Capitol Update


With the warm summer months quickly approaching, more Iowans are finding time to enjoy a cold drink outside with friends. But with this fun comes some serious dangers.  Drunk driving is on the rise across the state. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation there were 123 deaths related to drunk driving last year. This accounted for 38% of all traffic deaths in Iowa and those numbers are expected to rise this year. There are alternatives to drinking and driving and it’s up to Iowans to make a responsible choice and find a sober ride home.

According to Iowa Department of Public Safety a first offense OWI is a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,250, or both. A person must also serve a minimum of 48 hours in jail. In addition to criminal penalties, a person convicted of an OWI can lose their license for 180 days if they submitted to a chemical test. During that time a person may apply for a temporary restricted license.  When all the costs are taken in to consideration, a first offense OWI, without injury, can cost close to $3,000 and that’s not counting any the cost of SR 22 insurance, an ignition interlock device or attorney fees.

Alternatively, taking a cab, Uber, staying in a hotel or having a designated driver will cost you much less.  It will also save you the embarrassment of asking friends and family for rides while your licenses is under suspension.  By choosing a sober ride home, you’re not only saving yourself money, your potentially saving a life.

If you are over the age of 21, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above is considered legally drunk, even if you just “had a few.” Those under the age of 21 can lose their license if their BAC is above .02.

So enjoy the weekend, but make plans to not drink and drive.  Have a safe Memorial weekend and don’t become a statistic.

Capitol Update: Week 15



Veteran Designation on Driver’s Licenses

The current process for Veterans who want their service annotated on their Driver’s License requires both a visit to their local VA and the DOT. The purpose of the VA visit is to inform the Veteran about various programs and benefits they earned with their time in the service.  However, some legislators learned through personal experience that this was not occurring.

In order to remedy the situation and make the process easier for Veterans the House passed a bill changing the process. The new process sends the Veteran directly to the DOT to receive their designation.  Then, the DOT will inform the VA about the Veteran.  The VA is then required to reach out and explain benefits and programs.  This ensures that Veterans understand the benefits they are eligible to receive from their service.

Ensuring Timeliness of Absentee Ballots

Midway through this session I managed a bill on the floor that dealt with Iowa election laws. The bill had a couple of different functions. It addressed the confidentiality program administered by the Secretary of State, the printing of ballots, satellite absentee voting, and the conduct of school district elections.

This bill reached the Senate where an amendment was added. The Senate amendment represents a “work-around” solution to a long-experienced challenge with postmarks on absentee ballots by giving an alternative to prove that an absentee ballot was mailed before the deadline. The amendment has no other impact on absentee ballot policy or procedures or deadlines.

Specifically, the amendment allows, but does not require, county auditors to use the Intelligent Barcode (IMBC) in place of traditional postmarks as proof that absentee ballots were placed into the mail system before the deadline. The Intelligent Mail barcode is the next generation of USPS® barcode technology used to sort and track letters and flats. It will verify the exact time the absentee ballot was scanned into the postal system.

It also requires Secretary of State to prepare a report to the legislature on the impact of intelligent bar codes by counties that choose to use them. This amendment grants the Secretary of State authority to create emergency rules for use of the intelligent bar code.

I thought this was a good amendment that helped update our election laws and an effective use of technology to ensure timeliness and accuracy.

The majority of the week was spent debating budget bills. I am looking forward to adjournment next week if not in the next couple of days.

As always if you have any comments, questions, or concerns please feel free to get in touch. My phone number is (319) 480-1997 and my email is

Capitol Update: Week 14


Medicaid Modernization

Unprecedented Oversight

This week, the House released our oversight plan for Medicaid Modernization. Our approach will require an unprecedented amount of data and reporting, from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), and the three managed care organizations (MCOs), to be submitted to the legislature for review.  This will provide legislators with a wide assortment of figures and information on the Medicaid program that has never been available in the past.  This plan ensures that consumers are protected, patient health and financial outcomes are monitored and transparent, and the integrity of our health care system remains.

Consumer Protections

Medicaid patients must be able to have access to protections and advocates when needed to ensure that they are receiving the high-quality healthcare that they expect. Our plan requires that the legislature receive reports on consumer protections like:

  • Customer service satisfaction including call center performance, grievances and appeals filed, and how timely issues are resolved with DHS and the MCOs
  • The number of doctors and providers that are available to patients to ensure adequate access
  • The total number of Medicaid patients and how that changes over time.

