INFONET 2021: Issue #4

Issue 4, 3/4/2021

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Legislators rushed to hold subcommitee hearings and committee meetings this week to get ahead of the first major "funnel" deadline of the 2021 legislative session.  The funnel is the way that legislators narrow the list of bills that can be discussed.  Bills that did not make it out of committee before the end of this week (Friday, March 5) are technically "dead" for the rest of the year. 

In the first seven weeks of the legislative session, legislators introduced 1,888 bills. About half of these bills didn't make it out of committee in time to beat the deadline, leaving behind what is sure to be many disappointed supporters.  In reality, as the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way.  Crafty legislators can always find a way to bring back bills that didn't make the deadline, often adding them to another bill as an amendment.

It is important to note that bills that spend money (budgets) or deal with taxes are exempt from the legislative deadlines, because they tend to come up later in the legislative session once lawmakers know how much money they can spend (or in the case of taxes, live without).  Here are a few issues that made this first cut:

  • The controversial "Back the Blue" bill that supports law enforcement by enhancing penalties for rioting, allows police officers to sue people who file false reports against them, and protects police officers that accidentally hit protesters with their car.

  • Vaccine changes that include allowing dentists and podiatrists to give COVID-19 vaccines to adults, but do not allow businesses to require their employees get COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The Governor's "Broadband Bill" to expand access to fast, reliable, and affordable Internet access to all areas of Iowa.
  • "Permitless Carry" gun bills that would allow people to own and carry guns without a permit, making it tough for law enforcement to make sure the guns stay out of the hands of people not allowed to have them.  Another bill shields gun makers from lawsuits that arise from someone's use of the guns they make.
  • Major election changes that will shorten time for early voting, require mail-in ballots to be received by Election night (postmarks no longer matter), limit who can hand deliver your ballots, and set limits on what county auditors can and cannot do.  This bill is already on its way to the Governor.
  • Overhaul of the state's 42-year-old Bottle Bill in an effort to get bottle and can redemptions out of grocery stores. 
  • Another attempt to get rid of all traffic cameras.
  • Cities and counties would not longer be able to pass local laws that tell landlords they cannot discriminate against renters who pay their rent with housing vouchers issued by the government under a bill that survived the funnel (in other words, landlords can decide not to rent to someone if they pay their rent with a voucher).
  • Constitutional amendments on guns (stating they are a right) and abortion (stating its not a right).
  • An end to day light savings time - Iowa would not "fall back" every Fall, and "spring forward" every Spring if this bill passes.
  • Major changes to child care to increase access to child care tax credits, encourage employers to pay for or build child care facilites for their employees, and help families gradually come off of child care assistance (rather than suddenly losing it all).
  • School vouchers that allow kids to attend private schools paid with taxpayer funded scholarships, and a new charter school program that isn't quite public (not a part of a local school district) but not quite private (it's under Iowa Board of Education). 
  • Lowered penalties for first-time possession of a small amount of marijuana (less than 5 grams) , changing the penalty from serious to simple misdemeanor. 
  • A bill that stops all taxpayer funds from supporting technology companies like Google and Facebook, which lawmakers say censor free speech.

There were many bills that didn't make the cut, including contraversial bills that limited access to information at libriares, stopped schools from allowing students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, banned health are providers (including mental health professionals) from treating individuals with gender dysphoria, ended tenure at Iowa colleges, expanded medical marijuana use and legalized "magic mushrooms," reinstated the death penalty, added vaping to the state's Smokefree Air Act, and limited the number of times a US Senator and US Representative could run for office.

