Cannabidiol is different from the marijuana people smoke - it has low THC (less than 3%) and therefore won't make the person high when used.  While cannabidiol is inhaled, it is not smoked. People use a vaporizer to inhale it.  The Governor said earlier in the year he would consider signing the bill, but has recently said he's not sure.

Below is a list of bills that passed the Legislature this year - and their current status.  Remember to let the Governor know if you want these bills signed (or vetoed).  You can see a full list of related bills in our Bill Tracker.  You can also see all bills passed by the Legislature here.

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 HF 2159 - Miller Trusts - Miller Trusts are income sheltering agreements that allow otherwise income-ineligible Medicaid applicants to qualify for Medicaid.  This raises income thresholds from 100% to 125% (allowing people to have more income and still qualify for Medicaid covered services).   Effective 7/1/2014 and applicable to trusts in existence on or after that date. Signed

HF 2379 - Crisis Stabilization Regulation - Direct DHS to write rules for crisis stabilization programs, and exempts these programs from regulation by the Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA).  This ensures the programs are not required to be licensed as hospitals, health care facilities, sub acute mental health care facilities or assisted living programs. Clarifies that the MH/DS Commission will approve the rules, and gives programs that have national accreditation to have deemed status (so they do not have to meet the additional criteria set out by the state).  Effective 7/1/2014. ­Signed.

HF 2450 - Justice Systems Budget - Appropriates $556.9 million to the Attorney General's Office, Department of Public Safety, Department of Corrections, and other justice-related programs.  This is $6.9 million above the Governor's level, and $9.1 million above current spending. Most of this increase is directed at funding more state troopers and state trooper salaries that were not funded last year ($5 million) and Community-Based Corrections ($4 million). Requires the State Patrol and Department of Public Safety to implement the Endangered Persons Alert System, which issues alerts when a person with a cognitive disorder goes missing. Cuts the Civil Rights Commission by $130,000.  Sent to Governor.

HF 2463 - Health/Human Services Budget - Appropriates $1.9 billion for public health, Medicaid, child welfare, and other human services programs and services. This is an increase of $107.4 million over current funding levels but $950,000 less than the Governor's recommendation. Adds $6 million to take people off HCBS waiver waiting lists, increases regional MH/DS funding to $30.1 million, and adds $250,000 for a mental health advocate division  See specifics above, or go to the Bill Tracker for more detail. Sent to Governor.

HF 2468 - Adoption Tax Credit - Allows individuals/families who adopt a child to get a $2,500 state tax credit to offset actual expenses related to the adoption. Doubles that credit ($5,000) for individuals/families who adopt a child with special needs.  Applies retroactively to January 1, 2014.  Sent to Governor.

HF 2473 - Standings Budget - Spends $18.3 million less than the current year on various appropriations that are required by state law.  This is a "catch all" bill that ends up being a vehicle for a variety of appropriations and policy changes that were left out of other bills.  Adds $250,000 for awards to each Area Agencies on Aging for congregate meals and home-delivered meals to address food insecurity among older Iowans. Reduces AEA funding by $15 million. Sent to Governor.

SF 366 - Radon Testing/Schools - Requires the Department of Education to notify each school district and accredited nonpublic school about the risks associated with radon at attendance centers. Such notification shall include information on radon testing and mitigation, including relevant statistical data and information on sources of funding available for radon testing and mitigation, and shall encourage school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to implement a radon testing and mitigation plan. By December 1, 2014, each school district and accredited nonpublic school must tell the Department if they have a radon testing and mitigation plan and whether any testing/mitigation has taken place.  School districts or accredited nonpublic school that do not have a radon testing and mitigation plan in place as of December 1, 2014, shall also notify the Department of any plans the district or school has to implement a radon testing and mitigation plan in the future. The Department is to report back on this information to the Legislature by January 1, 2015. Effective 7/1/2014. Signed.

SF 2080 - Iowa Information Program for Drug Prescribing and Dispensing - Allows information in the Iowa Prescription Monitoring Program to be exchanged with border state systems or the Kansas system. Effective 7/1/2014. Signed.

SF 2130 - Transportation Budget - Appropriates funds from the Road Use Tax Fund ($358.2 million) to fund transportation programs, services, maintenance and construction.  Sent to Governor.

