Capitol Update: Week 11

Ensuring Schools Have High Quality Security Plans

The House took another step this week in passing legislation to help protect our schools.  Following on the heels of several other pieces of legislation that provided districts with options for school security, the bill this week, Senate File 2364, requires school districts and nonpublic schools to develop security plans for response to active shooter scenarios and natural disasters.

An informal survey of districts done in 2015 found that of 249 respondent school districts, roughly 85% of them had an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) in place.  But the findings from the emergency management association doing the survey found that only 24 of those districts, or 9.6%, had plans that met the federal FEMA guidelines for what constitutes a “high quality” EOP.  A follow-up survey determined that the number rose slightly, to 11.2%, but this is still not sufficient.

The plans that local districts are to develop would take into consideration recommendations from the Department of Education for what makes a plan high quality.  These elements come from the federal guidelines and consist primarily of 5 concepts:  Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.  The districts would also have to consult and work with their local emergency management organizations and local law enforcement agencies in the development.  Plans are required to be reviewed annually and districts shall conduct annual training and drills.

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support and will return to the Senate with a small amendment for final consideration before moving to the Governor for signing into law.

Iowa House Passes Affordable Health Options for Iowans

In January, the Commerce committee heard from the Insurance Commissioner on the state of the individual health insurance market in the state of Iowa. There was and continues to be an immediate concern for 20,000 Iowans who have no health insurance because they are priced out of the individual health insurance federal exchange market.

In February, the House Commerce committee took a first step to provide Iowans with some relief from unaffordable health care products on the individual market. The committee considered legislation which would provide the option of purchasing a health benefit plan. These plans would be sponsored and administered by Iowa based organizations. Health benefit plans act like insurance and are subject to oversight by the Insurance Commissioner. It is estimated that for individuals who do not qualify for a federal subsidy, these plans would be less than half the cost of plans available on the individual federal exchange.

There are currently proposed changes to the Department of Labor rules that will allow more types of employers to group together and form associations for the purposes creating a larger risk pool for the purpose of obtaining health insurance.  Some of the changes in the proposed rules include allowing sole proprietors to be considered an employer.  Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (MEWAs) offered in Iowa would be subject to the insurance regulations in the state and must comply with regulations and oversight from the insurance commissioner.

The Iowa House passed these proposals this week. They provide Iowans, who are unable to afford health insurance, additional options to cover their healthcare needs.

News from House District 96

This week I had the chance to visit with several groups when they came to the Capitol. Delaware County Farm Bureau and Jones County Farm Bureau Members as well as Iowa Corn Growers were here to discuss issues important to Iowa agriculture.  Iowa Bankers Association was also at the Capitol to chat about concerns of Iowa’s banking industry.

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