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Bill Tracker 2022 (First Week)

Monday, January 17, 2022

It's only the first week and already we have a bunch of bills that were added to our Bill Tracker.   Our Bill Tracker is updated twice a day and we've changed the look to make it easier to get the information you need to take action. Check it out!

Here are a few bills that may be of interest to you:

  • House Study Bill 512 changes the definition of "autism disorder" in law from a medical diagnosis to a mental health one.  By doing this, insurance companies would violate mental health parity law for not covering and treating it equally. It is also in line with the diagnostic manuals used by mental health professionals.  The bill is a priority of Autism Speaks. The key legislators working on this bill are Rep. Shannon Lundgren, Rep. Joel Fry, and Rep. John Forbes.
  • Senate File 2035 allows local government dog breed bans to apply to therapy animals.  For instance, Iowa law allows a person to take their therapy animal to any public space.  If this law passes, therapy animals that are a banned breed in the community would not be able to be in public spaces. Some cities and counties have banned some types of dogs, usually pit bulls.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are no breed restrictions. The bill has been sent to the Senate Local Government Committee, but has not yet been assigned a three-person subcommittee (check the bill tracker for updates).
  • Two bills have been introduced to help get more Iowans into mental health careers.  Both bills forgive college loans for mental health professionals that serve in one of the state's mental health shortage areas (the entire state is a shortage area except Polk/Dallas/Warren, Pottawattamie/Mills, Linn/Johnson, and Scott counties).  The two bills are nearly identical, except House Study Bill 537 is for prescribing mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, prescribing psychologists) and Senate Study Bill 3003 is for non-prescribing professionals, like social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists.
  • Several bills were introduced in the House this week to address the perceived fraud or abuse of public assistance benefits.  Iowa has a very low rate of abuse, much lower than the national average, so groups worry that these bills could place enough barriers in place that people will not get the help they need and qualify for.   These bills - House Study Bill 502, 503, 504, 507515 - take different approaches that require more paperwork and more work for Iowans receiving Medicaid benefits, food assistance (SNAP), and family support (FIP). The Senate passed a similar bill last year (Senate File 389) but the House did not take action on it.  You might want to read these to see if the additional work would impact your life, and potentially cause you to lose services.  We'll talk more about these bills in later reports, as subcommittees on these bills have already started.
  • It wouldn't be a legislative session without a bunch of COVID-19 vaccination bills.  Legislators already passed a bill that requires businesses who require their workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine to allow for a religous exemption and allow those who lost their jobs for failing to be vaccinated to get unemployment benefits. Now there are several new bills (with the promise that more are coming): House File 2036 requires employers that require employee COVID testing as an alternative to vaccination to pay for the testing and time away from work; Senate File 2030 requires a business or organization that requires proof of COVID vaccination to also accept proof of COVID natural immunity as an alternative; and Senate Study Bill 3004 states that only the State Board of Health can require additional immunizations for childcare centers and schools (so schools and childcare providers could not do it on their own). 
If you see a bill you are concerned about in our Bill Tracker, you can contact your state legislators about it, or you can contact the members who serve on the subcommittee.  If there is a subcommittee meeting on it, you can watch or participate in that subcommittee, and you can also submit written comments.  Check the daily schedule to find out what's going on each day, or watch our social media posts for updates.

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