Healthy Outcomes

One of the main goals of Medicaid Modernization is to promote wellness and healthy living. However, we need a way to track whether or not people are becoming healthier, which was never part of the old Medicaid system.  As part of our plan, the legislature will receive detailed reports on outcomes like:

  • Annual health care effectiveness data to ensure that patients are becoming healthier
  • Specific reporting on vulnerable Medicaid patients like those with special needs, behavioral issues, and the elderly
  • The percentage of claims paid and denied to confirm that patients are receiving the care they need
  • Cost savings to the Medicaid program including the amount spent on medical care versus administrative cost.

Program Integrity

Finally, federal, state, and contractual safeguards are in place for Medicaid Modernization to prevent, detect, and eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse. Even with all of these protections, the legislature will be monitoring to ensure efficient and effective use of tax dollars and will be able to act on any cases of fraud or abuse.

Equally important is that all of this information will be made public online for Iowans to view. This provides a level of transparency that the Medicaid program has never before seen.  While patient-specific information will not be made public, aggregate data and summaries will be available in an easy to read format so that Iowans can also review the information themselves.

This plan offers Iowans the assurance that the health care of Iowa’s most vulnerable are not being put in jeopardy. As the new system continues to roll out, the House Majority will keep a watchful eye on the transition to ensure that Iowans continue to receive the care that they count on.

News from District 96

The end of the legislative session is fast approaching. We reached budget targets last week and now we are getting into the details.  I currently believe that we will be done with this session sometimes late next week.

This Tuesday I had the chance to visit with the Grow Iowa Ag who promotes the advancement of Iowa Agriculture. We had the chance to discuss issues that were important to Iowa’s Ag Community. Wednesday morning I had the chance to welcome John Harms and Joe Yedlik to the Capitol.  They were here with the Association of County Fairs.  They shared with me some of the newer projects that are taking place at county fairs across Iowa.

On Thursday we passed the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Budget out of the House. It is the first budget to be completed this session.  This is a status quo budget that remains largely unchanged from last year and is now on its’ way to the Senate.

As always if you have any comments, questions, or concerns please feel free to get in touch. My phone number is (319) 480-1997 and my email is


Capitol Update: Week 13


House and Senate Reach Agreement on Budget Targets

On Wednesday, the House Majority and Senate Majority reached an agreement on the funding levels for the FY 2017 budget.   The Legislature is limited to spending $7.351 billion out of the General Fund under the state‘s expenditure limitation law.  The budget levels include the additional funding already authorized by the FY 2017 Supplemental School Aid bills, which increased school funding by 2.25 percent.

In addition to the budget targets, the House and Senate agreed to place certain standing appropriations under the control over the budget subcommittees. Many of these on-going appropriations had not been reviewed for years until a separate subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee examined the programs in January and February.  The funding for the programs had been accounted for under the Standings Appropriations bills.  Now, the programs and funding will be turned over to the appropriate budget subcommittee and accounted for in FY 2017 budget.  Beginning with the next General Assembly, the budget subcommittees will be conducting oversight and review of the programs.

Iowa Water Quality Improvement Plan

Currently, Iowa dedicates over $20 million annually towards improving the state’s water quality through the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. This is a significant investment, but we as a state need to do more to advance these efforts.

The Iowa Water Quality Improvement Plan will continue implementation of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy while significantly increasing the state’s investment in a manner that addresses both urban and rural water quality issues.

The Iowa Water Quality Improvement Plan has dedicated, sustainable long-term funding sources from both the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) and the excise tax on metered water.

The funding from the water services excise tax would be dedicated to urban conservation practices, improvements to wastewater and drinking water facilities in communities, and a financing program for water quality projects.

Funding for rural efforts will come from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, focusing on long-term improvements that will reduce the runoff of nitrates and phosphorus into Iowa waterways and reduce soil erosion.

These improvements will involve in-field and edge of field practices. They will be funded on a cost-share basis.

Register Your Boat Today

2016 is a boat registration year. Boat registrations must be renewed every three years.  There are about 235,000 boats in Iowa that need to be registered before April 30.  Boat owners have to register their boats with the DNR.  Make sure to carry the registration certificate on the boat.  Residents can obtain registrations and renewals from a County Recorder Office.

