INFONET 2021: Issue #2

Issue 2, 2/4/2021

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KEEPING IOWA'S SESSION OPEN IN 2021

Legislators are working hard this year to make sure Iowans have a window into the law-making process.  This year, you can watch or listen to any House or Senate committee meeting online.  All Senate subcommittees are virtual; anyone can speak on a bill discussed in a subcommittee from their homes and businesses.  People wanting to speak in a House subcommittee must still come to the Capitol, but anyone can watch and submit written comments.

We hope you are taking advantage of this new openness.  If you want these things to be an option after COVID-19, you will probably need to tell your legislators how much you like it and why you want it to continue.  Things like this do not just happen. Someone needs to ask.

We wanted to make sure everyone knows how to watch their government at work.

  • Daily schedules list all the bills to be discussed in subcommittee and committee that day, with zoom/webex links and a link to submit comments. All comments are public, so watch what you say!  House Daily Calendar & Senate Daily Calendar.
  • Note about Zoom.  The Iowa Senate was hacked during a meeting on schools. Some very alarming videos were shown, and there were kids on the line.  Because of that, you are now required to create an account with Zoom before you can be a part of a Senate meeting.  It's still free, but you might want to do that before it's time for the meeting.  Most Senators ask you to click on the "Raise Hand" button, and you'll be called on in order of hand raise.

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2021 GOING FAST, DESPITE GROUNDHOG

The Groundhog may have seen his shadow and forecasted six more weeks of winter, but the Iowa Legislature isn't scared of its shadow.  Legislators are moving fast to pass bills that are important to their leaders and the Governor, starting with the Governor's education reforms (public funds can be spent on private schools, new specialty schools called charter schools, open enrollment), broadband (getting Iowans connected to high speed Internet), childcare (making sure families can find affordable and quality options) and housing (increasing funding for local housing and homeless programs and encouraging developers to build affordable housing around the state). 

Your legislators do not want to wait until March to do work; they are moving ahead fast from subcommittee decisions, to committee vote, then floor debate.  If you want a bill passed this year, don't wait to contact your legislators.  Here are a few ways we can help you:

  1. Find a bill that you care about using our Bill Tracker.

  2. Think about what you want to say using our Advocacy Toolkit.

  3. Use our Action Center to email your legislators (just go down to "Find Officials" and put in your zip code; you may be asked to also put in your street address; by doing this our system finds your legislators for you).

  4. Let us know how it goes! infonetiowa@gmail.com

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ADULT CHANGING TABLES MOVE FORWARD

Thanks to advocates and their work with Rep.Ann Meyer (R-Fort Dodge), Rep. Kristin Sunde (D-West Des Moines), and Rep. Jacob Bossman (R-Sioux City), House File 33 was voted unanimously out of subcommittee.  This bill, which puts adult changing tables in the modern Interstate rest areas, was on the agenda for the House Transportation Committee this week, but the meeting was cancelled because of the icy Thursday weather (legislators wanted to get home before it hit). 

We fully expect the House Transportation Committee will pass the bill out at their next meeting, so stay tuned to social media.  Unfortunately, a Senate subcommittee has not taken any action yet on a twin bill (Senate File 38). That subcommittee is Sen. Dan Zumbach (R-Tama), Sen. Carrie Koelker (R-Dyersville) and Sen. Jackie Smith (D-Sioux City)

Another bill was also introduced in the House, but it faces a much harder uphill battle. Representatives Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids), Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines), Traci Ehlert (D-Cedar Rapids), and Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City) sponsored HF 306 to make adult changing stations available in any building where the public is allowed, including parks, playgrounds, rest areas, zoos, theaters, amusement parks, malls, big box stores, public transportation facilities, airports, hospitals, and both public and private schools.  The bill is called "Adalyn's Law" after 8-year-old Adalyn Milham - read more about her and her mom Amanda here.

  • If this issue is important to you, you can share your personal story and take action on all three bills at the same time here.  

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NEW BILLS THIS WEEK

You can always find the most current status of the bills we are tracking - bills that may impact the lives of individuals with disabilities, their families, and those who support them.  The following are the bills that were introduced over the last two weeks - since our last issue of infoNET.  Remember you can always take action on these bills with a simple click of the button below!

