2014 INFONET #9

Issue 9, 6/25/2014

Print This Newsletter
Go To Newsletter Archives

Articles in This Issue:

Governor Okay's Funding for Waiting Lists

In 2013 the Governor vetoed $8.7 million that was to be used to take people off the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver waiting lists.  Since that time, thousands of Iowans with disabilities have continued to wait for services paid for by the Children's Mental Health, Brain Injury, Health and Disability, and Physical Disability waivers. These waiver services support Iowans with disabilities in their own homes and in community-based settings.  

Leaving nothing to chance this year, several groups representing people with disabilities (including the Iowa Brain Injury Alliance and local chapters of the National Association on Mental Illness) launched a "Stop the Veto" advocacy campaign to encourage people to call and email the Governor in support of this year's $6 million appropriation to reduce waiver waiting lists.  On May 30, Governor Terry Branstad signed the Health and Human Services Budget (House File 2463) into law, including the $6 million in funding for waiver waiting lists.  To those of you that took action on this, congratulations!

The Governor signed all but a handful of the bills sent to him this year, most of which become law on July 1.  Here are a few highlights of the Governor's actions:

  • Signed the Medical Cannibidiol Bill that will permit Iowans with certain forms of epilepsy to have up to 32 ounces of medical Cannididiol if recommended by an Iowa neurologist and if the person gets a special card from the Iowa Department of Public Health.  People must still go to a state where marijuana is legal to purchase this product, and transport it accross state lines (a federal crime).

  • Signed all changes to the MH/DS Regional Services System.  Legislators came up with a compromise late in session that would continue the redesign through June 30, 2016 (various parts of the system were to expire next year).  While legislators did not eliminate the requirement that regions repay the state 80% of any savings they see from the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan (called the "clawback"), they did come up with a realistic way to calcuate those savings, and restated that these "savings" that the regions keep are to be reinvested in the regional services system.

  • Signed the Education Budget (Senate File 2347), which included $765,000 increase for vocational rehabilitation services.  Currently, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS) is turning away federal funding because the state has not increased funding to match these dollars. IVRS plans to use the additional funds to align with prioirities of the Iowa Medicaid system to assist Iowans with the most significant disabilities to transition into integrated, competitive employment. IVRS also received an increase of $50,000 for its Independent Living program, and funding for the state's Centers for Independent Living received an additional $50,000. 

  • Vetoed language that directed DHS to report on the progress made in implementing uniform cost reports, and language requiring the Insurance Commissioner to develop a standard form that insurers are to use for prior authorization of pharmaceutical drugs.

  • Vetoed the entire "One-Time Funding Bill" (Senate File 2363).  This bill spent over $140 million on one-time needs, including funding for electronic health records for behavioral health providers, water quality initiatives, $100,000 for a study on the placement of sex offenders with long-term care needs (alternatives to nursing home placement), and $200,000 to develop an inpatient psychiatric bed tracking system (so beds can be located quickly for someone in crisis).  All of the funding in this bill was vetoed - it will not be available for these projects.

Want more details?  Click here for full description of each bill signed (or vetoed) in the infoNET Bill Tracker.  You can also read details on each budget passed this year below - these "Notes on Bills and Amendments" are prepared by the non-partisan legislative services bureau.

Back to Top

Primaries Over; On to General Election

The first step to becoming a legislator, a member of Congress, Governor, Secretary of State, or any other elected office is to get your political party's nomination.  Sometimes more than one person wants to be the Republican (or Democrat) running for an office; that is why we have Primary Elections.  Primaries decide who that party's candidate will be - the person that will be the Republican or Democrat in the November General Election (set this year for November 4). 

All ten legislators that faced primary challenges for state House and Senate seats won, and will go on to be their party's candidate in the General Election.  You can look at primary election results on the Secretary of State's website - click here.  Here are a few highlights:

  • State Representative Pat Murphy of Dubuque won a five-way primary for Congress in Northeast Iowa (Iowa's 1st Congressional District).  He beat former State Senator Swati Dandekar, State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic, and Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon (who is now the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor).  Rep. Pat Murphy will face businessman Rod Blum (also from Dubuque) in the November election.

  • State Representative Mark Lofgren lost his bid for Congress in SE Iowa (Iowa's 2nd Congressional District) to former Iowa Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.  Dr. Miller-Meeks will face US Congressman Dave Loebsack in the November 4 election.

  • In the central Iowa Congressional seat (Iowa's 3rd Congressional District), no one got enough votes to become the Republican candidate, so a candidate was chosen at convention. State Senator Brad Zaun and Secretary of State Matt Schultz lost their bid for Congress when the convention picked former Grassley Chief of Staff David Young.  Former State Senator Staci Appel is running as the Democrat for that seat.

