2015 INFONET #4

Issue 4, 3/11/2015

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The Iowa Legislature passed two milestones this weekend.  The legislative session hit its halfway point on Saturday (March 7) - the 55th day in this 110-day session. We know from experience that legislators may go shorter, but usually go longer.  Legislators have a powerful incentive to end session on time.  After 110 days, legislators are no longer paid to be in Des Moines.  After that 110th day, they pay for their own hotel rooms, meals, and gas to drive back and forth to Des Moines each week. They also lose all staff support, so have to perform administrative duties themselves.  This year the 110th day is May 1.  May Day!

The other big milestone was on Friday (March 6), the first "funnel" deadline.  The "first funnel" is part of a process legislators use to narrow the list of issues to be discussed each year.  Bills have to make progress by certain dates (funnels) or they are no longer able to be debated.  All bills are assigned to committees as the first step in the legislative process.  Legislators serving on these committees are the first people that decide a bill's fate. If committee members decide a bill should move on, they vote to pass it.  For a bill to survive this first "funnel" deadline, it needs to have been passed out of committee.  Any bills left in committee after this deadline are now dead.

In Iowa, about one in twelve bills gets signed into law each year.  After this first funnel, about half of the bills tracked in our infoNET Bill Tracker survived the funnel.  The other half are now "inactive" and will see no further action this year.  Read on to find out if your favorites made it - and what options you have if they didn't!


Reminder!  Remember that bills that come out of three committees (Appropriatoins, Ways and Means, Government Oversight) are immune to the legislative funnel deadlines.  So bills that spend money, deal with oversight on govermment spending, or changes taxes can be discussed at any time during the session. They are alive until the session ends.

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As noted earlier, about half of the bills tracked in the infoNET Bill Tracker will continue on in the legislative process.  The next deadline coming up (the "second funnel") is on Friday, April 3. By that date, a bill will have to pass out of one chamber (House or Senate) and then pass out of committe in the other chamber.  That's a lot of work for over the next three weeks. That means lots of debate over the next two weeks.  You don't have to come to the Capitol to watch debate - you have a few options:

  • Watch Live Debate
    • You can watch live debate in the Senate here.
    • You can watch live debate in the House here.

  • Watch Archived Debate
    • You can watch debate on a specific bill in the Senate here.
    • You can watch debate on a specific bill in the House here.
    • You can watch an entire day's debate in the Senate here.
    • You can watch an entire day's debate in the House here.

The following bills remain eligible for debate.  If you see something you like, make sure you let your legislators know.  You can use our Grassroots Action Center to send an email to your legislators (you don't even need to know who they are).   As you know, legislators are debating bills now so the status listed below may change. You can alwasy find out the current status (updated daily) here.


  • HF198 - Medicaid Special Needs Trusts - Allows special needs trusts to be used in ways that are "no more restrictive than what is specified in federal law."  Iowa's law was more restrictive in order to protect the individual with a disability; these changes take out those extra protections.  Many people have confused special needs trusts with the ABLE Act.  Special needs trusts have nothing to do with the Able Act, which allows for special savings accounts managed by the individual with a disability.  Special needs trusts and ABLE accounts are both tools to help individuals with disabilities pay for non-covered expenses without losing state or federal assistance. Introduced by Heaton and Heddens.  (Status: House Floor)

  • HF543 - ICF/ID Bed Limit - This bill begins the process of permanently reducing the number of beds at the State Resource Centers. First, it freezes the number of ICF/ID (intermediate care facility for persons with intellectual disabiliities) beds at the State Resource Centers at 395. Second, beginning July 1, 2015, that number will be permanently reduced based on outplacement and census decline.   So as people leave the State Resource Centers and move into the community, the bed will permanently close.  Future placement will need to be found in a community-based setting.  The bill directs the State Resource Centers to continue to downsize and restructure to meet the needs of the number of people actually served.  Introduced by Heaton.  (Status: House Floor)
  • HF218 - Iowa Telehealth Act - Iowans in rural areas often find it difficult to find specialists in their areas, and mental health professionals in particular are in short supply. Whether you need a consult with a cardiac specialist for a heart issue, or a psychiatirst for a med-check, it can be tough to find someone to provide the service, to provide it in a timely manner, and to arrange transportation to get to the appointment.  Providers are using telehealth now (usually video conferencing or iPad facetime), but they are not being reimbursed for this visit.  That is a pretty significant barrier for many providers, particularly since most providers make sure another health professional is with the patient during the telehealth session (so they still have that personal interaction).  This bill addresses part of that barrier by requiring that Medicaid reimburse for services delivered through telehealth.  The original bill would have required private insurers do the same, but the bill didn't stand a chance of passing, so it was taken out of the bill.  The bill will get a new number - it just wasn't available at the time of this report. Introduced by Heaton.  (Status: House Floor)