Registration is not required for the following:

  • Inflatable vessels 7 feet in length or less
  • Canoes and kayaks that are 13 feet or less and have no motor or sail
  • Vessels registered in another state

Weekly Update

Big news of the week was the agreement of budget targets. Over the past couple of weeks this has been a stumbling block on the road to adjournment. Now that the House and Senate have set the targets, budget bills should be moving out of committee and to the floor for debate sometime next week.  If that happens, we should be on the path to end the session on time or soon after the official end of the session, April 19th.

As always, please feel free to contact me by email at or by phone at 319-480-1997 if you have concerns about any issue.





Capitol Update: Week 12


Medicaid Managed Care Begins April 1

After months of resistance by legislative Democrats in Iowa over the transition to managed care, the program will go live on April 1, 2016.

House Republicans have focused on how to make the system better and ensure that Medicaid recipients have all of the information they need to be confident in the change. However, Democrats have focused on scaring Medicaid members, telling them that their benefits will be gone and deaths will result from this change to managed care.

The status quo is no longer an acceptable option for Medicaid members or Iowa taxpayers because of skyrocketing costs in the program and the absence of accountability measures for health outcomes. The past year has been filled politically motivated rhetoric, discontent and resistance to change.  Despite perpetuating many of the scare tactics and fear pushed by Democrats, the media has managed to report a few success stories:

According to a report by America’s Health Insurance Plans, the following are examples of what managed care has done in other states:

  • New York City – Medicaid participants report better access to care than patients in the fee-for-service program and are more likely to have a regular source of care and to go to a doctor’s office rather than an emergency room
  • Rhode Island – Infant mortality rates have dropped from 4.5 deaths per 1,000 births to 1.9 per 1,000 since health plans began came into the state for Medicaid members.
  • Wisconsin – Children with asthma enrolled in managed care are less likely to require hospitalization than asthmatic children in the state’s fee-for-service program.
  • Oregon – Participation in treatment programs for substance abuse for people receiving care through health plans has increased nearly 40%.
  • California – Medicaid members enrolled in health plans were up to 38% less likely to have been hospitalized.

These are just a few examples of what managed care is able to do. The focus needs to be on ensuring that this program works for Iowans that need assistance during the transition.  In addition, there are safeguards in place for Medicaid members:

  • Medicaid members will be able to keep their current case manager until September 30, 2016.
  • Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) are required to continue current service plans until a new plan is created and agreed upon.
  • MCOs cannot reduce or modify a service plan without additional assessments.
  • MCOs have to ensure access to enrollees’ current prescriptions during the transition.
  • The state will monitor the MCO member services helplines to ensure timely and accurate information is available to beneficiaries.

Finding Committed Funding for Water Quality

The Ways & Means Committee introduced new legislation Tuesday to pay for programs to curb water pollution. HSB 654 would convert an existing 6 percent sales tax Iowans pay on their water bill for metered water into a 6 percent excise tax. The money would flow into a state fund for water quality initiatives that will help fund waste water and drinking water facilities.

Currently the sales tax is put into the General fund to be used for any purpose. The excise tax will redirect it to be used solely for water quality and the upgrading of water facilities.  I was a part of the subcommittee that held discussions on Thursday morning.  It also passed out of the Ways & Means full Committee later that day.

News from District 96

This week was very slow in the House. We were here on Monday; however, the Senate Democrat Leadership decided to not gavel in until Tuesday afternoon.  The Majority of their members went home Wednesday evening with little to nothing work accomplished for the week.  Once again we did not have agreed upon targets with the Senate.  If this continues the chances of finishing the session on time seems to be slipping away.  April 19th is quickly approaching and that is the official end of session this year.

I had the chance to discuss many constituent’s concerns this week. Pam Goodyear and I visited about the Iowa Health Care Association at their annual event.  I also chatted with Jim Grief from the Iowa Corn Growers about Water Quality and other issues.  Bruce Neiman and Kevin Glanz from the Delaware Farm Bureau were also in the Capitol this week and we review issues important to them.

U.S. Senator Ernst was in Des Moines this week and I briefly spoke with her on the CRP rent issue. The formula that sets CRP rental is not in line with current market conditions.  I suggested that she look into the issue to make the CRP formula more responsive.