  • Former Secretary of State Paul Pate will run as the Republican against Democrat Brad Anderson, an Assistant Attorney General.  Both ran unopposed in the primary.

  • 14 candidates running for State Senate are currently unopposed (no one is running against them).  There is still time in some of those seats for someone to announce they will run.  There are 25 Senate seats up for election this year (because Senators serve four-year terms).

  • More than half of the candidates for House are running unopposed at this time.  58 out of the 100 seats up for election have only one person running in them.

This will be an interesting election year. Because US Senator Tom Harkin and US Representative Tom Latham are retiring, and because US Representative Bruce Braley is running for Sen. Harkin's seat, half of Iowa's Congressional and US Senate seats are up for grabs.  Secretary of State Matt Schultz decided to run for Congress instead of running for re-election - so the important job of running the state's election systems is also open.  Fifteen state legislators are retiring this year, leaving their seats open for someone new. 

The next issue of infoNET will provide more information about the candidates running for office and how to contact them.  In the meantime, you can find voter information on the Secretary of State's website or on ID Action's Vote campaign.

Back to Top

MH/DS Region Maps & Contact Information Now Available

An updated map of the approved Mental Health and Disability Services (MH/DS) Regions is now available, as well as updated contacts for each region. This includes the two-county region (Mahaska/Marion Counties) that was authorized in a bill signed into law on May 30 by the Governor (House File 2463).

Back to Top

AARP Study: Iowa Ranks 13th in Long Term Care

A new AARP study shows that Iowa ranks 13th in the nation when it comes to meeting the long-term care needs of older adults and people with physical disabilities. Raising Expectations 2014: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers was completed by AARP with support from The Commonwealth Fund and SCAN Foundation.

This state-by-state survey gives each state an overall score, and also ranks them individually in 26 different categories (including affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; quality of life and quality of care; support for family caregivers; effective transitions; length of stay in nursing homes; and use of anti-psychotic drugs by nursing homes).  While Iowa ranked high overall and in long-term care quality, there were several categories where Iowa’s scores were in the bottom, including key indicators that show an overuse of institutional care

Kent Sovern, state director of AARP Iowa, noted that Iowa’s 13th overall ranking is good, but there are some areas where dramatic improvement is needed and Iowa still lags behind neighboring states. “Iowa still has work to do to match up to the higher standards set by neighboring state Wisconsin at 8th overall, and Minnesota who is the top overall ranked state in the country.  Iowa’s state leaders need to step up and act…This Scorecard shows we have more to do – and we don’t have time to stand idle,” said Sovern.

Iowa is ranked 36th in percentage of home health patients with a hospital admission.   According to the study, the single strongest predictor of a state’s long-term care system is the reach of its Medicaid long-term care safety net.  Iowa ranks 32nd in increasing the percentage of Medicaid long-term care dollars that support care provided at home and in the community – the care setting that most Iowans prefer – the Scorecard spotlights other areas that call for improvement, including choice of setting and provider and effective transitions.

According to the study, if Iowa improved its performance on choice of care setting to the top ranked level:

  • 17,014 more low and moderate-income adults with disabilities would be covered by Medicaid.
  • 1,847 more new users of Medicaid long-term services and supports (LTSS).
  • 4,085 nursing home residents with low care needs would instead receive LTSS in the community.
  • 1,048 more people entering nursing homes would be able to return to the community within 100 days.
  • 2,885 more people who were in a nursing home for 90 days or more would be able to move back to the community.

Of the 26 Scorecard indicators, half may be improved through state policy changes.  “This Scorecard gives us a snapshot of how well Iowa serves our older residents, those with disabilities, and family caregivers – and shows us where we must sharpen our focus to better assist hardworking Iowans,” said Sovern.  The full state Scorecard, along with an interactive map of state rankings and information, is available at www.longtermscorecard.org.


Back to Top

Interim Committees Approved

The issues legislators deal with each year can be very complicated, and can be tough to fix in the busy months of the legislative session.  When issues get too difficult or become too political to tackle during the legislative session, legislators will sometimes request an "interim committee" to review the issue and make recommendations for action.  These interim committees meet during the summer/fall, but there are usually fewer in election years (like this year) because legislators are busy with elections.  

Legislative leaders met on June 25 and approved seven interim committees for 2014:

  • School Finance Formula Review Committee: This committee meets for one day every five years to review the school aid formula and make recommendations for changes needed because of demographic changes, enrollment trends, and property tax valuation changes. This committee has not yet been appointeed, but will be made up of five Senators and five Representatives.