  • HF247 - Public Assistance Programs/Eligibility Determination - Directs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to establish a computerized eligibility determination system to verify that a person is eligible for services (verifying income, reviewing assets, confirming identity).  The reason for this system is to eliminate duplication, waste, fraud, and abuse. Some legislators wonder if this is needed and have expressed some concern that it may slow down the already backlogged eligibility determination process.  (Status: House Floor)

  • HF449 - Inpatient Psychiatric Bed Tracking - It's no secret that Iowa has a shortage of inpatient mental health beds, and finding them when a person is in crisis can be challenging.  Sheriffs have told stories of driving four hours for a hospital bed, only to find out that bed is taken. They then turn around and drive another six hours to the next available bed, after someone spends hours on the phone looking for one.  Everyone agrees this isn't the best use of law enforcement time, and it's most definitely not helping the person that is in crisis and needing services immediately.  This bill directs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to spend up to $200,000  to create an Inpatient Psychiatric Bed Tracking System. Once in place, the clerk of courts will be able to use the electronic tracking system database to find openings and arrange placements without spending hours on the phone and taking up law enforcement time.  DHS is to work with the courts, hospitals, MH/DS regions, the state mental health institutes, Iowa Behavioral Health Association, Iowa State Sheriffs' and Deputies' Association, and the Iowa Association of Community Providers in developing this system.. Introduced by Heaton. (Status: House Floor)

  • HF468 - Mental Health Advocates - One of the recommendations that came out of the Mental Health and Disability Services (MH/DS) Redesign was that the state's mental health advocates be hired by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, and be paid for by the counties.  Unfortunately, this came at the same time as a downsizing in state government, and a strong desire to "not grow government."  The addition of 200 employees defintely appeared to "grow state government."  So this bill is the compromise.  It requires the state's mental health advocates to be hired and paid for by the counties.  That doesn't mean each county has to have an advocate, they can still share advocates as they do now.  Right now, only one county is allowed to do this (Polk County).  Now all counties will be the same.  It is made clear in the bill that the counties and regions are not allowed to interfere with the decisions made by the mental health advocate, who is the advocate for a person with a mental illness that is going through the committment process.  (Status: House Floor)
  • HF506 & SF328 - Absentee Ballot Deadlines - This has been a very controversial issue for the past year, when county auditors pointed out that the US Postal Service was not always postmarking absentee ballots.  This isn't really an issue except when it comes to those mailed within a few days of the election.  Currently absentee ballots received before Election Day are counted, but those received by mail on or after Election Day must have a postmark that shows it was mailed before Election Day.  News reports showed large percentages of ballots being thrown out because they lacked the postmark, and with elections coming down to a few votes in recent years, that's a big issue.  The state can't direct the US Postal Service to postmark ballots, so county auditors are proposing this bill which would require absentee ballots to be received by the end of they day on Election Day.  No ballots would be accepted after Election Day.  The Senate version of this bill continues to allow post-marked ballots be counted after Election Day if they are received by the Monday following the election, and they have a postmark.  (Status:Senate & House Floors)
  • HF510 - MH/SA Transportation Contracts - As mentioned above, county sheriffs often spend hours, sometimes entire days, transporting people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders to hospitals that have open beds. This bill would allow a county or mental health/disability services (MH/DS) region to contract with a private company to transport people with substance use disorders or mental illness to a hospital or facility (where they have been involuntarily or voluntarily committed).   The private company is required to make arrangements for transfer to a different facility if the facility or hospital determines better treatment would be given at another location, and must complly with safety standards for both the public and the person.  The Department of Public Health and Department of Human Services is directed to work with stakeholders (counties, law enforcement, sheriffs, regions) to develop rules.  (Status: House Floor)
  • HF534 - Psychiatrist Stipends - Iowa has a shortage of psychiatrists - we are 47th in the number of psychiatrists per capita.  That means only three states have fewer psychiatrists per person in their state than Iowa.  That shortage is even worse for child psychiatrists.  This bill makes changes to the Mental Health Professional Shortage Area Program to allow stipends to be used to support psychiatric positions at Psychiatric Medical Institutions for Children (PMICs) that provide outpatient mental health services to children and their families, and at least 50% of the outpatient clients are covered by Medicaid.  (Status: House Floor)

