2018 Issue #5

Issue 5, 3/17/2018

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We warned you this issue would be full of surprises, and we will not let you down. The week started off with promising news about the state’s budget and ended with the dual deadlines (March 16 was the last day to get bills out of committee and the last day for people wanting to run for the legislature or statewide office to file their paperwork).  

But perhaps the most shocking news of the week happened inside the statehouse when Sen. Bill Dix resigned as both Senate Majority Leader and as a State Senator, effective immediately, on Monday (March 12).   Senate Republicans quickly named two-term Senator Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) as their new Majority Leader.  Sen. Whitver had been the Senate President.

Sen. Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) becomes the new Senate President, a position that makes him the next Governor should something happen to Governor Kim Reynolds before the November election.   Sen. Schneider had also served in a leadership position (Majority Whip); that position goes now to Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton), the only woman in the Senate Republican Caucus.  

Sen. Schneider will continue to serve as the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee through the end of the session, as a change now with the budgets kicking into high gear would be session-extending.   You can see a complete update on the new leadership team on page 7 of our revised 2018 Guide to the Iowa Legislature here.

Another Special Election on April 10.  While candidates for the November election are getting their papers before the March 16 deadline, two others scrambled to get on the ballot for the special election to fill Sen. Dix’s seat.  The Governor called the election for Tuesday, April 10, 2018.  Senate District 25 includes both Hardin and Guthrie Counties, as well as the Southern and Eastern Story County (including Roland, McCallisburg, Zearing, Nevada, Colo, Maxwell, Collins, Cambridge, and Huxley) and parts of Southern Butler County (including Applington, Parkersburg, New Hartford, and Shell Rock). 

Former State Representative Annette Sweeney has announced she will resign her Trump-appointed USDA position to run as the Republican (she reportedly has the full support of US Senator Chuck Grassley).   Tracy Friese, who already filed paperwork to be on the November ballot against Dix, will seek the Democratic nomination for the special election.   Either way, the Senate will add another woman to its ranks after April 10.  Currently there is one Republican woman and five Democratic women in the 50-member Senate.

If you live in this district, call your county auditor for more information about voting options. With a short turn-around, those wanting to vote at home may not have much time to request a ballot and get it back to your auditor.  You can find a list of auditors here.

Who’s Counting? We are!  This is the 8th special election since the last legislative election.

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The Iowa Legislature will not look the same next year.  In addition to being the second funnel deadline, March 16th was also the filing deadline for legislative candidates to file their papers for the November election.  As expected, there are a large number of retirements, leaving seats open for a legislative newcomer.  Here is the list of retirements, as of the Friday filing deadline.

  • TWO REPUBLICAN SENATORS NOT RUNNING AGAIN: Senate Republicans currently have 29 seats in the Iowa Senate, but only ten of them are up for election this year.  Two of those ten are retiring:
  • THREE DEMOCRATIC SENATORS NOT RUNNING AGAIN: Senate Democrats have 20 seats in the Iowa Senate, and nearly all of them (14) are up this year.  The three retiring Senators are the Senate's most senior members, with more than 100 years of service combined.  They include:
    • Sen. Matt McCoy of Des Moines (Senate District 21) is leaving after 22 years in the Senate to run for Polk County Supervisor. 
    • Sen. Wally Horn of Cedar Rapids (Senate District 35) is the longest continually serving state legislator in Iowa’s history. He is finishing his ninth four-year term in the Iowa Senate. Before that, he served five two-year terms in the Iowa House.
    • Sen. Bob Dvorsky of Coralville (Senate District 37) has served 24 years in the Iowa Senate and 7 years in the Iowa House.
  • ONLY INDEPENDENT IN SENATE RUNNING AGAIN: State Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedon (Senate District 1) is the only Independent member of the Iowa Senate. He too is up for re-election, but this will be his first running as an Independent. He was previously elected as a Republican, before changing his party affiliation after President Trump insulted people with disabilities.  Three people are seeking the Republican nomination to run against Sen. Johnson in the November election.
  • FOUR DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVES NOT RUNNING AGAIN: House Democrats currently have 41 seats in the Iowa House of Representatives, and all are up for re-election.  The following will not be running again:
    • Rep. Helen Miller of Ft. Dodge (House District 9)
    • Rep. Todd Taylor of Cedar Rapids (House District 70) is running (unopposed) for Sen. Horn's seat.
    • Rep. Jerry Kearns of Keokuk (House District 83)
    • Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque (House District 99) is running for Congress (if she wins the primary, she will run against U.S. Rep. Rod Blum).

There were a few familiar names in the list of those running this year:

  • Former State Representative Dave Dawson of Lawton will run against Senator Jim Carlin (who won the Senate District 3 seat in a primary election in December).  
  • Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the former Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health who ran against Congressman David Loebsack multiple times, has announced she is running as the Republican for Senator Mark Chelgren's seat.