Legislators now have until April 2 to vote on the surviving bills, and get them out of committee in the opposite chamber. This "second funnel" requires a House bill to be voted out of the House, and then out of a Senate committee before April 2.  This next two weeks will be filled with long days of debate, with committee meetings picking up in the final two weeks before the deadline.  In the middle of this flurry of work is the March 19 "Revenue Estimating Conference," when a group of three economists review how much money the state has taken in since the start of the fiscal year on July 1, 2020, and predict how much money the state has to spend in its budget for the next fiscal year (which begins July 1, 2021).  Things are about to get interesting, so stay tuned and remember you can watch or listen to live or taped debates at

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SURVIVORS: Bills of Interest to Iowans with Disabilities

There is good news for Iowans with disabilities; several bills that we've been tracking have successfully passed through the first legislative funnel deadline and are alive for at least the next month.  Other bills, advocates may wish had not made it through.  Regardless of how you feel about these bills, advocates should not take this news as a sign to sit back and rest.  This is make or break time for many issues. 

Bills can sit on debate calendars for weeks untouched and run out of time to make it through the second deadline, so make sure you contact your legislators on the bills you really care about.  Ask them to help make sure your bill comes up for a vote. You can do that using our Action Center here (just scroll down to "Find Officials" and fill in your address to get started.

  • HCR8 - 21st Century Caregiving/Education Plan: Calls upon the President, Congress, Governor, State and Federal Agencies, and the Legislature to work together to improve communities by expanding and supporting the caregiving workforce. (House Floor)
  • HF167 - Epilepsy/Seizure Disorder Training: Requires schools that have an enrolled student with epilepsy or a seizure disorder to train staff to follow a seizure management plan. Requires student's parent/guardian to provide written authorization to administer medication. (House Floor)
  • HF258 & SF 391- Older & Dependent Adult Financial Exploitation: Requires financial advisors and bankers to notify the Insurance Commissioner if they suspect financial exploitation against an older or dependent adult, and provides protections for people who report in good faith.  (HF 258-House Floor; SF 391-Senate Appropriations Committee)|
  • HF262 - Emergency Prescription Refills: Allows a pharmacist to refill a prescription without prescriber authorization under certain circumstances. (Senate Human Resources Committee) 
  • HF263 - Prescription Insulin Coverage: Caps the total amount of cost-sharing an insurer requires be paid for prescription insulin at $100 for up to a 31-day supply. (Senate Human Resources Committee)
  • HF294 - Mental Health Telehealth Reimbursement: Requires all state-regulated insurance plans (including state employee insurance plan) to pay equally for mental health services provided in-person or virtually, but does not require equal payment for audio-only service provision. Eliminates site of service requirements (doesn't matter where patient or provider are located) and prohibits requiring a professional be with the patient during virtual visit. Retroactive to 1/1/2021. (House Floor)

