Capitol Update Week 7

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Iowa faces a shortage of health care providers in many areas of the state. This includes primary care, specialty care, and mental health care. Easing this shortage and attracting health care providers, specifically to rural communities, has been one of House Republican’s top priorities over the last several sessions.

We can start to address a shortage of providers by keeping our best and brightest right here in the state. House File 2383 aims to do just that by requiring the University of Iowa Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry to prioritize Iowa students over out-of-state students. This legislation requires at least 75% of admitted students to be residents of Iowa or to have completed their undergrad here in the state.

House File 2383 will help Iowa retain health care professionals to practice here after graduation. Students with previous ties to the state are more likely to stay in Iowa, work in Iowa, pay taxes in Iowa, and raise their families in Iowa. There is no guarantee that students from New York or California will remain in the state following graduation.

In 2017, a small family-owned newspaper in western Iowa published a story about a local police officer’s inappropriate relationship with a teenager and other previous questionable actions. This story ultimately led to the resignation of the police officer, who was under threat of termination. The ex-officer then sued the paper for libel.

The newspaper ultimately won the lawsuit but was forced to incur thousands of dollars in legal fees, simply for exposing the truth.

These types of lawsuits, known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), are intended to silence bad press and suppress free speech by dragging people through costly and lengthy court fights.

House File 2339 provides individuals with a new avenue to have frivolous SLAPP lawsuits reviewed by a judge in a timely manner, so they can be dismissed early in the legal process. This legislation ensures that freedom of speech is protected and that when someone’s bad actions or misdeeds are brought to light, they are held accountable.

On Thursday the Ways and Means committee passed 3 bills relating to childcare in Iowa. The goal of these bill is to help provide affordable childcare for our young families in Iowa. As session proceeds, the House will continue to work on policies that will help to provide quality and affordable childcare in the state of Iowa.

There has been a growing concern through Iowa, especially in rural counties and communities, about the access to emergency medical services.  A common misconception is that emergency medical services are considered an essential service under the Iowa Code.  They are not.  However, it is currently an option for counties to choose to make it an essential service.  Under current law, county supervisors may offer for voter approval a local option income surtax or an ad valorem property tax.  Additionally, if it is considered an essential service, it has to be re-approved every five years.

House Study Bill 631/HF 2434 makes significant changes to the emergency medical services chapter (IA Code 422D).  The first change that it makes allows the county board of supervisors to declare EMS an essential service without calling for an election to approve this decision.  EMS advocates believe that this will greatly reduce the burden and cost of declaring EMS an essential service.

This bill also gets rid of the five-year sunset that required the voters to re-approve emergency medical services.  This gives the voters the option to end EMS as an essential service only under a reverse referendum.  EMS advocates have complained that they are uncomfortable purchasing equipment if after only five years the service could not be renewed.

A new requirement under this bill is that a county that adopts EMS as an essential service shall create an EMS Advisory Council to develop how the EMS program will be structured and work throughout the county.  Current law only allows counties to enter into 28E agreements with other counties.  This bill removes that barrier and allows counties to enter into 28E agreements with other entities besides just counties.

Currently, in the Health and Human Services Budget there is $303,000 that is appropriated to the Emergency Medical Services Fund.  The money is divided equally amongst the counties. Also, Iowa Code 422D.6(3) lays out an enumerated list of items that these funds could be spent on. This bill changes that to include any operational cost.

In addition to the above-mentioned changes to emergency medical services, House Study Bill 508/House File 2224 appropriates the revenue from sports wagering (estimated between $2-3 million) to the Emergency Medical Services Trust Fund.

On Thursday the Ways and Means committee passed 3 bills relating to childcare in Iowa. The goal of these bill is to help provide affordable childcare for our young families in Iowa. As session proceeds, the House will continue to work on policies that will help to provide quality and affordable childcare in the state of Iowa.