  • Legislative Fiscal Committee:  This committee holds a two-day meeting every year to look at how state government is organized, and make recommendations for reorganization.  The ten legislators on this committee will meet sometime after the November 4 election (Senators Bolkcom, Danielson, Dvorsky, Feenstra, and Whitver; Representatives Cownie, Jacoby, Oldson, Sands, and Soderberg).
  • Legislative Tax Expenditure Committee: Every five years, this committee reviews each of the state's tax credit programs to determine taxpayer benefit and the overall cost to the state.  The following legislators will meet sometime after the November 4 election to do this review: Senators Bolkcom, Dotzler, Feenstra, Quirmbach, and Smith; Representatives Hagenow, Oldson, S. Olson, Sands, and Steckman.
  • Cannabidiol Implementation Study Committee: Five Senators and five Representatives will make up this study committee tasked with monitoring the implementation of the legislation legalized the limited use of marijuana oil known as cannabidiol. The legislation authorized this use only for treating some forms of severe epilepsy. The committtee is to consider whether the new law is helping the people it is supposed to help, and review the legislatively-mandaged University of Iowa College of Medicine research study on this topic.  The group has not yet been appointed, but is required to meet for one day sometime before September 5, 2014.
  • Local Government Mandates Study Committee: This committee will look at "unfunded mandates" - when state government requires cities, councils, and schools to do something but does not provide the funding to do it.  Again, this committee of five Senators and five Representatives has not yet been assigned, but they are expected to meet for one day following the November 4 election.

  • Local Government Public Records Study Committee: The ten legislators serving on this committee will review public record requirements on local governments, and compliance with those requirements.  The group will meet for one day following the November 4 election; legislators have not yet been appointed to this committee.
Legislative leaders also said they would be willing to authorize a study committee to consider medical malpractice issues if they receive a request from both the Iowa Association for Justice (trial lawyers) and the Iowa Medical Society.  A similar committee worked on these issues last summer, but did not come to agreement on changes needed. In addition, the Senate Committee on Government Oversight will continue to meet throughout the interim to review issues related to state agency accountability, including the ongoing investigations into secret state employee settlement, whistleblower protections, and other state agency employment practices.  That committee is chaired by Sen. Janet Petersen, and includes Senators Julian Garrett, Sandy Greiner, Matt McCoy, Charles Schneider, and Brian Schoenjahn.

You can find schedules, members and materials for these interims by clicking on the links above.  If these interim committees are dealing with an issue you care about, contact the members of that interim, even if they are not your legislator.  Let them know why the issue is important to you, and ask to be kept informed of the progress made. Often these interims will have public comment periods as a part of their scheduled meetings.

Back to Top

"Walk the Talk" Bully Prevention Walk

Back to Top

Resources for Summer Advocacy

Many people think of the legislative session as the "busy time" for advocates, and summer as down time.  In fact, it is quite the opposite!  Now is the time to beef up your advocacy efforts, and recommit to your advocacy goals.  Here are some things that might get you started:

  • Set (or reset) a goal.  What is it you want?  Is it funding for programs or changes to Iowa law? Is it making government more efficient and responsive?  Whatever your issue - you need to have a goal.  It's your "ask" to legilsators.

  • Attend a campaign event or a local forum.  There are still public forums being held, but many are being replaced by campaign events.  Go to them and talk about your issues, then help out those candidates that say they will help you!  Candidates need people to help them march in parades, make phone calls, help with mailings, knock on doors, and do many other day-to-day administrative jobs for their campaigns.  Candidates remember the people who helped them during the election - and its a great way to meet other like-minded people who may also help you with your advocacy goals.  You can find information on public forums here, and information on candidates here.

  • Hone your advocacy skills at the Self-Advocacy Conference 2014.  ID Action is breaking new ground with the 2014 ID Action Self-Advocacy Conference this fall in Coralville. The conference "Make Your Mark!" will be held October 1-3, 2014 at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. ID Action is a non-partisan project that promotes the active civic and political engagement of Iowans with disabilities.  This first advocacy conference will provide an opportunity for Iowans with disabilities to learn and grow as advocates and agents for change.  Register before Wednesday, September 3, 2014 to receive the early bird discount. Click here for more information.

Back to Top

Bill Tracker (Final Session Status)

You can check out disability-related bills (including budget bills) that were passed by the Legislature this year in the infoNET Bill Tracker.  All status is updated with the Governor's final actions. 

Bills that didn't pass the Legislature this year are still listed in the "Inactive" list here. If you see something you wish would have passed this year, let your legislators know and ask them to file a new bill next year for you.

Back to Top