Newsletter February 17, 2017

Newsletter February 17, 2017

Statehouse News

Saturday Forum

The League of Women voters will be hosting their second public forum this Saturday, February 18, at Mercy Medical Center, 701 10th Street SE, Cedar Rapids, from 10:30-11:45 A.M. in the Hallagan Education room.  Please come and join us!

Republicans Fast Track Bill to Take Away Bargaining Rights from Teachers, Law Enforcement & Nurses

Over 4,500 Iowans packed the State Capitol on Monday night to speak out against a Republican bill that would deny teachers, firefighters, law enforcement, nurses, and other workers a voice in their own workplace. The bill also met fierce resistance over the weekend at town halls and public forums across Iowa.

Written behind closed doors without input from Iowa workers, the bill being considered by Republicans would essentially gut Iowa’s bi-partisan collective bargaining law and take away rights from nearly 200,000 Iowans.  Current state law requires Iowans and public employers (school, city, county, state, etc.) to sit down and work together to discuss issues and reach mutually agreeable solutions in the workplace.

Democrats opposed the changes proposed by Republicans and believe law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, and other Iowa workers deserve fairness and a voice in their own workplace.

The House and Senate both debated the bill this week and it’s now headed to the Governor’s desk.

House Republicans Move to Reduce Health Care Access

After being approved by the Iowa Senate last month, Republicans who control the Iowa House are moving a bill that will leave thousands of Iowa women without access to critical health care services like cancer screenings, birth control, and STD tests.

A new poll out this week found 77% of Iowans support using state funding for family planning services provided by Planned Parenthood.  Under current federal and state law, no public funding can used to cover abortion services.

The bill will eliminate Iowa’s family planning Medicaid program, defund Planned Parenthood, and then take money from foster care in an attempt to cover a portion of the millions in federal funds Iowa will lose if it passes.

Specifically, the bill withdraws the state of Iowa from using the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver to cover family planning services.  The waiver works like regular fee-for-service Medicaid.  Any provider that provides approved family planning services may receive reimbursement for those services.  Over 800 provider locations in Iowa are registered with the Department of Human Services to receive funding from the Medicaid Waiver, and as of December of 2016, there were over 12,200 Iowans receiving services covered by the waiver.

The services covered by the waiver include:

•    Pap tests
•    Birth control counseling
•    Pelvic Exams
•    Pregnancy tests
•    Voluntary sterilization
•    Emergency contraception
•    Limited STD testing and treatment
•    Ultrasounds (if medically necessary and related to birth control services)
•    Yeast infection treatment
•    Multiple forms of birth control

In addition, the cost of the services covered by the waiver is split between federal and state funding.  The State of Iowa only pays 10% of the costs, while the federal government pays 90% of the costs.  As a result, with the elimination of Iowa using the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver, the State of Iowa will have to pay an additional $5 million over the next two years to maintain the program with state-only funds.

The bill now moves to the House Human Resources Committee for consideration.

The Week in Pictures

Legislators had a very informative meeting Monday morning, hosted by Rep. Chuck Isenhart, about the opioid and heroin epidemic in Iowa. Presenters at the meeting were Cedar Rapids Police Officer, Al Fear, with the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative; members of the Community Resources United to Stop Heroin (CRUSH); as well as family members of Chad Courtney, who died of a Heroin overdose at age 38 in November of 2016
Topics discussed included

1) Lessons learned from the grassroots fight against the heroin epidemic.
2) Law enforcement problem or public health emergency?
3) Public policy: Where can we go from here?

I am supporting HSB 99, a bill currently in the House Human Resources Committee. This bill would require doctors to use the State Prescription Monitoring Program (tracking prescriptions and “doctor shopping”), as well as extend insurance coverage in both public and private sector for treatment of opioid addiction, among other actions – all aimed at stopping this epidemic and saving lives.


Pictures from the Capitol at Monday afternoon’s Labor rally against HF 291 (Formerly HSB 84). HUGE crowd on hand, literally thousands singing, chanting, and fighting for their rights.



Perhaps sensing the mood at the Statehouse, the Iowa Psychological Association visited the Hill Tuesday. I had a very informative conversation with Dr. Brenda Payne, PH.D., MSCP, ABPP.

Statistically, 1 out of 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. 1 in 5 youth will experience a debilitating mental health disorder, BUT only 13% of adults (and about half of children) with a disorder receive treatment. Iowa’s psychologists and other mental health professionals are struggling now, more than ever, to meet the needs.

Of Iowa’s 99 counties, 89 are designated “mental health professional shortage areas”. Additionally, Iowa ranks 46th among states in psychologists per capita, and 53% of Iowa psychologists are age 55 or older.