 

Forum Schedule:

Friday February 28 @ 9am

Monticello Golf Club with Governor Reynolds

Friday February 28 @ Noon

Monticello City Chambers

Friday March 6 @ 10am

Manchester Farm Bureau Office

Capitol Update Week 6

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The Legislature’s first funnel was this week, which means our focus has been narrowed to bills that have a better chance of being debated on the floor and signed into law.

 

What is the funnel? It’s a deadline when House bills are required to pass at least one House committee to remain eligible for discussion and vice versa for the Senate. If a bill fails to advance through a committee, it is considered “dead” for the session and is tabled. Oftentimes, a bill is not moved forward because it lacks support or needs improvement over the interim. The funnel does not apply to Appropriations or Ways & Means bills.

I have chosen a couple of legislative priorities that remain alive following the first funnel.

 

Child Care Access and Affordability

(House Files 2041, 2083, 2171, 2175, 2270, 2271, and 2424)

The House has introduced a wide-ranging package of legislation this session to improve access to affordable child care for families. Several committees have advanced common sense solutions to make child care more affordable for families, increase access to providers, incentivize employers to offer and expand child care to their employees, and address the “cliff effect” by easing Iowans off of government child care assistance programs. House leadership is also continuing to work with the Senate to expand eligibility of the child care tax credit program by doubling the household income threshold.

 

World-Class Schools

(House File 2243 and 2245 and House Study Bill 598)

In addition to providing Iowa’s K-12 schools with record investment this year, the House has been looking for additional ways to make our schools better for students, teachers, and parents. Building on previous efforts, lawmakers continued to bring down rural school transportation costs and reduce per pupil inequity by an additional $10 per student this session. Members from both parties have also worked together on legislation to help educators deal with disruptive behavior in the classroom to keep students and staff safe as well as get students the support they need. We look forward to working with Governor Reynolds on her school safety initiative jointly headed by the Departments of Public Safety and Education.

 

Access to Affordable Health Care

(House Files 2192, 2197, 2253, 2383, 2463 and House Study Bill 685)

The House has also been looking for ways increase access to high quality and affordable health care. Committees have advanced several pieces of legislation that provide more transparency and reduce the cost of prescription drugs, increase access to health services, and attract and retain more health care professionals to our state.

 

Rural Emergency Medical Services

(House Files 2224, 2280, and 2434)

One of the most basic functions of government is ensuring citizens have the ability to call for help when its necessary. This includes police and fire, but often forgotten are Emergency Medical Services (EMS) like paramedics, EMTs, and first responders. The legislature is committed to assisting local governments offer these services to their residents. Legislation passed through committee this year gives counties the ability to make long-term investment in EMS programs and infrastructure while also proposing additional funding to local EMS. Additionally, with many towns relying on volunteer fire and EMS departments, the House wants to ensure that small communities are able to attract qualified individuals. That’s why we are working to double the volunteer EMS tax credit and show our support to individuals who put their lives on the line to protect us and keep us safe when it counts most.

 

Expanding High-Speed Internet to Underserved Areas

(House Files 2023, 2107, 2213, 2242, and 2459)

The legislature also made the expansion of high-speed broadband to underserved parts of the state a top priority this session. Reliable internet has become a necessity in today’s economy and both employers and workers are depending on a steady connection to conduct business online or work from home. To help expedite this expansion, the Commerce committee has passed multiple bills to improve internet access and bring faster speeds to Iowa’s rural communities.

 

Capitol Update Week 5

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News From District 96

Floor Debate
The House held its first floor debate of the session this week, passing three critical pieces of legislation to support Iowa’s K-12 schools and victims of significant flooding across the state.

Last spring, much of the state was devastated by significant flooding, particularly in southwest Iowa and eastern Iowa around the Quad Cities. The Legislature acted quickly last session, providing $25 million in flood recovery aid: $15 million for immediate flood relief and $10 million in housing tax credits to rebuild homes.

Since the Legislature adjourned last year, it has become clear that additional support is needed to help these communities recover.