Overall, there are 34 legislators currently running unopposed (24 House Democrats, 5 House Republicans, 1 Senate Republican, 4 Senate Democrats).  Five Republican legislators have someone challenging them in the primary (Sen. Jack Whitver, Rep. Mike Sexton, Rep. David Sieck, Rep. Peter Cownie, Rep. David Maxwell).  One Democratic legislator faces primary competition (Rep. Rick Olson).

You can see the full list of primary election candidates here.  If a party did not field a candidate before the March 16 deadline, it can still pick someone at their party convention.  The primary election is Tuesday, June 5, 2018.  You can check your registration and more online at sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterinformation/primaryelection2018.html.

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BUDGET OUTLOOK: Things Looking Better, But Do Not Get Excited Yet!

The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met on Friday and increased their estimates for this year (FY2018) and next year (FY2019).  Most of this increase is because of changes in federal tax laws after passage of the Trump tax cuts.   It now looks like there will be $33 million more than was estimated in December for the current fiscal year, which could mean very few (if any) mid-year cuts.  For next year, it looks like there will be an extra $207 million to spend, but legislators are cautious about this, not knowing if these increases will be repeated in future years.  On top of that, several legislators are eyeing those funds to stabilize Medicaid and pay for a part of the $1 billion in tax cuts proposed by the Governor.

Legislators do think they will have to make some cuts to the current year budget.  The House and Senate have passed different versions of the deappropriations bill (SF 2117), which propose midyear cuts of $30-50 million.

This week, we expect to see the budget discussions heating up.  There will likely be a decision made about deappropriations, budget targets will be released so the appropriations subcommittees can begin drawing up their budgets, and decisions on how all of this will fit into a tax reform package.  It's a lot to do with only a little over a month left in session, but once decisions are made, things happen very fast.

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PRIORITY UPDATE: Where Did Your Issues Land?

The leadership bombshell in the Senate threw the funnel week schedule further into chaos, so many bills that faced an unhill battle just ended up being thrown overboard.  How the Senate’s priorities change in these final weeks remains up in the air, but with less than 30 days left in the 100-day session, there isn't anything on legislative "must do" lists other than budget, mental health, and possibly tax reform.  

Here are a few things that are still alive:

  • Service Animal Legislation: Rep. Jon Jacobsen (R-Council Bluffs) will manage debate on SF 2365, which makes it a crime for someone to misrepresent themselves an owner or trainer of an assistive animal, and allows landlords to ban service animals if a person cannot show need and proof of proper training.
  • Complex Mental Health & Disability Service Needs:  The bill (HF 2456) enacting the recommendations of the state’s Complex Needs (MH/DS) work group is in prime position to be sent to the Governor soon.  Sen. Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa) will manage Senate debate on this bill, which requires MH/DS regions to fill gaps in services for those with complex needs, including the addition of Intensive Residential Service Homes, Access Centers, and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams.  While there is no money to help stabilize the regional MH/DS system, legislators have required regions with large fund balances to use those funds to pay for the additional services, and requested an interim committee to review long-term funding for the system.   The bill is ready for Senate debate; if the Senate does not make changes, it will go directly to the Governor.  The Senate also has a version of this bill (SF 2351) - they have moved it into the Senate Ways & Means Committee, where it will stay in case legislators need a bill to make additional changes.
  • Medicaid MCOs & Integrated Health Homes: Most of the MCO-related bills introduced in the Senate failed the funnel, but legislators in the House quietly worked across party lines to pass legislation that would address several issues legislators heard from constituents this year.  HF 2462 (a DHS "cleanup" bill) was amended to include several of these items, and it is ready for Senate debate.  The House also introduced another bill in the funnel-exempt Appropriations Committee (HSB 680) as well.  Both bills do the following:
    • MCOs must pay clean claims within required timelines.
    • Any denied claims must include a reason that is consistent with industry best practices.
    • Claims denied because of an internal MCO error are to be fully paid within 90 days.
    • DHS is to develop standardized provider enrollment forms and follow a standard credentialing process.
    • Members who win appeals will have services extended for a time to be determined by the DHS director.
    • Requires court-ordered substance use or mental health treatment to be authorized for at least five days.
    • DHS must review and approve any level of care reassessments that decrease services (and MCOs are required to follow DHS determinations).
    • MCOs would be required to continue services at existing levels for those whose level of care determinations that find no change.
    • DHS is required to maintain eligibility files and do updates in a timely manner.
    • DHS is to convene a health home work group (with representation of health home providers and MCOs) to review the health home program.  The review will analyze state plan amendments, the current health home system, rationale for MCO-recommended changes, development of clear and consistent delivery model linked to outcomes and including data reporting standards, and a communications work plan.
    • DHS is to convene another work group (with MCOs and Medicaid providers) to determine the effectiveness of prior authorizations used by MCO and develop a threshold when they are no longer needed.
    • DHS is to contract with an independent auditor to review small claims (less than $2,500) paid or denied to long term services and supports (LTSS) providers. 
  • High School Sports Brain Injury Policies:  HF 2442 requires high school coaches to get training in brain injuries, establishes common policies which include information to be given to parents, and requires removal of kids from sports if they exhibit signs of a concussion or brain injury.  It is on the Senate Calendar ready for debate.
  • Suicide Prevention: SF 2113 requires school districts integrate annual, evidence-based suicide prevention training.  It is on the House Calendar ready for debate.
  • Sioux & Plymouth CountySF2387 was introduced in the funnel-exempt Ways and Means Committee last week to address a problem with a NW Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services (MH/DS) region.  Woodbury County left a three-county region, leaving only Sioux and Plymouth Counties.  Iowa law requires a waiver for a region with fewer than three counties, so this bill gives them that waiver to have their own region for a year.  After that time they must demonstrate they are able to meet all the requirements of regions, or they must plan to join another region.  This bill is on the Senate Calendar, with Sen. Randy Feenstra as the bill manager.
  • ABA Licensure: SF 192 directs the Board of Behavioral Science to license behavior analysts & assistants (applied behavior analysis is used successfully in treating people with autism).  It is on the House Calendar ready for debate.
  • Dyslexia Treatment: SF 2360 directs the Department of Education to establish a Dyslexia Task Force to look at screening, teacher preparation, professional development, classroom accommodations, and assistive technology.  It is on the House Calendar ready for debate.  It is on the House Calendar ready for debate.
  • Substitute Decision Maker: HF 2449 changes the name of the state's "Substitute Decision Maker" to the "Public Guardian."  It is ready for Senate debate.
  • Telehealth: It's no secret that finding a psychiatrist, let alone a child psychiatrist, in Iowa is a tough job. Specialiss of other types can be scarce in rural areas too.  Many are looking to "telehealth" as the answer to filling Iowa's health professional shortages, particularly in psychiatry.  HF 2305, which is ready for Senate debate, requres insurers pay for services delivered via telehealth.
  • Farm Bureau Insurance: SF 2349 allows the Iowa Farm Bureau to offer individual non-ACA compliant health plans (so they do not have to accept all pre-existing conditions and can put in lifetime limits, similar to what was in place before the Affordable Care Act).  This bill is ready for House debate as well.
  • Bottle Bill Repeal:  While many controversial bills died during the funnel, another was revived. HF 575 repeals Iowa's five-cent bottle deposit program and replace it with a recycling program that Iowa's grocers prefer. A subcommittee has been appointed and plans to meet on March 20.  