  • HF385 - Open Enrollment: Adds prekindergarten students enrolled in special education programs in the September 1 deadline for open enrollment. Applies to school years beginning July 1, 2021. (Passed House 96-0; Senate Education Committee)
  • HF492 - Adult Changing Stations: Requires installation of adult changing stations at modern Interstate rest areas. (House Floor) 
  • HF500 - Interstate Audiology Compact: Enacts the Interstate Audiology & Speech Pathology Compact (allowing audiologists and speech pathologists to practice in any state belonging to the compact), which becomes effective when adopted by ten states. (House Floor)
  • HF585 - Safe and Sound Program: Establishes a Safe and Sound Program to develop and implement a system for receiving anonymous reports/information from the public regarding potential self-harm and potential harm or criminal acts, including threats of violence, sexual abuse, assault, or bullying directed at students and schools. (House Floor)
  • HF604 - Language Development for Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Children: Requires the development of a resource for parents/guardians of children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Establishes an advisory committee to make recommendations in the development of the resource. (House Floor) 
  • HF656 - Non-medical Switching: Prohibits insurance companies from limiting or excluding coverage of a prescription drug if the individual is medically stable on the drug, the drug was previously approved for coverage, and the individual's provider has prescribed the drug within the previous six months. (House Floor)
  • HF691 - Medicaid EPSDT Services: Requires Medicaid to revise its state plan amendment to recognize EPSDT paraprofessionals who hold a registered behavior technician certification but do not have a college degree (currently all other state Medicaid programs do this, as does Wellmark).  Iowa's Medicaid program requires an undergraduate college degree; other states require either that or a high school degree with the training required to get certification.  Certified behavior technicians assist Behavior Health Analysts and have no scope of practice or independent practice themselves. (House Floor) 
  • HF692 - Direct Care Workforce Registry: Expands the direct care workforce registry to include all certified nurse assistants regardless of employment setting. Directs DIA to convene a stakeholder advisory work group to plan for the expansion of the registry to include a public portal to help in the state's efforts to fill caregiver gaps and help connect Iowans with caregivers. (House Floor)
  • HF707 & SF 558 - Legal Interpreters/Translators: Requires sign language interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in legal proceedings. Takes effect November 1, 2021. (House & Senate Floors) 
  • HF717 - Home Retrofitting Tax Credit: Creates a home retrofitting tax credit up to $5,000 per project. Limits the credit to $30,000 total for each qualified taxpayer. Applies to tax years beginning on January 1, 2022. (House Ways & Means Committee - this bill is exempt from all funnel deadlines)
  • HF731 - Telehealth Providers: Requires all Iowa insurance companies include out-of-state health care networks providing telehealth-only services if the individual is licensed in Iowa. Takes effect upon enactment. (House Floor)
  • HF769 - Immunization Reporting: Requires DPH to ensure that health care providers are aware of comply with vaccine requirements, including providing relevant federal vaccine information statements and verbal information regarding the FDA vaccine adverse event reporting system and the national vaccine injury compensation program prior to the patient receiving the vaccine. (House Floor)
  • HF773 - Medicaid Mental Health Services: Requires DHS to submit a Medicaid waiver to provide and seek federal financial participation for services to members with serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance during short-term stays for acute care in residential and inpatient settings that qualify as institutions for mental diseases. (House Floor)
  • HF784 - Telehealth Reimbursement: Requires health insurers reimburse for all health care services provided by telehealth at the same rates as in-person services. Does not waive site of service requirements (that is, it still requires the provider be located in a health care facility).  Applies to services provided on or after January 1, 2022. (House Floor)