This week, the House passed a supplemental appropriation bill that will provide impacted communities with an additional $21 million for flood recovery. Legislators worked closely with the Flood Mitigation Board to identify critical projects that need investment before more flooding occurs this spring.

License Exemption for Farm Special Registration Vehicles
Also, this week the Iowa House Agriculture Committee passed House Study bill 530 by a by-partisan 17-aye to 6-nay vote.   The bill amends the definition of ‘chauffer’ in the Code to exclude a farmer or his hired help who operate a farmer owned truck tractor and are hauling the farmer’s own product or property to a destination no more than 100-miles from farmland owned or operated by the farmer.  Under these conditions, the individual no longer needs a chauffeur license.

The measure was amended in committee to further stipulate that this exception only applies when the farmer or his hired help is driving the farmers’ trucks that are licensed plated as farm trucks/Special Farm Registrations to transport the farmer’s own products or property to a destination no more than 100-miles from his farmland.

Keeping Health Care Professionals in Iowa
On Tuesday, the House Human Resources Committee passed House File 2115 to require the University of Iowa medical and dental schools to have 75% of their admitted students be from the state of Iowa. This work builds on legislation passed last year to require state-funded medical residencies to prioritize Iowans in the application process by looking closer at those that are originally from Iowa, went to undergrad in Iowa, or graduated medical school in Iowa.

Supporting Emergency Medical Service
Last week the House Ways and Means Committee passed House File 2280 by a vote of 24-1. The bill increases the Volunteer Fire Fighter and Volunteer Emergency Medical Services Personnel Member Credit and the Reserve Peace Officer Credit from $100 to $200. The bill makes the increase in the tax credit available this tax year.

House File 2280 is currently on the House Ways and Means Calendar and is eligible for consideration by the full chamber. House File 2280 is just one of several initiatives we are putting forth this session to support our volunteer EMS workers. These volunteers make Iowa a safer place to work and live and deserve this honor.

This week I had the privilege of welcoming students from  JCSHYC (Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition), Maquoketa Valley, and West Delaware the to the Iowa House of Representatives.  The groups were visiting the Capitol to bring awareness to the dangers of smoking, vaping and underage drinking.


Capitol Update Week 4

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News from District 96

As Ways and Means Chair, I am responsible for reviewing all tax legislation. In the Governor’s Condition of the State address she proposed implementing an additional 1-cent sales tax will increase Iowa’s revenue by $540 million, enabling the following:

  • Create additional tax relief, improving Iowa’s competitive position and allowing Iowa families to keep more of what they earn.
  • Fully fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, further improving Iowa’s water quality and quality of life.
  • Fully fund Iowa’s Regional Mental Health System, ensuring that every Iowan has the opportunity to be healthy and well.

Governor Reynolds has made a commitment to reducing taxes to ensure that hardworking Iowans are able to keep more of their hard-earned dollars. To carry out this, she has proposed a plan to cut individual income tax by 10 percent on average and by lowering the highest tax rate from 8.5 percent to 5.5 percent. The bill will also reduce property taxes by lowering the county mental health levy statewide by $77.1 million. The State will replace these dollars through appropriations funded by the 1-cent tax increase, which will allow for an overall increase for mental health funding in Iowa. We will also broaden the number of items that are sales tax exempt to include diapers and feminine hygiene products.

The bill also includes Early Childhood Development and Child and Dependent Care tax credits by doubling the maximum net income amount for eligibility from $45,000 to $90,000. This part of the legislation is very similar to a bill that the House passed last session but stalled in the Senate.

In 2010, Iowans voted to amend the constitution and create the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund with the purpose of “protecting and enhancing water quality and natural areas in this state.” To date, the trust has remained unfunded. By raising the sales tax, the amendment will dedicate 3/8 of the proposed 1-cent sales tax and provide the necessary, sustainable funding for the trust.

The fund will allocate $99.5 million to water quality efforts. This funding will strengthen Iowa’s nutrient management reduction plan. $52.3 million of the fund will be dedicated to the improvement of conservation and recreation in Iowa.

