2014 INFONET #11

Issue 11, 11/14/2014

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ELECTION 2014 RECAP: Big Change in DC, Little Change in Des Moines

By now you have probably felt that sense of relief - the elections are over and the political ads that have been keeping you from enjoying your favorite TV shows are gone.  News shows can actually report on other things happening in the world (we landed a space probe on an asteroid!).  So we get it if you are tired of all this election talk and just want to move on.  But moving on means understanding how things changed, and how things stayed the same. 

So we wanted to give you a quick review of the election results, and then we want to spend the rest of this issue looking forward to the future.  Who are these new people that will be making decisions that will affect us all?  What makes them tick?  How do I get to know them?  Those are all things we wanted to talk about in this issue of infoNET.

Iowa elected its first woman to the United States Congress. State Senator Joni Ernst will now become US Senator Joni Ernst, making Mississippi the only state that has not elected a woman to the US Congress.

Governor Branstad was re-elected to a record sixth term, setting him up to become the longest serving Governor in the history of the United States.  In just about a year, Governor Branstad will take that title from one of our country's founding fathers, who served as Governor of New York for 7,641 days.  Governor Branstad will have served 7,642 on December 14, 2015.

Before this election, Congress was like Iowa, where the Democrats controlled the Senate and the Republicans controlled the House. But that is about to change in Washington DC.  Republicans will now control the US Congress - with the majority in both the House and Senate. 

In addition to electing Joni Ernst to the US Senate, Iowans also elected Republican businessman Rod Blum and former Grassley staffer David Young to the US House of Representatives, and re-elected US Representative Steve King and US Representative Dave Loebsack.  Iowa's six-member delegation to Washington DC went from three Republicans and three Democrats, to five Republicans and one Democrat.

While big change happened at the federal level, the makeup of Iowa's Legislature will stay pretty much the same.  Senate Democrats kept control of the Iowa Senate, 26 to 24.  Senate Democrats lost one seat, but Senate Republicans also lost one seat (so the Republican-Democrat split in the Senate stayed the same).  Sen. Darryl Beall of Fort Dodge was the only current Senator to lose his race.  One race is yet to be decided - the Governor will need to call a special election soon to replace Joni Ernst, who will give up her State Senate seat after being elected to the US Senate.  That seat includes Fremont, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Ringgold and Taylor Counties. 

In the Iowa House, Republicans added four seats to their majority, now at 57 to 43.  Four current Representatives lost their jobs on Election night (all Democrats): Rep. Daniel Lundby of Marion, Rep. Dan Muhlbauer of Manilla, Rep. Joe Riding of Altoona, and Rep. Frank Wood of Eldridge.  Democrats took one Republican seat, but Republicans were able to flip five Democratic seats (thus the four vote increase).  

Half of Iowa's six Congressional delegates are new.  They are busy hiring staff, preparing to move to Washington DC, and figuring out how things will work when they go to work in January. They won't have websites, emails, and staff until then, but remember you are still represented by your current US Senator and US Representative until the new group is sworn in on January 3, 2015.  You can contact them now using our Grassroots Action Center

There will be 21 new faces in the Iowa Legislature this year - 6 in the Senate, 15 in the House. They will begin work when the Iowa Legislature starts back up on Monday, January 12, 2015.  Take some time to read about these new legislators.  When you read their bios, you might notice things you have in common, or see things that you think will make them a good legislator.

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Special Election: How It Works

As we mentioned, State Senator Joni Ernst was elected to the US Senate.  Since she was in the middle of her four-year term, she will have to resign from office, and the Governor will have to call a special election. Iowa law requires 46 days notice - so this special election won't be held this year unless the Governor calls for it by November 16. 

Special elections are different because the political parties pick their candidates - there isnt a primary election to pick the candidates.  So the people that serve on a special nominating committee will pick who they want to be on the special election ballot.  We will know who these people are soon, but this district leans very Republican, and it is very unlikely a Democrat will win.  Interestingly, this is the Senate Seat that Kim Reynolds left when she was elected Lt. Governor.  The winner of that special election - Joni Ernst - is now leaving to be a US Senator.  Those are some pretty big shoes to fill!

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Spend a Few Minutes on Advocacy before Session

The holidays are coming, and legislators will start back at work soon after the new year begins. Life for all of us gets so busy in these final months of the year.  So take just 10 minutes in November to set the stage for a really good advocacy year.