  • HF579 - Elder Group Home/Assisted Living/Adult Day Care Regulation  - This bill has been proposed after families raised concerns that "bad players" in the delivery of long-term care services were just closing one place and re-opening another place.  This bill states that applications for a new or newly purchased health care facility, elder group home, assisted living program, and adult day service program can be denied if the applicant has repeatedly failed to operate in compliance with the law in other facilities. The bill also states that in a dependent adult abuse case, an attorney cannot be both legal counsel and a guardian representing the dependent adult.  (Status:  House Floor)

  • HF588- Removable Disability Parking Placards - Current law allows individuals with disabilities to get a removable windshield parking placard that does not expire.  Unfortunately, there has been reported misuse of these placards, as they are not always returned upon the person's death. Others use them, even if they do not have a disability, and there is now way to enforce this since law enforcement don't know that there has been a violation.  To address this, legislators proposed this bill that will eliminate these non-expiring placards, and replace them with a placard that expires every five years.  The placard can be renewed as many times as needed.  The bill also requires the  removable windshield placard be displayed in a manner that   allows the entire placard to be visible through the vehicle's   windshield. Applies to new placards issued after January 1, 2016. -  (Status: House Floor)
  • SF223 & HF 157 - Poor Relative Support Costs - Eliminates the requirement that relatives of a poor person can be made to pay back a county for moneys spent supporting that poor person.  Under the bill, only the poor person is responsible for repayment. (Status: SF 223 passed Senate, 49-0; both bills are on House Floor)


  • SF202 - PT/OT/Speech Insurance Copayments - Prohibits insurers from requiring higher co-payments for physical therapists, occupational therapists, or speech pathologists (they are to be the same as a doctors visit).  Applies to individual and group policies after July 1, 2015. Successor to SSB1094. -  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF271 - Court Interpreters - Courts can be pretty intimidating places; now imagine you cannot understand what is going on.  This bill makes sure that anyone that is considered "limited English proficient," including those who are hearing impaired, are entitled to an interpreter in legal proceedings and court-related programs.  The bill says that the cost of the interpreter cannot be charged to the person.  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF293 - Mental Health Professional Loan Forgiveness ProgramThis bill offers yet one more way to address Iowa's mental health professional shortage issue by creating a school loan forgiveness program for mental heath professionals.  Mental health professionals would have their school loans foregiven for up to five years if they work in underserved areas. The bill does not actually appropriate any money for the program.  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF306 - Guardianship Communications - When a person is unable to safely make decisions for him/herself, a guardian can be chosen to make decisions for that person.  Sometimes a guardian makes decisions about who is allowed to visit or communicate with the person, and the person has no way of overriding that decision. This bill states that if a person wishes to have a visitor or communicate with a person, the guardian is not able to restrict that visit or interfere with communications. The guardian can set reasonable time limits or decide on the place for those visits, and can also go to court to show good cause why the visits or communications would not be in the best interest of their ward (the legal term for the person who has the guardian).  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF331 - Online Voter Registration - People bank online. They can renew their drivers licenses online.  They sign their kids up for activiites online, and buy birthday presents online. You can renew your car registrations online, and pay your parking and speeding tickets online. iowans can go online and check to see if they are registered to vote, but they cannot actually register to vote or update their information after a move.  That's what this bill does - allows voters to register to vote online and change their voter information online through the Secretary of State's website.   (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF333 - MHI AcceptanceThe state is in the process of closing down two of the state's four Mental Health Institutes - the ones in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant.  The MHIs stopped taking new patients on Febrruary 2.  This bill directs these MHIs to continue accepting patients through June 30, 2015. (Status: Senate Floor)
  • SF345 & HF490 - Governor's Anti-Bullying Bill - Students with disabilities are 2-3 times more likely to be bullied.  In fact, one study shows that 60% of students with disabilities reported being bullied regularly, compared to 25% of all students.  The Governor has made fighting bullies one of his top priorities for the last four years, and he's trying again this year.  This bill requires all school districts provide training on how to investigate bullying incidents in schools.  School districts are only required to provide this training to at least one employee per year.  The Department of Education is required to establish a student mentoring pilot program to empower students to be leaders in the fight against bullies.  The bill also expands the definition of bullying to include social media and social networking websites, and broadens the definitions of "bullying" and "harassment" to capture more incidents. School anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies would need to require prompt notification of parents/guardians of all students involved in a reported incident (exceptions to the notification policy are made if the target of the bullying believes notification would subject the child to rejection, abuse or neglect related to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression).  The bill also outlines certain conditions in which school officials can be granted authority to investigate and enforce school discipline even if the alleged incidents occurred off school grounds/ outside of school functions.  The bill also allows kids that are bullied to change schools (open enrollment) and immediately participate in sports (right now there is a 90-day waiting period before an open enrolled child can play sports).  The bill appropriates $150,000 to pay for the training programs and $50,000 for the student mentoring pilot program.   (Status: Senate Floor; HF 490 is in House Appropriations Committee, )
  • SF372 - Durable Medical Equipment Licensure - Individuals with disabilities may rely on durable medical equipment to perform activities of daily living. That equipment is often key to staying independent. Durable medical equipment includes things like wheelchairs, specialized beds, nebulizers, catheters, and diabetic or oxygen supplies. That equipment is also often very expensive, and insurance coverage is pretty limited.  So it may come as a shock to know that providers of durable medical equipment are not licensed in Iowa.  This bill does that - it lists requirements for getting a license and standards of practice.  Licenses are good for 2 years; operating without one is a class "D" felony.   (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF386 - Psychogeriatric Long-Term Care StudyThis bill asks that an interim study committee look at the possibility of designating one or more facilities to provide care and treatment for persons who are sexually aggressive, combative, or who have unmet geropsychiatric needs and are in need of long-term care services. (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF401 - Subacute Care for Involuntary Commitments -  During the redesign of the MHDS system, it became very clear that Iowa did not have enough inpatient beds. It also became clear that there were big gaps between community-based services and inpatient care.  There was nothing in the middle.  That's why the state passed rules to create a "subacute" level of care, to provide a different option than inpatient (hospital) beds.  This bill simply allows, after a hospitalization hearing has been held, a court to order a person be involuntarily committed on an inpatient basis to a subacute care facility.  Currently courts can only order placement to an inpatient (acute care) facility.  (Status:Senate Floor)