                                           

HF 118 - Long Term Ombudsman: Increases the numver of local ombudsmen and sets standards for staff meetings, case assignments, and responses to long term care resident requests or complaints.  House Human Resources Committee

HF 135 - Electronic Absentee Ballots: Allows voters to request absentee ballots electronically.  House State Government Committee

HF 137 - Ongoing Absentee Voter: Allows a voter to sign up to automatically receive absentee ballots for every election (so they do not have to request them each time).  House State Government Committee

HF 190 - Cross Over Visitation: Requires a nursing home with multiple levels of care (assisted living, specialty units) to allow residents of different levels to visit each other if they are related or are in a relationship.  House Human Resources Committee

HF 191 - Nursing Home Visitation: Requires the Department of Inspections and Appeals to consult with the Long Term Care Ombudsman before sending out guidance that restricts nursing home visitation.  House Human Resources Committee

HF 244 - Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Children: Requres the Department of Education to hire an early language development consultant to develop a resource guide for parents of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, establish language development milestones, and select assessment tools to help teachers measure progress toward milestones.  House Education Committee

HF 258 - Financial Exploitation/Dependent & Older Adult: Sets up a process for reporting suspected financial exploitation of a dependent or older (age 65+) adult. Bankers and other financial advisors are to notifiy the Insurance Commissioner and protects them from being sued for reporting suspected fraud, and allows them to hold off on processing financial changes if if suspected fraud.   House Floor (safe from first deadline)

HF 262 - Energency Prescription Refills: Allows a pharmacist to refill a prescription without doctor permission, but only once every 365 days.   House Floor (safe from first deadline)

HF 263 - Insulin Cost Share: Caps the copay for insulin at $100/month. House Floor (safe from first deadline)

HF 306 - Adult Changing Stations (aka "Adalyn's Law"): Requires adult changing stations to be installed in all new buildings where the public will be allowed (or in buildings with renovations of $10,000 or more), any public building with a capacity of more than 1,500 people, shopping malls and retail stores with 40,000 sq. ft. or more of floor space, entertainement venues (including theaters), public transportation facilities, galleries and libraries, tourism information centers, parks and playgrounds, zoos and amusement parks, airports, Interstate rest areas, public and private schools, hospitals, and substance abuse facilities.   House Commerce Committee

HSB 169 & SSB 1164 - Medicaid Oversight: Defines "clean claim" and requires MCOs pay 90% of clean claims accurately within 14 days and 100% within 30 days.  MCOs are given 30 days to input new provider rates into their systems and pay accurately, and requires MCOs give their providers the ability to submit and track all claims, disputes, and appeals. Requires DHS to hire a company to do the credentialling and recredentialing of providers for both managed care organizations and Medicaid. House & Senate Commerce Committees

HSB 172 - EPSDT Services/Medicaid: Requires Medicaid to expand the providers that can be reimbursed for EPSDT services to include non-licensed individuals with a bachelor's degree in educaiton, psychology, social work, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech language pathology, and behavior technicians. House Human Resources Committee

SF 145 - Dependent Care/Campaigns: Allows someone running for office to use campaign funds to pay for dependent care expenses. House State Government Committee
 
SF 159 - Governor's Education Reform Bill: Sets up a school voucher program (with unlimited appropriation) for private school tuition (in the form of scholarships), allows the establishment of charter schools, repeals voluntary diversity plans and allows complete open enrollment, increases the tax credits for tuition and textbooks, and allows teachers to deduct more from taxes for classroom expenses.   Passed Senate 26-21; House Education Committee

SF 160 - In-Person Learning: Requires all schools provide parents with a 100% in-person option for K-12 education. Signed

SF 161 - Direct Care Worker Database: Requires the Department of Inspections and Appeals to establish a direct care workforce database system and develop a public portal accessible to Iowans needing assistance in finding appropriate direct care supports. Senate Human Resources Committee

SF 165 - PANS/PANDAS Coverage: Requires insurance plans cover diagnosis and treatment of PANS/PANDAS (Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome/Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) for patients 18 and younger. Senate Human Resources Committee

SF 168 - AEA Services/Parent Choice: Requires AEA to offer special education services and supports in a non-public school setting if requested by the parent.  Senate Education Committee
 
SF 178 - Non-Medical Switching: Prohibits an insurance company from requiring a person who is medically stable on a medication to switch to a less costly version of the medication.  Senate Commerce Committee

SF 190 - LTSS/Pull out of MCOs: Returns long term supports and services (LTSS) to the Medicaid fee for service system (that is, it's no longer in managed care and returns management to state).  Senate Human Resources Committee
 