 SF 2168 - Uniform Power of Attorney - Creates the Iowa Uniform Power of Attorney Act to outline the powers of a person designated to manage another’s personal property. Includes penalties for abuse of this power and applies to all powers of attorney other than a durable power of attorney for health care, a voting proxy, a power created on a governmental form for a governmental purpose, and a power coupled with an interest of the agent such as a creditor’s right to protect title in pledged collateral.  The bill specifies details on durability, execution, validity, meaning and effect, termination, liability, and reimbursement and compensation.  The bill allows for appointments of conservators and guardians to have power of attorney. Effective 7/1/2014, applicable to powers of attorney created before, on, or after that date.  Applies to judicial proceedings on or after the effective date. Signed.

SF 2193 - Adult Day Service Programs - Allows adult day service programs to serve clients that are more difficult and currently prohibited from being served by adult day services providers.  The program may not knowingly admit or retain persons who are under the age of 18, require three-person assistance, or pose a danger to that participant, other participants or the staff. No additional regulatory oversight is added.  Effective 7/1/2014.  Signed.

SF 2296 - MH Treatment Costs/Chapter 812 Commitments - Clarifies that the state is responsible for paying the costs of commitments under Chapter 812 (not competent to stand trial).  The bill makes the Department of Human Services responsible for the costs associated with commitments to state Mental Health Institutes, and makes the Department of Corrections responsible for the costs associated with commitments to Oakdale Medical Classification Center or other appropriate facility.    Currently the law does not state who is responsible for this payment, but counties have been disputing these bills (and winning). Effective 7/1/2014.  Signed.

SF 2319 - Dyslexia Definition/Literacy Skills - Requires the Iowa Reading Resource Center to collaborate and coordinate with AEAs to develop and offer school districts professional development opportunities to enhance the skills of elementary teachers in use of evidence-based strategies to improve all students' literacy skills.  Assistance is to include strategies to formally address dyslexia, and defines "dyslexia" as "a specific and significant impairment in the development of reading, including but not limited to phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension, that is not solely accounted for by intellectual disability, sensory disability or impairment, or lack of appropriate instruction." Effective 7/1/14.  Signed.

SF 2320 - Consumer-Directed Attendant Care - Allows two different types of self-directed care - Consumer Choices Option (CCO) and Consumer Directed Attendant Care (CDAC).  Beginning July 1, 2016 DHS may require CDAC providers to be affiliated with an agency, but allows individual CDAC providers to continue if under contract before July 1, 2016.  After that date, people with disabilities would have the choice of an agency-based CDAC provider or a CCO provider. CCO allows people to self-direct care from individual (non-agency affiliated) providers.  Permits a guardian to also act as CDAC or CCO provider, but adds safeguards for CDAC providers that beginning July 1, 2016 are acting as both provider and legal guardian (payment rate is fair and reasonable for skill level, which cannot exceed statewide median level unless DHS approves; limits payment to 40 hours per week; agreement includes contingency plan for service provision in the event of provider illness or injury).  Directs DHS to amend HCBS waivers to replace agency-provided consumer-directed attendant care services with personal care services. Effective 4/3/14 and retroactive to 12/1/13. Signed.

SF 2342 - Administration/Regulation Budget - Appropriates $51.8 million for various state government operations, which is the same as current budget levels but is $164,000 under the Governor's recommendations. Maintains level funding for the Secretary of State ($2.9 million) and the Department of Human Rights' Community Advocacy and Services Division ($1,028,077) which includes the Commissions on the Status of African Americans. Status of Asians and Pacific Islanders, Status of Women, Status of Native Americans, Latino Affairs, Persons with Disabilities, and Deaf Services.  Sent to Governor.

SF 2347 - Education Budget - Appropriates $986.1 million for the Department of the Blind, Department of Education, College Student Aid Commission, and the Board of Regents (an increase of $87.2 million over current year and an increase of $34.1 million over the Governor's recommended level).  Adds $50,000 for state funding to public libraries ($2,574,228). Increases funding for independent living programs in the Department for the Blind by $250,000. Adds $775,000 for additional client services in Vocational Rehabilitation, $50,000 for independent living services at Vocational Rehabilitation, and $50,000 for Centers for Independent Living.  No change in funding for the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program ($145,535), Increases funding by 4% to the Iowa School for the Deaf ($361,000) and Iowa Braille & Sight Saving School ($151,000). Requires the Department of Education to submit a written report to the Legislature (by 1/15/15) detailing the department's anti-bullying programming and current and projected expenditures for such programming for the fiscal year. Adds new language that requires Area Education Agency (AEA) boards and all employees providing services to a school to have background investigations prior to employment (to include Iowa Court Information System, the Sex Offender Registry, Child Abuse Registry, and Dependent Adult Registry). Sent to Governor.