  • SF402 - MHI Closures - Another bill dealing with the closures of Iowa's two mental health institutes.  This bill stops the closing the Mount Pleasant and Clarinda Mental Health Institutes (MHIs) until a suitable and appropriate comprehensive and long-term care and treatment plan is developed by DHS and approved by the Legislature.  This plan is to ensure that the diagnostic and treatment service needs of patients in the acute inpatient psychiatric mental health and geropsychiatric programs at Clarinda and the psychiatric and substance abuse recovery programs at Mount Pleasant are met. (Status: Senate Floor)
  • SF430 - School-Based Mental Health Services Pilots - There has been a lot of discussion about mental health service options for children in Iowa (or lack thereof).  Many mental health professionals believe it is important to take the services to the places where kids are, like schools.  This bill would establish school-based mental health pilot projects run by Area Education Agencies.  The bill provides $2.5 million to the Department of Education to do this; the money will be distributed to the Area Education Agencies as grants.  The bill states that the programs are to be in partnership with local mental health providers.  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF272 - Improper Use/Accessible Parking - City officials say it is not clear that Iowa law allows a city to either fine a person for illegally parking in an accessible parking spot or file criminal charges (which a city may want to do for repeat offenders).  This bill makes it very clear that there are two options - a $100 civil fine or a $200 criminal fine.  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF463 - MH/DS Redesign Clean-Up - I really wish this bill was more exciting, but its just a clean-up bill. There was a lot of things that were missed when the state rewrote all of the laws about local mental health and disability services.  This entire bill is considered corrective.  (Status:Senate Floor)