  • HSB252 - Bottle Bill Changes (Version 1): Adds canned cocktails & high alcohol beer to Iowa's bottle deposit law.  Allows a grocery store or convenience store to stop doing redemptions if they have a contract with a redemption center located within 10 miles (in counties over 30,000) or 15 miles (for counties below 30,000 population). Requires all containers have UPC codes and adds civil penalties for grocery stores or convenience stores that do not comply with redemption law ($2,500 per day, per location). No change in handling fee. Effective July 1, 2023. (House Floor - it will get a new House File number)
  • HSB253 - Service Animals: Requires that a tenant request for an accommodation allowing for a service animal must be reasonable (the example given - you can't have a Great Dane in a tiny studio apartment). Allows the landlord to accommodate the tenant by relocating to another unit (example given - an neighboring tenant has a severe allergy and was there before the person requesting the accommodation). (House Floor-it will get a new House File number) 
  • SCR5 - Nursing Facility Visitation Practices: Urges the US Congress to approve legislation allowing states flexibility in determining COVID-19 visitation parameters at nursing facilities. (Senate Floor)
  • SF17 - Disability Provider/Income Tax Exemption: Make income earned by a person working for a nonprofit organization that provides services to individuals with disabilities or mental illness from state income tax. Does not define type of job; applies to all. Effective January 1, 2022. (Senate Ways & Means Committee - this bill is exempt from all funnel deadlines)
  • SF159 - Governor's Education Plan: Establishes a student first scholarship program (school vouchers) for  students attending a private school. Establishes a new charter school program. Eliminates implementation of a voluntary diversity plan as a reason to deny open enrollment. Establishes a flexible student and school support program. Allows taxpayers to receive tuition and textbook tax credit for each dependent receiving private instruction. Makes changes to current law governing calculation of each school district's additional enrollment because of special education. (House Education Committee)
  • SF160 - School Instruction Delivery: Would require schools to offer full-time in person learning options for students during the pandemic. Allows parents/guardians to notify the school district specifying instruction delivery method for students. This applies to schools providing coursework using both in-person and online instruction. (Signed; Effective 1/29/2021)
  • SF252 & HF720- Rental Housing Vouchers: Prohibits cities/counties from adopting ordinances that prohibit landlords from refusing to accept federal housing vouchers. (SF252-Passed Senate 31-18; House Local Government Committee; HF720-House Floor)
  • SF348 & HSB38 - Adult/Minor Guardianships and Conservatorships: Makes changes in the administration of adult and minor guardianships and conservatorships. Gives juvenile court exclusive jurisdiction of minor guardianship proceedings. Makes juvenile court records in guardianships confidential. Requires submission of name and address of any adult who has had primary care of the person or with whom the person has lived within six months prior to the filing. Details required information and notices of guardianship proceedings. Specifies court visitor qualifications. Changes background check requirements. Allows district court access to dependent adult abuse information. Establishes the powers of a conservator. Amends reporting requirements for guardians and conservators. (Senate & House Floors - HSB38 will get new number)
  • SF389 - Public Assistance Oversight: Requires initial and "periodic" income verification and a new asset test on all household members of food assistance (SNAP), family support (FIP) and Medicaid benefit recipients and applicants, and requires SNAP applicants to cooperate with the child support recovery unit. Requires DHS to redesign and implement a new eligibility verification system and hire a third party to run the system by July 1, 2022. Requires DHS to complete an identity authentication process for applicants. (Passed Senate 30-18; House Appropriations Committee)
  • SF390 & HSB133 - Governor's Broadband Proposal: Establishes programs to expand broadband (fast Internet) service throughout the state. Right now the bill is all about building out access, not about affordability. Takes effect upon enactment. (Senate & House Floors - HSB133 will get new number)