Adjustments to Iowa Code Chapter 461 are proposed to acknowledge the nutrient reduction strategy as the foundation of the state’s water quality efforts and ensure periodic reviews of the code are conducted to comply with the most current evidence-based practices and policies.

This bill is currently undergoing the legislative process, and if you would like to read further you can find the bill on the legislative website by searching for HSB 657. Also if you have any question or comments relating to HSB 657 please feel free to email me at Lee.Hein@legis.iowa.gov.

 

Capitol Update Week 3

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News  from District 96

This week, the announced a K-12 funding package for the 2020-21 school year that will provide schools with additional resources that they can depend on. Additionally, the plan will take into account many of the challenges that school boards and administrators have brought to lawmakers and targets additional dollars to address these problems.

The plan offered by the House will provide schools with an additional $108 million next school year, bringing total state investment in Iowa’s K-12 system to nearly $3.4 billion per year.

The details of the plan include:

•    $94.7 million for Supplemental State Aid (SSA), building upon the House Majority ’s strong commitment to K-12 schools over the last decade.
•    $7.25 million to reduce transportation costs for rural schools and ensure no school spends more than the statewide average. This will ensure that more dollars make their way into the classroom rather than being spent to bus students to and from school.
•    $5.8 million in equity funding to further reduce the cost per pupil gap by $10 per student. This continues to reduce a long-time inequity that has existed in the school funding formula since the 1970s.

The House plan provides
the same amount of SSA as Governor Reynolds while providing additional dollars for rural school transportation costs and per pupil equity. Currently, Iowa pays $6,880 per pupil per year, and with the proposed Supplemental State Aid package the state will increase funding to $7,062 per pupil per year. 

The K-12 House proposal fits within the state budget and provides schools with a reasonable increase that they can depend on. The House Majority has made it a priority to follow through on the commitments that have been made to schools and will continue to do so this year. 

 Since 2011, Iowa has added almost 3,500 new teachers to Iowa classrooms. This is a stark contrast compared to   2010 when the state lost nearly 1,000 educators due to budget mismanagement and a 10% cut to schools. The House has also worked hard to lower class sizes in the state of Iowa. According to Condition of Education Report, the student-teacher ratio has declined to 13.04 per student. This ratio has declined every year since 2011, even while enrollment has grown steadily overtime. Iowa teacher pay continued to rise with the average salary coming in at $59,220. According to the report, the gap has been reduced significantly in recent years. Additionally, third party studies say that Iowa’s teacher pay ranks among the highest in the country. 

This week I had the opportunity to welcome some constituents to the State House to discuss their legislative priorities. I was able to get a picture with both a group of  superintendents/school board members from West Delaware and Western Dubuque. We also welcomed a group of students from the Anamosa FFA Chapter. 

Capitol Update Week 2

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News from District 96

With the start of every legislative session, I receive a lot of questions about how the process works and what it is like being a legislator. For this week’s newsletter, I thought I would share some of the most commonly asked questions and answers.

 

What is your weekly schedule?

I try to leave for Des Moines around 7:00 am on Mondays. I try to get in a few meetings before we gavel in at 1pm. Then we have rounds of committee blocks throughout the afternoon. During the evening, we try to catch up with constituents and prep for the day ahead.

 

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays bring a lot of constituent meetings, subcommittee meetings and committee meetings. I try to at the Capitol around 7:00am. We will leave in the evening to meet up with constituents, grab dinner or read up on legislation that will be discussed in the coming weeks. Most legislators head home Thursday afternoon.

 

Fridays usually give me time to catch up on all the things I missed back home.  Usually there are forums, and meetings to attend.  Saturday is spent at the farm helping with things that need to be done in preparation for the spring.

 

How long are you in session?

Members of the House are elected to two year terms. The first year is “limited” to 110 days, the second session to 100 days. This is not a hard cut off, but legislators do not receive per diem for any days in session beyond the 110/100 day allotment.

 

What do you get paid?