  • SF464- Prevention of Disabilities Council - Makes the Prevention of Disabilities Council permanent (currently sunsets on July 1, 2015), and changes's the council's membership and duties.  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF465- CARE Act - AARP did a recent survey and found that two out of every three family caregivers  assist with complex care like medication management and overseeing other nursing and medical tasks such as wound care and IVs and injections.  At the same time, less than half say they were given training on these tasks before their loved one was released from a hospital.  That is why AARP introdued the CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act. It does three things: 1) requires hospitals to provide each patient or legal guardian the opportunity to designate a caregiver that will be helping out once released from the hospital;;  2) Requires hospitals give designated caregivers as much notice as possible before discharging the person; and 3) Requires hospitals provide live demonstrations (with opportunity to ask questions) of any medical tasks that would need to be done at home.  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SF440 & HF551 - SA/MH Interstate Contracts - This is another bill that tries to address Iowa's shortage in psychiatric inpatient beds and inpatient substance abuse treatment beds.  Local officials in border communities say that psychicatic beds are often available near them, but they are in another state. Right now, out-of-state placements are not covered by regions or the state, so the only option is to drive much further (sometimes taking an entire day) to a hospital in Iowa with available beds.  This bill simply allows  counties or MH/DS regions to contract with a public or private entity in a bordering state to provide substance abuse or mental health treatment for persons in need of care.  This would be allowed for both voluntary and involuntary commitments.  However, persons serving a criminal sentence, or who are on probation or parole, or who are under investigation are not eligible for this care. (Status: Senate & House Floors)

  • SF439 - Iowa ABLE Savings Plans - This issue has generated an incredible amount of interest among our readers, and we're excited to report that the bill survived the funnel and is moving through the process.  This bill Creates an Iowa ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) savings plan trust and provides various individual income tax and inheritance tax benefits. The program allows persons with disabilities to set up trust accounts with the state treasurer and deposit private funds. The funds and earnings can be used to pay for future disability-related expenses. The bill defines "qualified disability expenses".  Allows for trustees or legal guardians to be custodians of the accounts in certain circumstances. The bill details how the individual accounts will be set up in the trust and how people can make contributions. The bill details terms and conditions for participation. Provides that interest on the earnings in the trust is excluded from the Iowa inheritance tax. Contributions to the individual accounts in the trust are deductible from the individual income tax, up to the maximum amount allowed as detailed in the bill. Income and earnings are also exempt from the individual income tax. Tax benefits apply retroactively to January 1, 2015.  (Status: Senate Floor)

  • SSB1243 - Medical Cannabis ActThanks to the advocacy of Iowans with epilepsy and their families, Iowa passed a very limited medical marijuana bill last year that allowed Iowans whose neurologists have certified they have a debilitating form of epilepsy to get cards allowing them to carry small amounts of "cannabidial oil" that can be used to treat seizures. The downside, Iowans had to travel to other states where it is legal to sell the substance, and transport it across state lines (a federal felony).  This bill creates a broader "Medical Cannabis Act."  It allows patients with any debilitating medical condition who receive written certification of the condition from their health care practitioner to submit the written certification along with an application to the Department of Public Health for a medical cannabis (marijuana) registration card.  The registration card will allow for the lawful use of medical marijuana to treat the patient's debilitating medical condition. A patient who is issued a medical cannabis registration card will be able to receive medical marijuana directly from a medical cannabis dispensary in this state operated by a medical cannabis manufacturer licensed by the state.  The bill establishes a Medical Advisory Board to determine what medical conditions are eligible for the use of medical marijuana and requires the Department of Public Health to license four medical cannabis manufacturers within his state by December 1, 2015, and to license new medical cannabis manufacturers manufacturers by December 1 of each year. The bill requires a medical cannabis manufacturer to operate three medical cannabis dispensaries in this state. A medical cannabis manufacturer is required to begin dispensing medical cannabis from at least one medical cannabis dispensary by July 1, 2016. The medical cannabis  dispensaries will be located based on geographical need  throughout the state to improve patient access. IDPH is required to maintain a confidential file of the names of each patient and primary caregiver issued a medical cannabis registration card.  The bill prohibits the smoking of medical cannabis; it will be sold in oil form.  (Status: Assigned to Senate Ways and Means Committee; Subcommittee: Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Sen. Jerry Behn, Sen. Bill Dotzler, Sen. Randy Feenstra, Sen. Matt McCoy)