  • SF413 - Election Conduct: Changes early voting period from 29 days to 18 days; begins mail-in ballot request period 70 days out from the election (instead of 120 days); prohibits the mailing of blank absentee ballot request forms out to voters, including if requested by the voter; prohibits mailing of absentee ballots with pre-filled information (but allows the SOS to mail out blank forms to all registered voters if instructed to do so by the Legislature); makes the Secretary of State directives enforceable as law; prohibits a candidate on the ballot from helping a voters who do not speak English or have a visual or physical disability to fill in their ballots; allows only a voter's immediate family, member of their household, or caregiver to deliver a voted absentee ballot to either dropbox, mail, or auditor office (no friends, neighbors, candidate volunteers).  Eliminates "home rule" for county auditors and strips them of many duties, as well as making anything but strict adherence to laws and Secretary of State directives a class "D" felony (election misconduct).  Bars auditors from establishing satellite voting centers without receiving a new petition each election cycle and limits drop boxes to one location per county (and requires enhanced security and pickups at least four times per day). There is a lot more, but those are the highlights.  Effective upon enactment. (Sent to Governor)
  • SF423 - State Boards/Senate Confirmation: Eliminates Senate confirmation for Governor's appointees to several boards and councils, including Civil Rights Commission, all Department of Human Rights Commissions (including Commission on Persons with Disabilities, Commission on Deaf Services), Council on Human Services, MH/DS Commission, hawk-I Board, Early Childhood State Board, Iowa Autism Council, and Children's Behavioral Health System Board. (Senate Floor)
  • SF431 - Education Savings Grant Program: Establishes an education savings grant program for certain students attending a nonpublic school or receiving competent private instruction. (Senate Ways & Means Committee - this bill is exempt from all funnel deadlines)
  • SF450 - Dependent Adult Abuse: Adds the death of a dependent adult that occurs due to certain acts or omissions by a caretaker to the definition of dependent adult abuse. (Senate Floor)
  • SF461 - MH/Disability Services Region Governing Boards: Allows only county elected officials on a mental health and disability services region governing board to vote on the spending of tax dollars. (Senate Floor)
  • SF463 - Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact: Adopts the interstate occupational therapy licensure compact (a multi-state license allowing OTs to practice in any compact state). (Senate Floor)
  • SF487 - State Professions Regulation: Requires the state government efficiency review committee to create a schedule for review of approximately one-fifth of all boards each calendar year between 2022 and 2027. Requires legislative action to continue boards.  Requires the administrative rules review committee to consider certain factors when reviewing an entry regulation. Effective upon enactment. (Senate Floor)
  • SF502 - Nursing Home Visitation Shelter Tax Credit: Creates a nursing home visitation shelter tax credit for the development of pandemic-safe visitation shelters, equal to 50% of the construction of the shelter (up to $100,000 per application). Takes effect upon enactment and applies retroactively to January 1, 2021. (Senate Ways & Means Committee - this bill is exempt from all funnel deadlines)
  • SF513 - MH/SA Police Report Confidentiality: Requires any law enforcement report regarding a person experiencing a mental health crisis, substance-related disorder crisis, or housing crisis to be kept confidential when the report is generated to provide crisis intervention. (Senate Floor)
  • SF526 - Emergency MH/SA Treatment: Allows treatment in an access center for a person who is detained due to experiencing an MH/SA crisis; restructures concept of Access Center to allow them to be locked facilities and restrain individuals served there. (Senate Floor)
  • SF527 & HF595 - Iowa ABLE Transfers: Allows money in special needs trusts and supplemental needs trusts to be transferred to an individual's Iowa ABLE savings plan trust account, which is more flexible. (Senate & House Floors)
  • SF531 - Elections During Emergencies: Repeals requirement that the legislative council approve an exercise of emergency powers by the commissioner of elections. Allows the legislature to rescind an emergency declaration order. Allows the commissioner of elections to call for a repeat election in certain circumstances. (Senate Floor)
  • SF555 - Vaccinations/Immunizations: Prohibits an employer from mandating that employees get vaccinated for COVID-19. Prohibits a driver's license/ID card from including vaccination/immunization status, immunity status, or test results relating to a communicable disease. (Senate Floor)

