Capitol Update Week 11

House Passes Bill to Strengthen Penalties for Identity Theft

Identity theft is a nationwide epidemic. According to a Federal Trade Commission Report, every three seconds there is a new victim of identity theft. In 2011, Iowa had 1,208 identity theft complaints and while that number is low compared to many other states, identity theft is still a major concern for Iowans. This week, the Iowa House passed House File 534, to increase the penalty for identity theft in an effort to stop this growing problem.

Under current law, a person commits identity theft if they fraudulently use or attempt to use identification information of another person, with the intent to obtain credit, property, services or other benefits. There are two tiers of punishment for identity theft. If the value of the items is $1,000 or less, the person will be charged with an aggravated misdemeanor. A person convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor could face up to two years imprisonment and a fine of $625 to $6,250. If the value of items is over $1,000 the person will be charged with a class “D” felony. A class “D” felony is punishable by confinement for no more than five years and a fine between $750 and $7,500.

After extensive research and input from people in the community, House Republicans decided to eliminate the charge of an aggravated misdemeanor for items less than $1,000 and instead make the penalty for identity theft a class “D” felony, regardless of the value of items taken. Since identity theft is so prevalent around the country and it can be very time consuming for individuals impacted by this theft to stop the fraudulent activity, the Judiciary Committee decided a higher penalty was necessary, no matter how much money was involved.

In addition to a uniform penalty, House File 534 makes an exception for persons of a certain age who take another’s identification to gain some benefits. Specifically an individual who takes another’s identity for the purpose of underage possession of alcohol, underage entry to a bar, underage entry to a movie, underage possession of tobacco, or underage entry in to any establishment with age restriction. An individual who commits this crime shall not be charged under the identity theft statute but instead be charged for violating the statute relating to the particular offense.

Last session, House Republicans passed a different bill to combat identity theft, but Democrats in the Senate filed to give it any consideration. This year, House File 534 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support with 87 ayes and 11 nays. House File 534 has been sent to the Senate for further consideration. House Republicans believe that by increasing the penalty on identity theft Iowans will have more protection from this financially devastating crime.

Study: Obamacare Increases Insurance Costs for Those on Individual Market

Research conducted by the Society of Actuaries has shown that as many as 43 states could see double-digit percentage claims cost increases as the full effect of the new healthcare law is put into effect. The study finds that the claims cost of insurance in the individual market will increase by an average of 32 percent nationally.

The increase that Iowans who purchase insurance through non-group plans should expect depends on one important factor: whether or not Medicaid is expanded. The study conducted two analyses of per-member-per-month costs for non-group insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The one analysis assumes states will opt to expand Medicaid, while the other assumes the states will decline to expand Medicaid. The study shows that Iowans should expect an increase under both models, but that the increase would be less severe if the state does NOT expand Medicaid.

The study shows that, if Medicaid is expanded, Iowans could expect an increase of 9.7% for non-group per-member-per month costs once the provisions of the Affordable Care Act have been implemented. However, if Medicaid is not expanded, Iowans should still expect an increase, but it would be 5.5% for non-group per-member-per-month costs once the provisions of the Affordable Care Act have been implemented. While these amounts are lower than the projected national average, they are still increased costs on Iowans.

The five states that stand to see the largest increases include Ohio (80.9% increase with Medicaid expansion, 82.1% increase without), Wisconsin (80.0% increase with Medicaid expansion, 79.6% increase without), Indiana (67.7% increase with Medicaid expansion, 66.4% increase without), Maryland (66.6% increase with Medicaid expansion, 61.4% increase without), and Idaho (62.2% increase with Medicaid expansion, 61.8% increase without). Only four states stand to have these costs decrease under both models: Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Medicaid expansion is not a foregone conclusion either way. Governor Branstad said he is opposed to expanding Medicaid, which will lead to increased costs to the state, while the Democrat-controlled Senate passed a bill this week that would expand that coverage to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level.

The largest reasons for the increase in costs exist as the study predicts the shifts of currently insured people from high-risk pools, the employer market, and previously uninsured persons who must pay most or all the cost of coverage to the individual market, which will likely overwhelm the expected lower costs anticipated by the influx of newly-insured persons in the insurance exchanges receiving federal benefit and premium subsidies. The study notes that, “[a]s a result, the underlying claims cost of insurance in the individual market will increase by an average of 32 percent nationally, when compared to what it would have been without the reform law.”

A full copy of the report can be found at http://cdn-files.soa.org/web/research-cost-aca-report.pdf

Iowa Teacher of the Year nominations due April 26

House Republicans are interested in supporting excellent teaching.  The Iowa Teacher of the Year award celebrates that excellent teaching and gives recognition to a teacher each year that encapsulates the best of what Iowa’s teacher have to offer, serving as a representative of the thousands of excellent teachers we have in this state.

The Iowa Department of Education announced this week that the deadline to nominate the 2014 Iowa Teacher of the Year is April 26. The award is an opportunity to recognize an exceptional Iowa teacher who is helping to redefine education. Nominations will be accepted from anyone, including students, parents, school administrators, colleagues, college faculty members and associations.

The Iowa Teacher of the Year award was established in 1958. The annual program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education through an appropriation from the Legislature ($85,000 in FY13). Winners are chosen by a committee that includes representatives of the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa State Education Association, the School Administrators of Iowa, the Parent Teachers Association and the current Iowa Teacher of the Year.

The Teacher of the Year serves as an ambassador to education and as a liaison to primary and secondary schools, higher education and organizations across the state.

Tania Johnson of Cedar Rapids was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year.

The 2014 Teacher of the Year will be announced this fall.

Nomination forms can be found on the following webpage: http://educateiowa.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=686&Itemid=2683

Recap of Week 11

Jim Greif from Prairieburg was at the Capitol this week. He is a member Iowa Corn Growers Association. The Iowa Corn Growers want to make some changes to the Corn Promotion Board. They want to downsize the board itself and change meeting dates in the Board’s code. The association also wants to raise the cap of the corn check off from one cent to five cents.

Steve Leonard, President of the Lake Delhi Board of Trustees, stopped by the Statehouse this week. We continue to discuss issues with the reconstruction of the dam. The dam reconstruction bill that passed out of the House last week is still waiting for the Senate’s approval.

I was appointed to the Energy & Environment Public Policy Committee by House Speak Kraig Paulsen. The committee provides for state leaders to address challenges and issues arising from energy-related and environmental conditions. Members of the committee focus on emerging trends, innovative solutions, and viable policy positions and response projects. During meetings, committee members may introduce and consider policy resolutions. The committee is designed to encourage states to share the best practices, and to facilitate networking among state officials and between the public and private sectors. The appointment is for two years. I’m excited to start and contribute what I’ve learned serving on the Environmental Protection committee in the House.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these topics or any others please feel free to contact me by e-mail at lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or by phone at (515)281-7330.

Sincerely,

Rep. Lee Hein

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