  • SF462 - Epi-Pens in Schools - Parents of children with severe allergies have long advocated for schools to have a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors (epi-pens) available should a child in the school have a severe and life-threatening reaction.  This bill alows school districts to have a supply of epi-pens on hand, kept in a secure location, in each school.  School boards will need to replace the epi-pens as they are used or when they expire. The bill also allows doctors to prescribe epi-pens in the name of the school and also allows certain personnel to administer the epi-pen to a student having an anaphylactic (allergic) reaction.  Those who administer the epi-pen have immunity from legal liability. In addition, epi-pens are added to the list of medications that can be self-administered by students with asthma if they have written permission to do so from their doctor.. (Status:Senate Floor)
  • SSB1253 - Medicaid Program Transformation As you may have noticed, there has been a bit of discussion over the last two months on Medicaid managed care.  Legislators brought in national experts to learn what other states did to make sure their managed care system did more than save money, that it actually led to better services and more efficient operations.  Legislators also wanted to know what their role in the oversight of the system, and were told by these experts that they must have a strong oversight role.  This bill does this by establishing the Medicaid Transformation and Oversight Commission to provide for  legislative involvement and oversight, ensure stakeholder input, consumer protection, and quality assurance in the transition to Medicaid managed care. There is a lot in this bill, which will be detailed at a future date (so check back).  The bill requires the Medicaid managed care contracts to include non-emergency medical transportation (something not included in our current Iowa Health and Wellness Plan). The Commission is allowed to contract with organizations or individuals who can provide assistance in the ongoing evaluation of the Medicaid program and to make evidence-based recommendations to improve the program.  The Commission is to annually report to the Legislature and Governor by January 15.  (Status: Senate Floor)

The following bills are still alive because they are either in the funnel-proof Ways & Means Committee or Appropriations Committee. Some have already passed one chamber and are now in the committee on the other side (so passed House and in Senate Committee, or passed Senate and in House Committee). Those bills ljust need to be voted out of committee before the second (April 3) funnel.

  • HF257 - Tax Deductions/Employment of Persons with Disabilities  - Employment is a big issue for our readers, and there has been a lot of talk over the past three years about supported employment.  Currently, small Iowa businesses are eligible for a tax credit if they hire a person with a disability.  These businesses, which must have no more than 20 employees and no more than $3 million in annual revenues, are able to receive a tax credit to pay for 65% of the employee's wages.  This bill adds to the number of businesses that can qualify for this tax credit - so any Iowa business that has up to 500 employees and $21 million in annual revenues can apply for these tax credits.  The bill is effective upon enactment, and applies to anyone hired on or after January 1, 2015.  (Status: Assigned to House Ways and Means Committee; Subcommittee not yet assigned)
  • HSB177 & SSB 1262 - Governor's Budget for Federal Block Grants - This bill directs the use of federal block grants and other federal funds for the next two fiscal years.  This bill is usually not controversial, but it is this year.  The bill appropriates $3,735,295 of community mental health center block grants (an increase of $146,702) according to plan proposed by DHS. Currently 70% of these funds go to community mental health centers.  This bill instead directs the 70% to MH/DS regions (approximately $2.5 million). The reamining amouts are used by DHS for administration and to carry out plans outline in the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant.  This has become a big issue for CMHCs who say their service areas don't line up with regions, and it is going to overcomplicate a system that is actually working.  The bill also appropriates $13,009,129 to the substance abuse block grant (decrease of $412,882) and eliminates the $24,585 appropriation from the block grant to pay for audits. The bill also appropiriates funding from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - $53,814,346 to community action agencies to help low-income families pay to heat homes (decrease of $997,654).  Social Services Block Grant (SSBG): Appropriates $15,270,606 to the Department of Human Services to pay for administration, staff, and programs (decrease of $1,275,438).  Of these funds: $910,649 to DHS for administration of the funds, $5,446,690 for DHS field operations, $816,094 for DHS child and family services, $577,636 for local DHS offices, $63,241 for volunteers, $7,456,296 for local MH/DS property tax relief (part of the original redesign of the MH/DS system). (Status: Assigned to House & Senate Appropriations Committees; House Subcommittee: Rep. Ken Rizer, Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, Rep. Walt Rogers; Senate Subcommittee: Sen. Amanda Ragan, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Sen. Julian Garrett)