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These bills are dead and will no longer be discussed this session unless they come back to life as an amendment to another bill.  Some you may be happy didn't make it, others you may have wanted to see become law.  As in the last article, you can always email your legislator and ask that they find a way to bring your issue back to life!

  • HF16 - Medicaid MCO Termination: Ends Medicaid managed care.
  • HF50 - Medically Necessary Food: Requires insurance carriers to cover medically necessary food, vitamins, and individual amino acids. Applies to policies issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2022.
  • HF90 - Housing Discrimination: Prohibits a landlord from denying housing to a person with a disability who has a support animal.
  • HF108 - Medicaid Substance Abuse Waiver: Requires DHS to submit a Medicaid waiver to allow comprehensive, evidence-based substance abuse treatment for Medicaid members.
  • HF118 - Long-Term Care Ombudsman: Increases the number of local ombudsmen and establishes requirements for Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman staff meetings, case assignments, and responses to resident/tenant inquiries. Prohibits issuing an RFP to outsource duties or staff. 
  • HF135 - Electronic Absentee Ballots: Allows voters to register electronically for absentee ballots. Requires election commissioners to hold ballot requests received in advance of the deadline until the deadline.
  • HF137 - Absentee Voter Status: Allows an absentee voter to receive absentee ballots for all subsequent general elections without having to reapply.
  • HF156 & HF182 - Bottle Bill Repeal: Repeals the beverage containers control program. 
  • HF190 - Cross-Over Visitation: Allows for visitation between residents and tenants of long-term care facilities during a national public health emergency or public health disaster. 
  • HF191 - Nursing Facilities Visitation Restrictions: Requires DIA to consult with the state long-term care ombudsman prior to issuing guidance restricting visitation at nursing homes during a national public health emergency. 
  • HF268 - Nursing Facility Electronic Monitoring: Allows authorized electronic monitoring in nursing facilities under certain circumstances.
  • HF306 - Adult Changing Stations Ver. 2: Requires adult changing stations in new buildings constructed after January 1, 2023; buildings renovated after January 1, 2026; buildings with the capacity to serve 1,500 or more people in one day; shopping malls, retail stores, and entertainment venues with floor space of 40,000 square feet or more; certain public transportation facilities; galleries, libraries, museums, and tourist information centers; parks, playgrounds, recreational centers, zoos, and amusement or theme parks; certain airports; rest areas; education facilities; hospitals; and rehabilitation facilities. 
  • HF447 - Medicaid LTSS: Requires MCOs to submit quarterly reports on long-term services and supports (LTSS) members. Also requires DHS to convene stakeholders to review existing metrics for the LTSS population. Stakeholder report with recommendations is due October 1, 2021. 
  • HF506 - Home Modification Program: Establishes a home modification grant program in the department of aging. Qualified homeowner must have an income at or below the annual Iowa median household income, be the owner of a residential real property in the state that is the primary residence of the owner, and be a qualified person or reside with a spouse or dependent who is a qualified person. 
  • HF571 - Nursing Facility/Hospital Visitation: Prohibits hospitals and nursing facilities from having policies that limit a patient from receiving visitors during a public health emergency.
  • HF661 - MH/DS Services Regions: Removes the cash flow reduction amount that requires MH/DS regions to spend down reserve cash deposits to 40 percent of the region's annual budget. Directs DHS to amend its administrative rules to provide that regions shall implement the following intensive mental health core services before July 1, 2023: access centers; assertive community treatment; crisis stabilization community-based services; crisis stabilization residential services; intensive residential service homes; mobile response; subacute mental health services provided in facility and community-based settings; and 23-hour crisis observation and holding. Takes effect upon enactment. 
  • HF679 - Suicide Intervention: Adds "intervention" to school suicide protocols to be established and requires the focus on youth at higher risk of suicide, beginning July 1, 2022. Schools are required to review the protocols at least every five years. 
  • HSB169 - Medicaid Processes/Oversight: Defines "clean claims" and requires Medicaid MCOs pay 90% of clean claims within 14 days and 100% within 30 days. Gives MCOs 30 days to correctly enter new provider rates and reprocess and pay affected claims. Requires MCOs to give providers the ability to submit and track all claims and disputes online in real time. Requires DHS to hire a uniform authorization and credentialing verification service for both managed care and fee for service system. Prohibits MCOs from requiring additional credentialing. 
  • HSB221 & SF453 - Electronic Public Notices: Allows governments to publish notice electronically in lieu of newspaper publication. Requires that paper copies be available. Requires the government to make email accounts available for persons to receive such notices. Takes effect July 1, 2022.
  • SF53 - Electronic Absentee Ballots: Allows voters who have a physical disability that prevents the voter from reading and marking a physical ballot without assistance to receive an electronic absentee ballot.
  • SF61 - Medicaid Improvements: Makes changes to the Medicaid program. Requires DHS to ensure long-term services and support services are provided in a conflict-free manner. Requires MCOs to develop and administer a workforce recruitment, retention, and training program. Establishes an external independent review process for Medicaid providers for the review of final adverse determinations of the MCO's internal appeal processes; changes to MCOs' responsibilities regarding member disenrollment; requires MCOs to apply uniform authorization criteria for credentialing and recredentialing providers; and adds funding for the office of long-term care ombudsman and the Medicaid managed care ombudsman program. 
  • SF105 - Student Sexual Exploitation: Makes sexual exploitation of a student with a disability by a community college employee a criminal offense.
  • SF168 - AEA Special Education Services: Requires area education agencies to provide special education services and supports on nonpublic school premises, if the parent/guardian grants permission.
  • SF190 - Long-Term Services/Supports: Requires DHS to move Medicaid long-term services and supports from MCOs to fee-for-service administration. Takes effect upon enactment.
  • SF293 - MH/DS Transportation Services: Includes transportation as a core service under the regional mental health and disability services system.
  • SF379 - Medicaid LTSS Reimbursement: Requires DHS to conduct a reimbursement rate review for long-term services and supports providers. Findings due November 1, 2021.
  • SF507 - Long-Term Care Facility/Hospital Visitation: Allows a private pay long-term care facility to implement in-person, indoor visitation policies for residents and tenants that are less restrictive than the policies applicable to facilities accepting public sources of payment. Requires hospitals to permit a patient to have at least two visitors who are related to the patient within certain parameters.
  • SSB1200 - PANS/PANDAS Coverage: Requires health insurance providers to offer coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) for patients 18 and younger.
  • SSB1222 - Medicaid Transportation Services: Requires MCOs to coordinate with urban or regional transit systems. Requires MCOs to provide transit systems with the right of first refusal in providing services.