Iowa also has a stricter than usual process for becoming certified, requiring a 1 year, supervised post-doctoral residency. And, as a deplorable result of the Governor’s Medicaid privatization bill, treatment from psychologists in residency is no longer covered by MCOs in Iowa’s Medicaid.

The IPA would like the legislature to help address the shortage of psychologists by increasing funding for postdoctoral training, allowing licensed psychologists to receive Medicaid reimbursement for delegated services performed by pre-doctoral interns and post-doctoral residents under direct supervision, and supporting ongoing implementation of prescribing authority for psychologists who have completed a rigorous training course.


Amongst all the work this week, associated with trying to stop the gutting of public employee collective bargaining rights, there looms another critical issue: The announcement that AmeriHealth Caritas, effective 04/01/17, will decrease provider reimbursement rates. This includes the supports for community living for all members served. Additionally, members may receive notification in the next few months of assignment to a new, internal AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa Case Manager.

I am delving into the details, contacting leadership at DHS and IME and have asked Mikki Stier, Iowa Medicaid Director, for a meeting to discuss how the latest concerns are being addressed.

Note that there is a long and convoluted series of events that have led to this dilemma – a dilemma that needs an immediate resolution, perhaps in the legislature, before more providers are bankrupted and the most vulnerable citizens have their services cut or eliminated.

It is my understanding (correct me if I am wrong) that this reimbursement rate reduction is below the actual cost of providing services and will negatively impact Discovery Living, REM, The Arc, and other providers in Linn County. If left unchecked, this reduction will eventually impact the ability to provide services for all those needing them.


Meeting Tuesday on the 2nd floor Rotunda with Bob Hebl and Monica Ravn of Discovery Living, in Cedar Rapids.

Discovery Living serves more than 140 people in over 50 locations. Every person served has an intellectual disability, and most have other conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, visual or hearing limitations and/or multiple disabilities. The organization employs 160+ staff, most of whom provide direct support for the residents when they are at home.

We discussed the declining Medicaid reimbursement rates which may negatively impact the availability of care for the vulnerable Iowans that Discovery Living serves.


When the Iowa Association of Colleges for Teachers Education scheduled their visit to the Capitol some time ago, I doubt they realized how timely their presence would be. After a late night of debate on Tuesday, it was re-energizing to be able to spend time on Wednesday talking to some of the young adults that current legislation will directly impact.

The Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE) seeks to continuously improve teacher preparation, the teaching profession, and student learning by supporting and applying scholarship. To achieve these goals, IACTE provides opportunities for communication, collaboration, and cooperative action among 32 Iowa teacher preparation institutions and other state and national educational organizations.
I had the chance to meet with students from Coe College, Mount Mary University, and Des Moines Area Community College. They had questions about the future of their profession here in Iowa, the effect that HF 291/SF 213 will have on their prospects as teachers , and what they can do as future educators to provide the best future not only for themselves, but for the children they will educate.

I can’t thank these students enough for being here.

Picture 1: From Coe College are Megan Smith, Professor Christy Wolfe, (sister of Rep. Mary Wolfe) Kelly May, Lane Halupnik, Sezar Carrillo, and Bailey Finken

Picture 2: Sara Cook, DMACC; Emma Martensen, DMACC; Alli Friday, DMACC; constituent Annie Feltes, Mount Mercy; Kelsey Carson, Mount Mercy; Maddy Blietz, Mount Mercy

Picture 3: Nadene Davidson, University of Northern Iowa; Dr. Susie Lagos (former colleague at CRCSD), University of Iowa

For More information visit:


During a busy morning on Wednesday, I was fortunate to run into Caleb Velasquez and Thaddeus Daniel, students at Washington and Jefferson High Schools in Cedar Rapids. Caleb and Thaddeus, along with their teacher John Gianforte, were here to talk about the iJag program.

iJAG is an independent, statewide 501(c)(3) private nonprofit organization established in 1999 and has become a leader within the national JAG network. Initially created for high school seniors as a school-to-work program, iJAG has evolved into an organization serving more than 2,200 students per year in 45 programs (33 schools), reaching into 17 communities across the states of Iowa and Illinois.

It was great to see these young students, and I am grateful I had the opportunity to hear about the outstanding progress they have made as part of this organization.

The second picture includes additional students from Washington and Jefferson High School iJAG and teachers Erin Whipple, Sarah Dollmeyer and Ashton Northern along with Representative Kirsten Running Marquardt.


I had a great time visiting with Jacob Smothers and Noah Weigel Wednesday morning, as they showed me the 3D printer they have learned to use. Noah and Jacob were here with the Iowa Afterschool Alliance. The IAA is an organization seeking to provide all Iowa children, youth, and families access to quality out-of-school-time opportunities in their community.