  • SF92 - Income Tax Exemption/Caregivers  - There is another workforce shortage being discussed lately - that of direct careworkers.  That issue has been worked on for many years by the iowa Caregivers Association, but few of the recommendations that came out of a comprehensive study have been implemented.  This bill tries to encourage more people to go into this line of work by exempting the incomes of individuals who work for a non-profit, tax-exempt organizations and provide services to people with a physical or mental impairment from individual income taxes. In short, people that work for a non-profit organization and provide services to people with disabilities will not have to pay state income taxes.  Introduced by Zaun.  (Status:Assigned to Senate Ways and Means Committee Committee; Subcommittee: Sen. Herman Quirmbach, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Sen. Micheal Breitbach)
  • SF201 - Court Commitments/Physician Assistant - Iowa law currently requires physicians, physician assistants, and psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioners to contact the nearest court if they believe a patient is mentally ill and will hurt him/herself or someone else.  If a physician assistant is the one seeing the patient, they must get their supervising physician to first approve their findings. This can take time, since these physicians are not necessarily on site, and may be seeing other patients at the time.  In order to make sure a person in crisis gets the services they need as quickly as possible, this bill would eliminate the requirement that a supervising physician approve the findings before the courts can be contacted.  (Status:  Passed Senate 49-0; House Human Resources Commitee; Subcommittee: Rep. Linda Miller, Rep. Rob Taylor, and Rep. David Dawson)
  • SF234 - Iowa Employment Rides Initiative - Iowans with disabilities are not the only ones that have a tough time finding transportation.  Rural Iowans face the same struggles, and when you live in rural Iowa, your job may not necessarily be in the same town.  This bill tries to address this by creating a new Iowa Employment Rides Initiative in the Iowa Department of Transportation  (DOT) to provide funds to public transit systems for programs and services that offer employment transportation to Iowans.  Funds will be distributed through a competitive grant process; grants cannot exceed $150,000 and must be matched dollar-for-dollar. Anything charged to riders cannot count as this match.   Introduced by Mathis. (Status: Passed Senate, 26-23; Assigned to House Transportation Committee)

  • SF396 - ADA Compliance/Gas Stations- This is an issue we reported on for the past two years - making Iowa's gas stations more accessible.  This bill requires gas stations to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by July 1, 2015.  The bill requires gas station staff to offer refueling assistance to customers with disabilities upon request; requires installing call buttons at the pumps for calls for assistance; and gives an income tax credit to retailers to help pay for the cost of making these changes.(Status: Assigned to Senate Ways and Means Committee; Subcommittee: Sen. Bill Dotzler, Sen. Chaz Allen, Sen. Michael Breitbach)
  •  SSB1105 - Aggregate Tax Credit Limits /EDA Programs - This might seem like a bill that is misplaced on this list.  In Iowa, we have an overall cap (limit) on the amount of tax credits that can be taken.  There are hundreds of tax credits, some for businesses, some for individuals and families, and others that encourage people to do things like get training to work in a certain trade.  This bill reduces that overall tax credit limit by $20 million - so no more than $150 million in tax credits could be used in any given year.  In Iowa, there is a tax credit that helps pay for assistive technology purchaes, and that is includedi n this overall limt.  So it could affect how much money is available for that program (although it is very, very small compared to the other ones in this category).  (Status: Assigned to Senate Ways and Means Committee; Subcommittee: Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Sen. Randy Feenstra, Sen. Herman Quirmbach)

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Not all bills were lucky enough to make the cut in this funnel deadline.You can see a complete list of these bills in our Bill Tracker by switching the menu on the top of the list from "Active" to "Inactive" and clicking "Search Bills."  You will be able to see the other half of the bills we've been tracking.  These bills are dead for the rest of sesison, but that doesn't mean a clever legislator (like yours most certainly is) can't find a way to revive it.  Legislators can add these bills as amendments on other bills, they can put them in budget bills, or they can run them out of "funnel-proof" committees like Government Oversight.  Where there is a will....there is definitely a way.

So if you see something in this list you wish had stayed alive a bit longer, talk to your legislators! 