While your new state legislators won't officially start their jobs until January, you can (and should) contact them.  Here are some ideas on what you can do this month. Just pick one - and you will be happy you did!

  • Send your State Senator and State Representative a note, congratulating them on their elections.  Use a card or a postcard, or just some notebook paper. You can send them an email, but right now a hand-written note makes a big impact.  Mail it to their home addresses (look them up here).  Make sure you include your name, phone number, email (if you have one), and address, and make sure you ask them to add you to their newsletter lists.  That way you can keep on top of the things they are doing at the Capitol.

  • Send your State Senator and State Representative a holiday card.  If you have kids, you might think about having them make a card for your legislator.  But instead of just signing it, add a note wishing them a happy holiday and good luck when the session starts up.  Let them know you'd like to be on their mailing lists, and again include your name and contact information.

  • Send your State Senator and State Representative a Thanksgiving card.  It is not easy being a legislator.  They work very hard, they hear a lot of concerns and complaints, but they don't often hear thanks.  They sacrifice a lot to represent their districts - they leave jobs, they are away from their families for most of the week, and they don't make much money doing it.  So saying "thank you" for serving our state (and representing you) at the Captiol will go a long way.After all, November is the month of thanks.

Just a final note. People think our state legislators have staff and offices. They do not. They work out of their own homes when they are not at the Capitol, and they have a desk on the floor of the House/Senate when they are at the Capitol. They do not have private offices, and the only staff they have is during the session (a clerk who helps file paper and open mail).  Legislators do most of their work themselves.

So if you are ever nervous about contacting your legislators, remember this.

  • It is their job to represent you.
  • They are real people, with other jobs and other interests.
  • They put their pants on just like you, one leg at a time.
  • Don't be scared to talk to them, they want to talk to you!

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Meet the New Secretary of State

Iowans also elected a new Secretary of State this year, Paul Pate of Cedar Rapids. But the new Secretary of State is really the old Secretary of State.  Paul Pate served as Iowa's Secretary of State for four years (1995-1999) and was a State Senator for six years (1989-1995). With all of the big races on the ballot this year, the Secretary of State's race didn't get a lot of attention.  But it is a very important office - the Secretary of State oversees all of the elections in Iowa.  So we thought you might want to know a little bit about our new Secretary of State Paul Pate.

A nationally recognized small business leader by the Small Business Administration, Paul Pate is the President of Pate Asphalt Systems in Marion and recently served as Mayor of Cedar Rapids from 2002 –2006. While Mayor, Pate was elected President of the Iowa League of Cities representing over 870 municipalities and served as Co-Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Committee on Homelessness.

Previously, he served as Iowa Secretary of State from 1995-1999 and represented NE Cedar Rapids, Marion and parts of Linn, Buchanan and Delaware Counties in the Iowa Senate from 1989-1995.

Paul and his wife Jane of 35 years reside in Cedar Rapids. They have three adult children, Jennifer, Amber, Paul III and five grandchildren, Brandon, Chloe, Hope, Adalynn and Nolan.

 "Iowans do not want, nor can they afford, to have Iowa's Chief Election Commissioner be a partisan political operative from either party," says Pate.  Pate says he wants to promote participation in the election process, a key priority for Iowans with Disabilities in Action (ID Action).  There won't be time for the new Secretary of State to propose legislation this session, but we do know that other groups (ACLU-Iowa and League of Women Voters of Iowa) will be asking for legislation that will allow Iowans to register to vote online, from their computers.  

Because voting is such an important right, we will be tracking all election bills and any legislation that would help increase voter participation (or pose barriers to participation). You can find out more about him on his campaign website here.

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Public Comment Wanted on HCBS Settings Transition

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued regulations that define the settings in which states are allowed to pay for Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). The purpose of these regulations is to make sure that individuals receive Medicaid HCBS in settings that are integrated in and support full access to the greater community.  This includes opportunities to seek employment and work in competitive and integrated settings, engage in community life, control personal resources, and receive services in the community, to the same degree as individuals who do not receive HCBS.

The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) is working on transition plans so that the state can comply with these new regulations.  In August, the state submitted the first waiver transition plan (for the ID waiver) after a public comment period that began in May.  DHS is now working on the transition plans for the remaining six HCBS waivers - Brain Injury, Children's Mental Health, Elderly, Health and Disability, Physical Disability, and HIV/AIDS.  All will be consistent in their approach (although the dates in them may be different), and will be integrated into an overall statewide HCBS Transition Plan.