Members of the House and Senate receive a yearly salary of $25,000. Members are eligible for certain benefits (health care, IPERS). During session, members receive mileage (once a week, regardless of the number of trips made) and per diem expenses. Each member is provided with $300 per month for constituency expenses such as stationary, postage, mileage outside of session, certificates, etc.

 

What do you do when you are not in session/ do you get the summer and fall off? 

The government never stops getting in people’s way, the mail is still delivered and time does not stop with the fall of the gavel on the last day of session. I check my email most every day and try to respond in a timely fashion.  Summer is county fair and parade season and when fall approaches constituents and groups want to meet to discuss issues important to them and thoughts for the upcoming session.

 

Constituents are welcome to contact us at any time. We do not punch out with the fall of the gavel. It is important for us to be accessible and responsive to constituents. I try to stay engaged and in-tune with what constituents need.

 

Where do legislators stay while in Des Moines? 

A lot of legislators live close enough to Des Moines that they can drive in and home every night. That is not practical with my commute. Those of us living further away work with hotels, extended stays, snow birds, roommates, friends and family for accommodations during session.  I and three other legislators rent a home from a couple who spend the winter with their daughter in Florida.  With session lasting about four months, with long days, short nights, we have very little down time.

 

 

How are the Speaker and committee chairs chosen?

The Speaker is elected by members of their caucus, informally and formally by the members of the House. Committee Chairs are selected by the Speaker.

 

What committees do you sit on?

I am the chair of the Ways and Means Committee; this committee works with all matters relating to taxes and fees. In addition to this appointment I also sit on the Agriculture and Environmental Protection Committee

 

 

Do you have staff? 

Each legislator is permitted one part-time clerk for the 100 or 110 days of session. During the interim we are a staff of ourselves.

 

Capitol Update Week 1

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New House Leadership

This year the Iowa House elected new leadership following the resignation of former Speaker Linda Upmeyer. The Republican majority selected Representative Pat Grassley from New Hartford to be the Speaker of the House for the 2020 Legislative Session, and with new leadership comes new legislative priorities.

In his speech to the legislative body Speaker Grassley called upon the chamber to decrease childcare costs for families, improve access to providers, and create an off-ramp for Iowans who want to advance in their careers and phase out their need for government assistance. He stated that, “This is an issue that impacts each of our districts where both parties in this chamber can work together to find solutions.”

 

The Governor’s Condition of the State Address

On Tuesday, January 14 Governor Kim Reynolds laid out her legislative priorities for 2020 legislative session in her annual Condition of the State Address. Her speech outlined several legislative priorities such as; state licensing reform with the goal of decreasing red tape, expansion of the Employer Innovation Fund, and the need to reform the state constitution to allow for the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons who have served their time.

 

In her address the Governor rolled out a new initiative called the Invest Iowa Act which will strive to cut income taxes, create a sustainable funding source for our mental health system, reduce the burden on property taxpayers, and fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust. She stated that, “These changes will make our vision a reality. It’s an investment in our future. And it’s an investment in those who are our future.”

The Governor also made it a priority to discuss the need for increased funding for child care. Governor Reynolds outlined that for some it is an affordability issue, but it is simply a problem of reasonable access to child care providers.

 

News from District 96

The first week of this legislative session was similar to most.  The House and Senate heard from Governor Kim Reynolds, Acting Chief Justice Wiggins, and Major General Ben Corell. This year I along with 5 other legislators had the privilege of escorting the Governor from her office to the house chamber.

In my second session as the chair of the Ways and Means Committee we have hit the ground running with our first meeting being on the second day of the legislative session. This committee looks in to all matters relating to taxation and plays a vital role in the legislation that will be passed this session.

If you would like to discuss an issue feel free to come to one of my forums or send me an email.  It is an honor to serve as your State Representative for another term in the Iowa House.

Upcoming Forums:

January 31st Noon Jones Co Economic Forum

@ Lawrence Community Center in Anamosa

 

February 7th Delaware Co Farm Bureau Forum 10am

@Delaware County Farm Bureau Office