2014 INFONET #3

Issue 3, 2/21/2014

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Articles in This Issue:

Legislative Deadline Cut Short by Snow

Deadline week at the Capitol ended early this week when reports of the “snow storm of the year” came out.  The House rushed through committee work on Wednesday in order to send their people home before the storm hit on Thursday afternoon. The Senate followed suit with all but three committees, which decided to defy nature and finish up their work without forcing quick debate.

Bad things sometimes happen in the rush to get things done before the deadline (called a "funnel").  Bills and amendments are written quickly, and votes are taken with promises that the legislation is “a work in progress.”  That means imperfect bills may come out of committees, which then have to perfect the bills before they hit the floor. As you look through bills of interest, you might find some things that need to be changed with the surviving bills. Legislators will be doing just that in the coming weeks - looking at the bills that are left now that the dust has settled, and seeing what they need to fix, what they can pass along without much discussion, and which issues may end up too controversial for an election year.

Looking ahead at the next couple of weeks, legislators will be spending most of their time in floor debate, moving bills off their calendars and over to the other chamber for ongoing committee work.  Amendments will be offered to fix those less-than-perfect bills before moving them on to the other chamber where they will start the committee process all over.

The next funnel deadline will be in just three short weeks – about 11 working days.  Bills that want to continue their path to becoming law need to have passed the House or Senate, and be out of the other chamber’s committee by Friday, March 14.  After that date, only the Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees will continue to meet regularly, as bills coming out of those committees are not subject to these deadlines. 

Budget subcommittees are also wrapping up their work in the next week or two, with most discussions going on behind the scenes.  The rumors of joint targets may be greatly exaggerated.  Republicans controlling the House are concerned about the State Auditor’s report that the Governor’s proposed budget overspends by $144 million.  Democrats that control the Senate say the state is sitting on nearly $1 billion in reserves and should use some of that to pay for much-needed infrastructure and other one-time investments.

So while leaders continue to work on a joint target, it may be mid-March when new revenue estimates are released before the two sides come together on a final budget number.  In the meantime, budget subcommittee chairs are getting their budgets ready, making language changes, and setting priorities for funding.  So now is the time to put the pressure on for your funding priorities.

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Bills Protecting Vulnerable Iowans Clear Deadline

Several legislators met in the fall to consider ways to protect vulnerable Iowans from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, particularly financial exploitation. Iowa has a dependent adult abuse law, but not all older Iowans and Iowans with disabilities are "dependant."  Two pieces of legislation have been introduced to close these gaps - and both have cleared this first deadline:

Uniform Power of Attorney Agreements (SF 2168 & HSB 625):  These agreements let a person decide how their property will be handled if they are not able to make decisions in the future. They assign a person to have this decision-making ability (that is, power of attorney) for them.  Sometimes people are taken advantage of in these agreements, and property may be stolen or bank accounts drained.  The bills introduced this year would allow law enforcement agencies to investigate claims that the person with the power of attorney is abusing that power.  There is some question about when this will apply - the Senate wants this ability to investigate to be retroactive (that is, deal with existing agreements), while the House wants this to apply only to new agreements.  It is important to note that the agreements themselves are not affected - just the ability of someone to investigate if they are being abused and the person exploited.

Elder Abuse Law (SF 2145):  The Senate passed out a comprehensive "elder abuse law" that sets up a resource and referral network in the Aging and Disability Resource Centers to help assist Iowans that have been abused or exploited financially.  The bill right now only focuses on people that are age 60 and older, thus "elder abuse."  However, there is a lot of discussion about an alternative definition that would include age as one criterion, but not the only one.  Lawmakers hope they can protect more vulnerable Iowans by broadening the definition to go beyond older Iowans and dependent adults.  SF 2145 will get a new number next week, when it is redrafted with amendments from the subcommittee.

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Consumer Directed Attendant Care Stays Alive

Both the House and Senate saved bills that give Iowans with disabilities two options in self-directing their care. These bills both preserve options for people who want to self-direct their care, either with a Consumer Directed Attendant Care (CDAC) agreement or a Consumer Choices Option (CCO) employment agreement.  While both bills have the same goal, they are not the same:

  • House  File 2097 by Representative Dawn Pettengill eliminates the requirement passed by the Legislature last year to move to agency-based CDAC providers, returning everything to the way it is now (individuals can act as CDAC providers and individuals do not have to go through an agency to find a person to provide the services).  The bill also clarifies that a person can be both CDAC provider and legal guardian.
  • Senate File 2066 by Senator Tom Courtney was amended to require DHS to redo its rules so that a person may serve as both a legal guardian and CDAC/CCO provider.  Beginning July 1, 2016, DHS is allowed to require CDAC services be delivered through an agency, but also requires that the Consumer Choices Option be available to people wishing to self-direct their care with an individual that they hire.   However, any CDAC provider providing services when this change goes into effect on July 1, 2016 will be able to continue to work as an individual, and not required to become affliliated with an agency.

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Advocacy Time Savers

Advocacy doesn't have to take much time.  Here are a couple of really effective and easy ways to let your elected officials know what is important to you.

  • Use our quick and easy Grassroots Action Center to send an email to your state legislator, Governor, Lt. Governor, US Senator, US Congressman, or even the President of the United States!  You don't need to know anyone's name or email address - we just need your name and address and the system will find it all for you.  Click here to give it a try!

  • Go to a local legislative forum.  They are really and truly the best way to stay in touch with your legislators. Some of these forums are packed and others have only a few people.  You don't need to speak, but you can.  Ask questions, or just go to meet your legislators and say hello.  Click here to find one near you.

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Legislative Guides Now Available

Our popular Guide to the Iowa Legislature has been updated and reprinted, and was mailed this week to all of our readers that have given us their addresses. This Guide includes leadership changes, new committee assignments, and new legislators (three special elections were held since our last printing).  If you do not receive your Guide by February 25, let us know and we'll get you one (infonet@idaction.org).  You can also see it online here.

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Bill Tracker

Check out disability-related bills that have been introduced so far this year  - click here to go to our Bill Tracker.

NOTE: It will take us a few days to update the Bill Tracker and clear out all the inactive bills, so check back frequently.  All bils still eligible for debate this year can be found in the "Active" list.  Bills that didn't make the cut this year can be found on the "Inactive" list. In the meantime - click here for a PDF version of this Issue, which includes a complete list of bills that lived & died.

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