SF 2349 - Infrastructure Budget - Appropriates nearly $100 million in gambling funds for various infrastructure and technology projects in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014 (FY15) and additional funds for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2015 (FY16). Adds new appropriations for rural YMCA infrastructure ($500,000), Iowa Homeless Youth Shelter infrastructure ($250,000), inpatient/outpatient building at Broadlawns Hospital in Polk County ($2 million in FY15 and $3 million in FY16), nursing home facility renovations ($500,000 - last year Governor vetoed $250,000 appropriation), Homestead Autism Project to expand Altoona clinic and to a new site yet to be selected ($825,000), renovations to the New Hope Center in Carroll County ($250,000), Good Earth State Park at Blood Run ($2 million), and Iowa Park Foundation to promote parks in Iowa ($2 million).  Doubles funding for recreational trails ($6 million).  Maintains current funding for Camp Sunnyside Adult Day Program Building Renovations ($250,000) and Public Transit Grants ($1.5 million). Directs the Department of Transportation to study administrative needs, projected demand, necessary capital and operating costs, and public transit service structures including park-and-ride lots, employer or public van pool programs, and traditional fixed-route transit (report due 12/15/14. Sent to Governor.

SF 2352 - Disabled Veteran Property Tax Credit - Currently, veterans that have service-related disabilities can receive a property tax credit equal to the entire amount of the tax levied on the home (if it was purchased through special veterans assistance programs).  This bill expands this to include veterans that served in the National Guard of any state who otherwise meets the service requirements for Iowa National Guard members with a service-connected disability rating of 100%. Strikes the maximum income limitation qualifications for the credit. Effective upon enactment.. Sent to Governor.

SF 2360 - Medical Cannabidiol Act - Allows a person to knowingly or intentionally recommend, possess, use, dispense, deliver, transport, or administer cannabidiol if it contains no more than 3% THC and the person has been diagnosed with a form of epilepsy that is not controlled through traditional medications. Requires an Iowa-licensed neurologist to recommend the prescription. Directs the Department of Public Health to develop rules on this and issue cards that show the person meets the requirements of this ac; only recognizes Iowa medical cannabidioil cards. Limits the amount of cannabidiol oil that can be possessed to 32 ounces. Requires the University of Iowa College of Medicine to submit a report detailing the scientific literature, studies, and clinical trials regarding the use of cannabidiol on patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy annually beginning July 1, 2015.  Effective upon enactment, and repeals on July 1, 2017. Sent to Governor.

SF 2363 - Debt Reduction Act/One-Time Funding Bill - Spends $60.5 million to pay off state debt (effective upon enactment).  Spends another $79.8 million on various one-time projects:  $1.24 million agricultural drainage well water quality assistance; $3.5 million for water quality initiative special projects; $1.5 million watershed improvement fund; $5 million soil and water conservation district commissioners; $2 million Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); $1.22 million for special education costs for juveniles transferred from Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo; $100,000 to study placement options for hard-to-place persons or sex offenders needing long-term care services (RFP required to select private entity able to perform study and make recommendations); $1 million to school districts for radon testing; $800,000 for Community Mental Health Center funding for electronic health records (to DHS for up to $100,000 grants; $400,000 for a third-party entity for asset verification; $200,000 for development and initial implementation of a inpatient psychiatric bed tracking system (and working with MHDS regional administrators, Iowa Behavioral Health Association, Iowa Association of Community Providers, MHIs); and $2.8 million for Iowa Behavioral Health Association for bulk purchase of electronic health records.  Sent to Governor.

SR 121 - Government Oversight/Continued Investigations - Gives the Government Oversight Committee the power to continue investigations on the handling of confidential personnel agreements by the Department of Administrative Services and the intervention of Department of Workforce Development staff in the decision-making of Administrative Law Judges (pressuring them to side with businesses in unemployment compensation hearings).  The Government Oversight Committee is given the authority to subpoena witnesses, and cite them for contempt for failure to appear.  Adopted.