86% of Iowa’s children and youth are not currently served by an afterschool program. Of those, 33% reported they would take advantage of the opportunity if it was available to them. That means there is an unmet demand for programming for well over 136,000 children in Iowa.

for more information visit:


In the hallway behind the House I was able to visit with members of the Iowa PTA on Wednesday. The IPTA is the Iowa Branch of the national PTA. The PTA was created to meet a profound challenge: to better the lives of children. It continues to flourish because PTA has never lost sight of the goal to change the lives of children across our nation for the better.

The IPTA were here to talk to legislators about many things, including the impact that HF 291 will have on Iowa’s students, teachers and communities.

It was a pleasure spending a little time talking to another group with diverse political backgrounds who came to the Capitol to fight for Iowa’s children and their teachers.

pictured (left to right): Shellie Pike, Hoang Bul, Ryan Pike, Janel McGovern

In the second picture, also pictured is Gretchen Paricka


Speaking this week with Andrew Boscaljon, Board Member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Neil Broderick, Board Member for Orchard Place.

Along with their families, Orchard Place works with children and youth who experience mental health and behavioral challenges. By intervening early with appropriate care, they build stronger and brighter futures for these youth.

In 2016, Orchard place provided care to more than 9,900 Iowa Children, employed 370 staff members and utilized the services of 400+ volunteers. Thank you to Orchard Place for providing these critical services to children and their families.

For more information visit:


Meeting on Wednesday with Iowa State University teaching student Kayla Krull. Kayla is a student teacher, a senior at ISU, and has the unique perspective of being a teacher’s kid, a niece (multiple times over), and a grandchild. She will soon be an excellent middle school English teacher.

During her time at ISU, Kayla conducted research aimed at better preparing teaching students to teach and to “reach” every student they encounter. The results of her research survey suggest that at least half of the teachers in the survey felt that they entered their first teaching job unprepared to be the effective teachers that students need them to be.

This is important information, because research has shown that an effective teacher has a two to three times greater impact on student achievement than any other single factor. The teacher is the most significant factor in a student’s achievement. Kayla wants us to make sure that teachers receive the preparation necessary to be successful in meeting the needs of their students. I concur.

I look forward to following the progress of Kayla’s work and where it leads and I hope to be talking with her again in the future.


A welcome sight on Thursday, after several tough days of debate, was seeing the smiling faces of the 7th and 8th graders from Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta Middle School, in Waterloo, IA. These students were here as part of a Service Learning – Students for Animal Welfare reception, and they energetically spoke with legislators about the serious problems that Iowa has with some of our poorly regulated “puppy mills”.

These students are working hard to raise awareness about the mistreatment and abuse of animals in the state and the need from more state inspectors to enforce current law. To that end they are seeking to raise more awareness about the issue by urging others to write letters to editors, talk to elected officials, and asking new animal caregivers to always do the sufficient research about the conditions in which a dog was raised before purchasing or adopting a pet.

Pictured here with students of Blessed Maria Middle school, and Blessed Maria teacher, Chris Bailey


Iowa Republicans’ Attack on Working Families

Since Republicans released their bill, HSB 84/HF 291, to strip away rights from public employees, thousands of Iowans have turned out at the Capitol and at rallies and forums across the state to voice their opposition to the bill.

As more opposition keeps building and Iowans are learning more details – pondering the consequences to their rights, jobs and families – Republicans fast track the bill by limiting the debate time and moving to swiftly vote on the 70+ amendments offered by Democrats. The legislation passed the Iowa House on a mostly party line vote, with only Republicans voting for it.

Rep. Ourth ended debate on HF 291 (gutting collective bargaining for public workers) perfectly Thursday afternoon.

Quoting Matthew 25: “Whatsoever you have done unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done unto me”

The public in the gallery and the Democrats on the House floor gave him an ovation. The Speaker slammed the gavel and called the body to order to stop the ovation, and moved on to voting.

So, after 3 days of contentious debate, Democrats STOOD proudly, representing more than 184,000 public workers and their families, in opposition to HF 291.

Republicans may have had their way with HF 291 on a 53 to 47 vote.

But remember that hard days make us stronger.

This is not the end of our fighting on behalf of Iowa’s middle-class working families – it’s the beginning!!

Continue Reading the Statehouse News

Voter ID Bill Introduced in the Iowa House
Changes to Deer Tagging Regulations
IAble Program Launched
Courts Establish Pilot Project to Help Resolve Family Situations

To read the rest of my Statehouse News go to:

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