I attended another bill signing ceremony this week. This bill was HF 2269 and it updates the code section which refers to the Beef Check-Off.  I was excited to be joined by members of the Cattleman’s Association at the bill signing.

As always if you have any questions feel free to get in touch. My phone number is (319) 480-1997 and my email is

Capitol Update: Week 11


Agreement of School Funding Reached

The conversation on the overall state budget and specifically, on education funding for the 2016/17 school year, took a step forward this week. After over a month of negotiations on the level of funding, an agreement between the House and Senate was reached this week.

After weeks of negotiations and a new March revenue estimate, the agreement is a 2.25% per pupil increase ($6,446 to $6,591), falling in the middle of earlier proposals.   At the table for discussion was the Senate’s proposed 4% increase ($6,704) and the House’s proposed 2% increase ($6,575).  The Governor’s proposal earlier this year was for 2.45% ($6,604).

Additionally on the table for discussion were priority items for school districts in upcoming years, specifically funding to help pay for newly-mandated statewide assessments and for required summer reading programs as part of the Early Literacy Initiative. The assessment costs range anywhere from $8.3 to 9.3 million and summer reading ranges anywhere from about $6 million to $9 million.  Both of these items were rejected by the Senate Democrats who preferred to discuss them as part of the Education Appropriations bill later this year, which funds the universities, community colleges, grant and loan programs, and the Department of Education, among other things.

Under the 2.25% agreement schools will see an additional $153.8 million next year. Combined with funding increases over the past 5 years, this will total nearly $660 million in increased funding.

Governor Signs Coupling Bill

This week the governor signed House File 2433—a bill that coupled with the federal internal revenue code for 2015 taxes and provided Iowa manufacturers with certainty and clarification on the tax exempt status of consumable supplies.

To couple, the bill updated provisions in the Iowa Code to make references to tax year 2015. (The only tax year the legislation coupled with). By operation of those references, Iowa Code couples with the federal tax code for many tax provisions recently extended by Congress.

The more significant federal tax changes that House File 2433 coupled with include:

  • Deduction of up to $250 for out-of-pocket expenses for teachers
  • Tuition and fees deduction for higher education expenses
  • Election to deduct state sales/use tax in lieu of state income tax as an itemized deduction
  • Deduction for mortgage insurance premiums as deductible qualified residence interest
  • Nontaxable IRA transfers to eligible charities
  • Small businesses expensing (instead of depreciate) the first $500,000 of equipment cost (known as Section 179 expensing)

The bill also provided for the decoupling of Iowa Code with federal bonus depreciation provisions. Bonus depreciation is being phased out in the Internal Revenue Code and will be gone by 2020.

News from District 96

This week I am excited to announce that Lake Delhi, which classified as 357E, will now be able to participate in a Watershed Management Authority. Before this piece of legislation recreational lakes and combined districts classified as 357E were unable to participate.  This means that the Lake of Delhi Board of Trustees will be able to designate a representative to sit on a watershed management authority.  Watershed Management Authorities are used to coordinate water quality projects within the watershed.

Monday night I spoke to the Co-Op Association about Water Quality Issues in Iowa as well as legislation that the House Agriculture Committee addressed during this session. Tuesday night the Iowa Pork Producers held a leadership academy and I met with them.  I spoke about Agriculture Issues that were important to the group.  Wednesday morning the Pork Producers visited the Capitol and spoke with their respective legislators.

During the session on Wednesday the House passed a bill setting the increase in Supplemental State Aid for schools at 2.25%. This is a good compromise on spending between the House and the Senate that maintains the budgetary practice of not spending more than we take in.

As always if you have any questions feel free to get in touch. My phone number is (319) 480-1997 and my email is


Capitol Update: Week 10


Revenue Estimating Conference Revises FY 2017 Forecast, Sets Initial FY 2018 Forecast

Iowa’s economy is experiencing slow, but stable growth according to the three member panel charged with forecasting Iowa’s General Fund revenues. The Revenue Estimating Conference held their spring meeting on Wednesday to review and revise their projections for state revenue in FY 2016 and FY 2017, and set a preliminary estimate for FY 2018.