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The Legislature passed Senate File 413 and it is on its way to the Governor.  Advocates with disabilities testified at the subcommittee and public hearing on the bill to ask for changes, but only one of their requests were addressed.  Here are a few that we think most impact voters with disabilities:

  • Only the voter, a person who lives with the voter, the voter's immediate family, or a caregiver are allowed to pickup and deliver a voted absentee ballot.  Friends or neighbors would not be allowed to deliver your voted ballot, even to a mailbox. 
  • The early voting period is shortened from 29 days to just 20 days.  This means voters have less time to vote, less time to correct mistakes on their mail-in ballots, and less time for the post office to deliver the mail.
  • Mail in ballots must be received by election day.  Right now ballots are accepted if they are mailed before Election Day (using post mark or barcode).  With only 20 days to vote by mail, this could put the votes of people with disabilties at risk.  If this was in place in 2020, 6,500 ballots would not have counted.  
  • Polls will close an hour early on Election Day.  Polls will close at 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. 
  • Ballots without a signature on the envelope will be considered incomplete. This may be difficult with only an 20-day early voting period; there just isn't time for error.  Under this bill, any corrections must be made BEFORE the Election closes.  Right now you have some time after the election to fix mistakes, like not having signed the affidavit.  This again is troubling for individuals with disabilities who may accidentally make a mistake on their ballot.
  • Voters who want to vote by mail may not make the request until 70 days before the election. Right now voters can request a mail-in ballot 120 days before.
  • Auditors will not be able to accept any absentee ballot requests that have had information pre-filled out.  Pre-filled ballots can be time-saving to people who have difficulty writing.
  • Voters who skip a General Election will be moved to the "inactive" voter list, requiring them to re-register or take some action to restore their voter registration. This adds confusion and makes it more work to stay registered to vote.  

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More than 80 people participated in the Iowa DD Council's first Virtual Legislative Town Hall and talked about their issues with Sen. Eric Giddens (Waterloo), Sen. Amanda Ragan (Mason City), Sen. Sarah Trone Garriott (West Des Moines), Rep. Dennis Bush (Cleghorn), Rep. Chris Hall (Sioux City), and Rep. Jennifer Konfrst (Des Moines).

Three activists shared their issues and personal stories:

  • Amanda Milham talked about the need to install adult changing stations in public spaces, and encouraged legislators to support bills that begin this by adding them to Iowa's modern Interstate rest areas.
  • Brady Werger, Vice Chair of the DD Council,  talked about his advocacy on Glenwood issues and shared how he has connected with his elected officials. Brady also shared a personal story about his families' struggle to move his sister back to Iowa and the need for better mental health services.
  • Carol Cross, member of the DD Council,  shared a personal story about her children who were both diagnosed wtih Krabbe Disease and her advocacy for infant screening for Krabbe Disease (including information about the organization she created to expand her advocacy impact).