  • HF96- Creates regulations for transportation network companies like Uber.
  • HF113 - Allows registered voters to apply electronically for an absentee ballot
  • HF138 - Gets rid of the option to register to vote on election day (at the polls).
  • HF235 - Changes to membership on the Commission for the Blind. 
  • HF252 - Improves the transition of patients/residents from the hospital to readmission in a nursing facility. 
  • HF265 - Allows anyone to file for involuntary commitment of a person with an intellectual disabilities who is a danger to self or others.
  • HF317 - Allows for the use of telehealth services by mental health professionals and requires insurance cover it.
  • HF328 - Modifies definitions for elder abuse and financial exploitation. 
  • HF349 - Prohibits discrimination in health plans that cover the essential health benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  • HF361 - Establishes a Children's Mental Health and Disability Services (MH/DS) Advisory Council.
  • HF362 - Directs DHS to develop alternative transportation options for persons with mental illness.
  • HF380 - Creates a Music Therapy Advisory Council and licenses music therapists. 
  • HF451 -Requires the Board of Education Examiners to drop new rules on special education endorsements
  • HF500 - Allows a Special Olympics license plates.
  • HSB189 - Makes changes to emergency holds for the hospitalization for persons with serious mental illness.
  • HSB202 - Requires reporting of potential concussions in high school sports.
  • HSB82 - Prioritizes waiting lists for Medicaid home and community-based service waivers.
  • SF3 - Requires drivers education courses include more information on accessible parking.
  • SF22 - Makes it a crime to abuse a service dog.
  • SF156 - Creates an inter-agency work group regarding community living for the elderly and persons with disabilities.
  • SF162 - A different approach to antibullying. 
  • SF169 - Establishes depression screening for older Iowans, administered by the ADRCs.
  • SF183 - Requires ID to vote.
  • SF282 - Reclassifies marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinols.
  • SF325 - Creates a pilot program for transferring mental health and substance abuse patients.
  • SSB1250 - Makes changes to the court orders for outpatient treatment of a person with a serious mental impairment.
  • SSB1252 - Directs DHS to recognize complex rehabilitation technology products that can be reimbursed by Medicaid. 

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The Department of Human Services originally planned four public meetings on the plan to transform Iowa's Medicaid system by transitioing it to managed care, thus privitizing the administration of the state's $4 billion insurance program.  The meetings held so far have been packed, with people sitting on floors and along walls in the back. To make sure all Iowans have a chance to learn more and ask questions about the plan, DHS has scheduled three additional meetings.  The announcement is available here.

There are four meetings now left with the addition of these new meetings:

  • Friday, March 13 (10:00-11:30 am) in Iowa City - Johnson County Health & Human Services, Room 203, 855 S. Dubuque Street
  • Monday, March 16 (12:30-2:00 pm) in Counci Bluffs - Auditorium at Iowa Western Community College, 2700 College Road
  • Wednesday, March 18 (10:00-11:30 am) in Mason City - FIrst Citizens National Bank (Heritage Room), 2601 4th Street SW
  • Thursday, March 26 (12:00-1:30 pm) in Sioux City - Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center (Salon C), 300 3rd Stree

You have the option of calling into any of these meetings except Iowa City.  The call-in information is the same for all - dial 866-685-1580, and use the Participant Code (542.870.0217). You can also submit comments by email to: MedicaidModernization@dhs.state.ia.us

  • You can access the RFP here.
  • You can view the new fact sheet that answers many frequently asked questions here.
  • You can read a copy of the DHS presentation materials here.

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Advocating For Change Day

The Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, ID Action and Polk County Health Services invite you to participate in Advocating for Change Day on April 22, 2015. 

Advocating for Change Day is a day specifically for Iowans affected by disability to become skilled at communicating with their legislators and other state officials.  As a participant you will have the opportunity to learn how to develop and deliver an effective message, visit with available legislators and other elected officials and lobbyists, and watch the legislative process from the galleries (when the Senate and/or House are in session).

It's free to participate and those that register will receive a free lunch.  Space is limited, so register now.  Here's how:

  • Fill out the online form to get registered for the event. To register by mail, click here to download the registration brochure.  Register to attend by April 6, 2015  to guarantee your free lunch.

  • Group Registration:  You can register up to 30 people per online form. To register a group by mail, click here to download the group registration form.

  • If you have any questions about registration, please contact ID Action at contactus@idaction.org or 866-432-2846.

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The infoNET Grassroots Action Center is easy to use - it really does take just minutes to email your legislators.  We have a new video starring Rik Shannon, the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council public policy manager.  He's a familiar face to many of you, and he'll show you just how easy it is to email your legislations in less than three minutes! 


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Keep track of bills that may impact the lives of individuals with disabilities in our Bill Tracker.  Status is updated daily.

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Most legislators hold public forums and town hall meetings when they are back in their districts on Fridays and Saturdays. These are excellent opportunities for you to meet your legislators, learn from them, and educate them on your priorities. Click here to find a forum near you.

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