2016 ISSUE #3

Issue 3, 2/21/2016

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Session started five weeks ago, and since that time legislators have sponsored nearly 1,000 bills dealing with everything from human trafficking to turtle harvesting and snowmobiling with guns.  This “clutter” of bills can be as difficult to manage as a desk piled high with papers; at some point you have to take a look at each piece of paper and decide whether to keep it or drop it in the recycling bin.  That’s why legislators set deadlines for themselves - to clean out the clutter so they can focus on the bills that have a real chance of becoming law.  Friday (February 19) was the first of two legislative deadlines, called a "funnel." 

To beat the funnel deadline, bills had to be voted out of their first assigned committees by Friday, February 19.  Anything left behind in committee is now dead, and will no longer be discussed. There are a few exceptions - bills that spend money, include a tax, or come out of the Government Oversight Committee are exempt from this deadline.   Starting this week, legislators can now only work on House bills that have made it out of House committees (and Senate bills that have come out of Senate committees).

So as the outdoor temperatures increase this weekend, look at this deadline as the legislative version of spring cleaning.  You can see the entire list of active and inactive bills tracked for our readers here

Some of the bills that survived the first funnel deadline would:

  • End Medicaid managed care contracts (SF 2125).
  • Require greater government oversight of Medicaid managed care system (SF 2213).
  • Guarantee access to speech therapy for children in Medicaid managed care plans (SF 2145)
  • Roll out a children’s mental health crisis services system and pay for well-being learning labs (SF 2161)
  • Allow MH/DS regions to raise all of their money from local property taxes, so no state funds needed  (SF 2236)
  • Increase supported employment provider rates by 20% as was promised in last year's budget  (HF 2272 & SF 2101)
  • Mandate insurance coverage for eating disorder assessment and treatment (SF
  • Require private insurers pay for applied behavioral analysis (ABA) for people with autism (SF 2072).
  • Fully fund Medicaid for the current year with an $80 million additional appropriation (SF 2109)
  • Require athletic trainers be present at high school contact sport matches to assess potential head injuries (SF 2225)
  • Expand membership on the Commission for the Blind to include one member representing the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa and appointed by the Iowa Council of the United Blind (HF 2287)
  • Expand Iowa’s limited medical cannabidiol law to include all forms of epilepsy, MS, and terminal cancer, and authorize two dispensaries so people can purchase the oil in Iowa (HSB 607).

Bills that didn’t make the cut include legislation that would have:

  • Increased the minimum age of smoking to 21 (and included vaping in the definition of smoking).
  • Required legislative approval for all Medicaid waivers and state plan amendments.
  • Established an Iowa Health Workforce Center to coordinate health and long-term care workforce efforts in the state.
  • Prohibited insurers from requiring providers take all plans they offer, commercial and Medicaid.
  • Expanded access to telehealth services by eliminating reimbursement barriers.
  • Created lottery games to fund support for persons with MS.
  • Made it tougher to misuse accessible parking placards.
  • Added tax deductions to any size business that hires people with disabilities.

You can always find this list (updated daily) here.  

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The Iowa Senate voted to end the Governor's move to privatize Medicaid last week.  The vote was bipartisan (29-19), with all 26 Democrats and 3 Republicans (Chapman, Johnson, Shipley) voting for the Senate File 2125.  A fourth Republican (Zaun) had to miss the vote, but submitted a written statement saying he would have supported it.  You can see how your Senator voted here.

The bill now goes to the House, where the House Human Resources Committee will make a final decision on whether to move the bill forward.  They have until March 11 to make that decision. 

The Senate plans to have another subcommittee hearing on the Medicaid Program Integrity & Managed Care Oversight Bill (new number SF 2213) on Wednesday, February 24 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 116 at the State Capitol.  The Senate will live-stream it and it can be watched later here. This forum coincides with an anti-Medicaid managed care rally earlier that day at the Capitol, led by former Governor Chet Culver.   No word from CMS on Medicaid managed care.  Legislators had hoped they would hear something by Friday letting the state know if they can "go live" with Medicaid managed care on March 1, or whether an alternative date will be set. 

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The House announced its budget targets last week.  These "targets" show how much House leaders want to spend in each area of the budget. The Governor made his budget recommendations during the first week of session, and the Senate set their targets several weeks ago.   All three must eventually work together develop a final budget, and if you compare their budget targets you'll quickly realize that an agreement may not come easily.  You can see a full comparision here.

The Governor and Senate are pretty close on overall spending, but the House targets are nearly $100 million lower than the Governor and Senate.  If you look at the Health and Human Services Budget, which includes Medicaid funding, both House and Governor are the same and are about $1 million less than the current year.  The Senate adds $15 million, most of which goes to Medicaid.

Targets mean you will soon see legislators writing their budgets, and making decisions on what will (and won't) get funded this year. This year the House will start the Agriculture/Natural Resources, Economic Growth, Health/Human Services, Judicial Branch, Justice Systems, and Standings budgets.  The Senate will start the ball rolling on Administration/Regulation, Education, Federal Block Grant, Infrastructure, and Transportation budgets. 

Now is a good time to let your legislators know what your priorities are in funding, before they get too far along on their budget details.  And you have time, because not much will happen before the March revenue estimates are released.  These estimates will set the final threshold for legislative spending, since legislators will have a firm grasp on how much revenue the state will take in for the year, and how much they can spend (by law, they can spend 99% of this estimate).  Depending on how much those estimates change, House and Senate budget targets may need to be tweaked (lets hope for “tweak” and not “overhaul”).

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Legislators have begun to announce their plans for re-election or retirement.  As you know, State Representatives must run for office every two years, and State Senators every four years.  That means all 100 State Representatives will have to run for re-election in November, and half (even numbered districts) of the 50 State Senators are up for re-election.  

Anyone wishing to run for legislative office must file their paperwork by 5 pm. on Friday, March 18.  So after that date we'll know which legislators have opponents, and which legislators are calling it quits.  So far the following legislators have said they will not seek re-election: Representatives Josh Byrnes, Ron Jorgensen, John Kookier, Linda Miller, Brian Moore, Kraig Paulsen, Quentin Stanerson, and Sally Stutsman and Senator Dick Dearden.  

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Legislators will spend the next two weeks in floor debate in an effort to get bills that survived the first funnel moving before the second funnel deadline hits on March 11 (when bills need to have been voted out of one chamber, and then out of committee in the other chamber).  That means a House bill needs to be voted out of the House, and then voted out of a Senate committee in the next three weeks.  With just eleven working days before that next deadline, legislators will want to move quickly on bills to give committees on the other side time for discussion.You can listen to or watch live or archived floor debate live from your computers, tablets, and smartphones at www.legis.iowa.gov.

Key Dates to Remember:

  • March 1 - Spread the Word to End the Word Capitol Day
  • March 8 - Children's Mental Health & Trauma Response Coalition Capitol Day
  • March 10 - Epilepsy Foundation of Iowa Capitol Day
  • March 10 - Iowa Association of Community Providers' Legislative Lunch & Capitol Day
  • March 11 - Second Funnel Deadline (House bills out of Senate committees; Senate bills out of House committees)
  • March 14 - NAMI Iowa Capitol Day
  • March 18 - Legislative candidates must file papers if they want to run for office.
  • March 22 - Woodward/Glenwood State Resource Centers Capitol Day
  • March 23 - Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services Legislative Social
  • March 24 - Iowa Association for the Deaf Capitol Day
  • April 19 - Last day of session (100 days) - but they can go longer, they just have to work without pay)

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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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