You can watch this recorded session here.


Do you want to host your own legislative town hall? 

The Iowa DD Council wants to help you!  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. Let us help you connect with your elected officials - email us at


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Be sure to join us for our third virtual Capitol Chat on Friday, March 26.  More than 40 advocates joined us for the second Capitol Chat to talk about everything from the future of ABLE transfers to telehealth and Medicaid.  

Click here to register for all the remaining Capitol Chats:
Friday, March 26 @ 11 a.m.
Friday, April 23 @ 11 a.m.

You can watch the last two Capitol Chats on the ID Action YouTube Channel.

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March is National Developmental Disability Awareness Month and this year the Iowa DD Council and University of Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development invite you to celebrate during the Moving Towards Change: A Virtual Celebration event via Zoom on Friday, March 12, 2021 at 11 a.m. 

You can hear from Community Living Ambassadors during an interactive discussion about their lives, successes, and personal journeys in transitioning into community living as individuals with disabilities.

Click here for more information and to register (yep, it's free).

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Let's talk silver linings.  One of the good things that has come out of COVID-19 is your government is now more open to you.  Usually you have to come to the Capitol to watch a committee meeting or participate in a subcommittee hearing. This year, Senate subcommittees are 100% virtual (the only way to participate is via zoom).  House subcommittee meetings can be watched using their WebEx system, but you can only participate in person or by submitting comments.  House and Senate debate are all recorded and broadcast live, so you can watch them as they are happening or go back and watch a recorded session.  Here are a few links you might want to bookmark for the next phase of the legislative process:

  • Daily debate calendars.  These are the lists of bills that legislators plan to debate each day in the House and Senate.  They may not get to them all; it's just a list of what they hope to get through each day.  You can get them here: Senate & House.
  • Live House & Senate debates. You can watch legislators debating bills each day here: Senate & House.  They don't usually know exactly when they will debate each day, because they caucus to get ready for the debate each day and it sometimes takes quite some time.  If you have slow Internet service or prefer to listen to live debate, you can do that here: Senate & House.
  • Recorded House & Senate debates. Not everyone can wait around for legislators to debate, but you can still watch debates either by day or by bill.  If there is a debate on a specific bill you want to watch, you can find it here: House & Senate.  If you want to just watch a specific day's debate, you can watch it here: House & Senate.  Remember you can find the bill numbers in our Bill Tracker.
  • Check how legislators voted on a bill.  You can see how legislators voted on each bill here: House & Senate
  • Find subcommittee and committee links.  Check out each day's list of committees and subcommittee here: House & Senate.  There are links for virtual meeting and links to submit comments (remember the comments are public, so people will see what you write).  

Part of advocacy is knowing how things work at the Capitol. You don't have to know all the details, but watching debates, committee meetings, and subcommittee hearings is one way to learn more. Try it out!

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BILL'S BLOG: Three Important Questions

Ask Three Important Questions for Effective Public Policy and Systems Change.
Bill Kallestad, Public Policy Manager at the Iowa DD Council

  • What is the problem? It is important for real issues to be brought to legislators so they can improve the system.
  • What can we do about it? Advocacy, sharing your voice, is great - but it is not enough. Using research, contacting experts, and  sharing facts help make legislators move towards needed change. 
  • How can we do better? We need solutions! Share ideas and solutions to your legislators so they can make changes a reality.
Stay on top of Bill's weekly blog posts here.

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

 Go ahead and share it!  Encourage people to sign up
with ID Action & infoNET to get a free copy in the mail!

For those that already receive infoNET by mail or email,
your copy is in the mail - so watch for it in your mailboxes soon.

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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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Click here to get the formatted version of this Issue in PDF.

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