SF 193 & HF 330- Vaccines:  Does not allow a business to require vaccinations, including a hospital, nursing home, or other health care provider.  Adds exceptions to vaccinations at school.  Senate Human Resources Committee
 
SSB 1082 - Crimes Against Dependent/Older Adults: Establishes criminal penalties and allows civil actions for crimes against older adults (age 60+) and dependent adults, including financial exploitation.  Senate Judiciary Committee

SSB 1089 & HSB 133 - Governor's Broadband Proposal: Sets up the structure for the Governor's efforts to expand broadband (highspeed Internet) access throughout Iowa.  Senate Education Committee

SSB 1125 - Public Assistance Oversight: Requires the state to hire a company to verify assets of individuals receiving public assistance (Medicaid, food assistance, family investment program), including requiring families to verify all income of all household members and cross checking with other national and state databases.  Senate Judiciary Committee

SSB 1148 - State Boards/Senate Confirmation: No longer requires Senate confirmation of members of the following boards: DHS Council, hawk-I Board, Civil Rights Commission, all the Department of Human Rights' Boards (including Commission on Deaf Services, Commission on Persons with Disabilities), MH/DS Commission, Child Advocacy Board, County Finance Committee, Early Childhood State Board, Iowa Autism Council, and Children's Behavioral Health System Board.  Senate State Government Committee

SSB 1158 - MH/DS Regional Governing Boards: Allows only the elected officials sitting on Mental Health and Disability Services (MH/DS) Regional Governing Boards to vote on the spending of property tax dollars. Senate Human Resources Committee
 

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CONGRESS CONSIDERING MORE COVID HELP

The White House and Congress are continuing to work out their differences on President Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The plan, which has not yet been formally introduced, looks at the COVID-19 pandemic as both a health and  economic crisis. Of note to families of individuals with disabilties, the plan would include adult dependents in the proposed $1,400 direct stimulus payments.  

However, it does not include more funds for home and community based services (HCBS), education under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), or the Developmental Disabilities Act network. On January 28,  the COVID HCBS Relief Act (H.R.525) was introduced in the House, which provides an emergency increase in federal funding for state Medicaid HCBS, funding that disability advocates continue to say is badly needed.  At the end of January, Republican Senators announced their own $600 billion COVID package as an alternative to the President's plan.  

We do now know what is ahead or how this will shake out, but we do know that your emails matter to your two US Senators (Joni Ernst & Charles Grassley) and your US Representative.  Ask them to include important funding for people with disabilties in this next round of COVID relief - something that as missing in the first rounds.  You can read about the priority needs in COVID funding here.

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NEW 2021 GUIDE COMING YOUR WAY!

The 2021-2022 Guide to the Iowa Legislature is now available here.


If we have your address on file, you will receive a copy of this Guide free, just because you are a reader of infoNET!  If you know of others that would like a copy, just have them join our network (also free) here.

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CAPITOL CHATS 2021

As mentioned in our last issue of infoNET, we are hosting monthlly Captiol Chats using Zoom to talk about things going on at the Capitol and give advocates time to talk about things they are working on or questions they may have.  Our first Captiol Chat was on January 29, 2021, and more than 20 advocates joined us to talk about everything from the future of Glenwood to Medicaid and local funding for services.  

Unfortunately, we too were hacked and someone posted some terrible things in the message part of zoom. 

To stop this from happening in our future zoom Chats, we need you to register.  You just need to register once and we'll send you a link that will work for all three remaining Capitol Chats.  You do not have to come to all three - but you do need to register even if you  think you might want to participate.  

Click here to register for the following Capitol Chats:

Friday, February 26 @ 11 a.m.

Friday, March 26 @ 11 a.m.

Friday, April 23 @ 11 a.m.

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HOST A TOWN HALL!

The Iowa DD Council wants to help you hold a virtual townhall meeting in your area!  In years past, the Iowa DD Council has helped Iowans with disabilities host their own Capitol Days in Des Moines.  We are changing with the times, and now offering virtual opportunities to connect with your legislators.

This legislative session (now through April), we would like to help you host and participate in a virtual townhall meeting to discuss your issues with your local legislators. Let us help you connect to your state elected officials. For more information:  contactus@idaction.org 

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ATTEND A PUBLIC FORUM

Whether or not you decide to host your own virtual forum, there are still community forums and town halls being held both in person and online. 

You can find them all listed here.

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