 Other bills that didn't make the cut this year would have:

  • Required recipients of public assistance to work, go to school, or look for work.
  • Prohibited insurers from switching a person's medications if they are doing well on them.
  • Required acuity-based updates and use of the psychiatric bed tracking system.
  • Protected integrated health homes by prohibiting MCOs from taking them over.

You can see how your issues fared in our Bill Tracker here.  We have only about 20 that we're tracking now - that list has narrowed a lot since the beginning of session.  The bill tracker is updated daily, so you can keep track of what's going on between issues of INFONET.

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Iowans with Disabilities in Action (ID Action) is offering grant funds to local advocacy groups that have a plan to take action in their community. Activities and initiatives of grant recipients must be non-partisan and encourage individuals with disabilities to register and to vote in the 2018 primary and general elections, raise awareness and educate elected officials and candidates on disability-related issues.

The application deadline is Monday, April 16, 2018.  
Applications must arrive by 4:00 pm via email, or 11 am via mail or personal delivery.  Successful organizations will be notified by April 20, 2018. To apply, download and fill out the grant application at: www.idaction.org/vote/get-involved/grants/.

ID Action also offers a voter training to inform and educate Iowans with disabilities about the election process. The training focuses on assisting participants to overcome barriers to voting and provides the opportunity to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, learn about the new voter ID law and become comfortable with Iowa’s election equipment.  As the host, all you need to do is find the location and send out the invites. ID Action staff will provide the training and materials you need to be prepared to vote in November.

Interested? Visit our website (www.idaction.org) for all training details and guidelines.  Call 866-432-2846 or email us at contactus@idaction.org with any questions. Grants are available on a first come, first served basis for eligible groups, so apply today! 

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Check out the full list of disability-related bills in our online Bill Tracker here.  Status is updated daily, so check it out whenever you want to know where your priorities stand.

  • Bills that survived the second funnel and are still eligible for debate will show automatically ("Active" list).
  • To see bills that failed to make the legislative funnel deadlines, just switch to the "Inactive" list.
  • Remember that you can download a spreadsheet of the bills by clicking "Export."

Time's running out for your priorities. Let your legislators know about the issues you care about using our Advocacy Center. Legislators can amend other bills if your issues are not already addressed in legislation - but you need to let them know what you want them to do!

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Do not miss out on the best way to advocate - in person, in your own area.  Iowa's elected officials are really good about getting back to their districts and talking to the people they represent.  That goes for our members of Congress as well as your state legislators, and Governor Kim Reynolds, who is continuing the Branstad tradition of getting to all of Iowa's 99 counties each year.

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