You can read these plans at the following links:

DHS is now accepting public comments on these six transition plans - comments are due by November 30, 2014.  Comments should be submitted to: HCBSsettings@dhs.state.ia.us. DHS is also planning to present the plans and take comments via webinar in November, but it has not yet been scheduled (watch for upcoming News Alerts).

You can also read the already-submitted ID Waiver Transition Plan (which has not yet been approved by CMS) and public comments received during that period at the links below:

You can learn more about these changes at an upcoming webinar. These webinars will provide an overview of the federal HCBS Settings regulations, discuss the transition plans that have been developed to bring Iowa into compliance with the regulations, and give attendees an opportunity to submit questions and comments about the transition plans.  

Webinar Dates & Times

Please note that the same presentation will be given at all three webinars; participants do not need to register for more than one session.  You will need a computer/tablet/smartphone and Internet connection to participate, and you must register to participate. After registering, you will be sent instructions about connecting to the webinar.

More information is available at http://dhs.iowa.gov/ime/about/initiatives/HCBS

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New Legislative Guides Coming Soon!

Two years ago, we printed our first ID Action/Infonet Guide to the Iowa Legislature, and it was so popular we ran out of copies within a few weeks. 

This year we plan to print and mail it again to all of our readers free of charge.  We are currently waiting for committee assignments and the result of the special election, but will have an early version online soon.  Once committees are assigned, and the special election is held, we will get it to the printer and into your mailboxes!  We hope to get it to you in the first weeks of the legislative session.

To get a free printed copy, you must be signed up to receive infoNET either by email or mail.  For some of you, we don't have mailing addresses. We will be sending you an email soon asking for your address, so we can mail you this free copy. Please respond if you get this email! 

  • You can take a look at our old Guide here
  • Register with ID Action here if you are not currently receiving infoNET by email or mail  - we'll need your name, address, and email address if you have one.  You can choose if you want to receive other information by email or mail. 

  • Please forward this to friends and have them sign up too!

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2015 Calendar: Iowa Legislature

The calendar has been set for the 2015 Iowa Legislative Session.  We call these two-year legislative cycles a "General Assembly." Here are a list of important dates to remember:

2015 Legislative Session Calendar

Monday, January 12
First day of the Iowa Legislative Session.  New legislators sworn in, and legislators get to pick their seats (desks).

Friday, February 13                       
Last day for legislators to request the bills they want to sponsor.  Committee chairs and leadership still can request bills be drafted, but individual legislators will not be able to ask for new legislation after this date.

Friday, March 6
Last day for bills to be voted out of committee.  This is called the "first funnel" - it is an important deadline because bills that do not get voted out of committee by this date are no longer able to be discussed. Work on them for the year ends - they basically die in committee.

Friday, April 3
Last day for bills to be voted out of committee in the other chamber.  This is called the "second funnel," and like the first funnel, bills that don't make it out of committee before this deadline are dead for the rest of the year.  So to survive this funnel, bills have to be voted out of their original committee, passed one chamber (House or Senate), then passed out of committee in the other chamber.  So basically, they are just a few steps away from being sent to the Governor.

Friday, May 1
The last day of session.  This is actually a goal, not a hard deadline. Legislators stop getting paid for their living expenses on the 110th day of session (May 1), but they can and often do continue to work after that time.  One year  the session ended on June 30.  Hopefully that won't happen again, because budgets start on July 1 in Iowa, and that was cutting it a bit close.  Don't want to shut down Iowa government, like the federal government did.

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MARK YOUR CALENDAR: 2015 Advocating for Change Day

Don't miss the very important, very fun, and very educational Advocating for Change Day 2015!  It's a day of advocacy and networking, plus a little training on how to be an effective advocate. It's free to attend, and lunch is provided.  But you have to register!

Advocating for Change Day 2015
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
State Capitol, Des Moines
Watch www.idaction.org for information on registering.

ID Action also offers local action groups opportunities to do their own Capitol Days, separate from Advocating for Change Day.  ID Action staff will help you plan your day and prepare your message (although they won't tell you what to say).  If you have an issue you want to advocate for, and you have a group willing to come to the Capitol, ID Action has resources to help you do it.  To find out more, click here.

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