On the national level, while many economic measures are showing improvement over the last several months, that positive momentum has yet to reach lower and middle income families. Consumer spending, which has been a main driver of the national economic recovery, has shown signs of weakening.  Measures of consumer sentiment have hit a three-month low in recent weeks.

All three members of the committee noted that Iowa’s fiscal situation is better than other states who are already in recession or on the verge of falling into recession. The state’s economy has experienced slow growth despite the impact of a falling farm economy.  Sluggish export markets and the strength of the dollar are having a significant impact on the rural economy.  And the economic conditions in Europe and China will continue to weigh on this for some time.

While ag-related income has fallen, growth in the state’s financial services and insurance industry has been able to offset the decline. The state’s housing market is also experiencing growth, which is helping to keep the economy in positive territory.  Wage and salary figures for Iowa workers are also growing , helping to maintain growth in state tax collections while other components are lagging behind.

For FY 2016, the panel decided to keep the revenue estimate at the same level as they had forecast in December – $7.0456 billion.

For FY 2017, the panel decided to lower their forecast for state sales tax collections. In December, they had predicted that this category would experience 2.7% growth in FY 2017.  That figure was lowered to 1.5% growth.  The REC’s calculations did include the impact of the federal tax extenders bill which is projected to raise revenue by $76.4 million. The net effect of these changes is the Revenue Estimating Conference is a forecast of $7.3574 billion in General Fund revenue for FY 2017, $30 million higher than December’s figure.

The Tax Coupling Bill

Part of the agreement between House Republicans and Senate Democrats includes House Republican’s tax coupling bill which provides $95 million in tax relief to Iowans.

The tax coupling bill has an impact on the FY 2016 ending balance and the FY 2017 on-going revenue levels. Any agreement will impact discussions on school aid and budget targets.

The bill couples with everything except bonus depreciation in tax year 2015. It does not couple in tax year 2016 leaving that decision to the 2017 Legislature.  There is a $95.7 million impact on FY 2016 revenue/ending balance.  That money goes directly to taxpayers.  Additionally, $86.5 million is added to FY 2017 on-going revenue with roughly $55 million of that available for appropriation under the state’s expenditure limitation law.

Governor Branstad has stated the House GOP coupling plan is something that he will support.


The other part of the agreement involves the so-called “consumables” issue. HF 2443 from 2014, which had broad bipartisan support, clarifies the definition of replacement parts, including the supplies consumed during the manufacturing process as exempt from sales and use tax. Advocates argue that Iowa’s manufacturers are doubled taxed under the current law and administrative rules.  The agreement ends this double taxation.  It also allows manufacturers who pay good wages and benefits to invest in equipment and employees.  Passage of this language also eliminates the ability of the Department of Revenue to reinterpret the administrative rules governing consumables and gives manufacturers certainty in regards to their tax liability.

News from District 96

Monday, I sat in on a presentation by EcoProducts of Lakeland, Florida. EcoProducts has a patent-pending water treatment process- focused on total phosphorus removal- that relies on chemical reaction and physical separation. Their process achieves less than 10 ppb total phosphorus – regardless of the influent phosphorus concentration. It utilizes aquatically safe, water treatment-approved chemicals that meet EPA guidelines, and it can remediate other impurities in addition to phosphorus- most notably, fluorine and arsenic. They have done a pilot demonstration in Storm Lake this past summer.

Tuesday, the Ag committee moved resolution 106 which recognized National Agriculture Day. Iowa has 88,500 farms.  We are number 1 in corn production, 2nd in soybeans, 7th in cattle, 8th in turkey and cheese production.  The Ag economy is the number one driver in our state’s economy.  I want to thank all the farmers and those involved in Ag production.

Also on Tuesday, I met with Ellen Krogmann. She represents Youth Mentoring at Helping Services.  They connect youth with caring adults who mentor each child.  If you are an adult in Delaware County with some free time, she is looking for more mentors.  They will be matched up with children in need of an adult in their life.

Wednesday, I met with Alan Beste, Executive Director Iowa High School Athletic Association, Mike Dick, Executive Director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, and Nicole Proesch from the Department of Education to learn more about the girls and boys athletic associations.  We discussed football scheduling, traveling times for athletes, and coach contact times to name a few.  It was a good discuss and I learned a lot.

As always if you have any comments, questions, or concerns please feel free to get in touch. My phone number is (319) 480-1997 and my email is