Newsletter February 24, 2017

Newsletter February 24, 2017

Informal Listening Post

Come and join me for a cup of coffee and conversation!

I will be at Karma Coffee Café, 1725 Boyson Road, in Hiawatha
Saturday, February 25th from 7:30 a. m. to 10:30 a.m.

Note:  Karma is 3 blocks west of I-380 on Boyson Road – across the street from the Kirkwood Regional Center of Linn County

Republican Plan to Cut Wages for 65,000 Iowans

Instead of increasing the minimum wage, Republican lawmakers are working on a bill this year, House Study Bill 92, that will actually lower wages for 65,000 Iowans. It’s just one part of their plan to take away decisions from Iowa counties, cities, and schools and also includes rolling back civil rights protections for some Iowans.

After waiting for Iowa lawmakers to act for nearly a decade, four counties, including Linn, have recently increased the minimum wage in their own community to finally give a boost to the lowest wage earners.  One of the counties that just took action in Southern Iowa is Wapello County, which has the 3rd highest poverty rate in Iowa and 2nd lowest per-capita income.

If the Republican bill becomes law, the minimum wage increases already approved in some communities will go back down and 65,000 Iowans will lose out on a raise they’ve earned.

Now set at $7.25 per hour, Iowa’s minimum wage was last increased in 2008 while every state surrounding Iowa (except Wisconsin) has increased their minimum wage above $7.25.  To meet basic living expenses, a single person in Iowa resident should make at least $13.16 an hour and that rises to $21.52 an hour for a single parent with one child.

Democrats believe we should raise incomes for Iowans, not lower them.  We’ve offered a plan to raise incomes for 216,000 Iowans, but Republicans voted that down last week in committee.

Another part of their bill, section 2, rolls back local civil rights protections that are different from the state.

Republicans say the bill is necessary because a few cities have now passed an ordinance that bans landlords and property managers from discriminating against Iowans who use low-income assistance housing vouchers.  However, the Republican bill also goes beyond just this case and would roll back other ordinances in communities to prevent discrimination in housing, education, and employment.

Section 3 of the bill, prevents local governments from regulating containers and other products like styrofoam cups and plastic bags that may have a negative environmental impact in their communities.

Corporate Special Interests Target Public Schools

Earlier this session, Republicans introduced a bill, Senate File 29, to divert millions of state tax dollars from public schools to private schools and home schools instead. Called Education Savings Accounts, the bill essentially creates a voucher program, without accountability or auditing provisions, that allows students’ parents to receive the state’s public tax dollars for their children to attend a private, religious, or home school. The estimated cost of the program is about $200 million per year.

The bill got a boost this week when a corporate special interest group launched by the Koch Brothers said it was now their “top priority” to get this done here in the Iowa Legislature.

Supporting Private Schools in Iowa the Next Agenda Item for Koch Brothers-Funded Group

A spokesman for the Koch Brothers-funded organization Americans for Prosperity says school choice is their next top issue to push through the Iowa legislature.   

The group last week saw completion of their number one priority, rewriting Iowa’s collective bargaining law.

The bill reduces the bargaining rights for public workers in Iowa and affects their ability to raise money and stay organized.

Speaking at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Americans for Prosperity’s Drew Klein received kudos for his work on the collective bargaining bill. 

He outlined the rest of the group’s plans.

“We rolled out about two years ago our Reform Iowa agenda,” Klein said.

Number two on the list is school choice:   putting  state dollars into individual savings accounts to be used for  private schools.

“We talk about school choice and using market forces that work in every other area of the economy,” Klein said.   “I still think there’s an opportunity to do something related to school choice this year.”

Though Klein admits there may not be enough money in the budget for the legislation this year.

A bill has been filed in the Senate to divert state dollars away from public schools to families to use for private schools or home schools.   The House considered a similar bill last year. 

On another issue, Klein downplayed an ethics complaint filed against him this week for not registering as a lobbyist on the collective bargaining bill.

“I won’t comment too much but I’m now officially the subject of an ethics investigation in the House because evidently I broke some sacred rule despite the fact that I’ve not been  subject to this scrutiny for the last five  years I’ve been a lobbyist,” Klein said.

House and Senate rules require lobbyists to declare their advocacy either for or against any bill.  The complaint was filed by the Iowa Federation of Labor.  The House Ethics Committee is considering the complaint.   

“Right now anything we talk about on that particular case is confidential,” said Ethics Committee Chair Rep. Rob Taylor (R-West Des Moines.)    “The case is in the discovery phase.”

Omnibus Gun Bill Loaded with Changes

Called the most extreme gun bill that Iowa has seen in years, Republicans introduced a massive bill, House Study Bill 133, this week to re-write Iowa’s gun laws. The bill would allow guns on college campuses and in county courthouses; expand Stand Your Ground provisions; and effectively eliminate the permit needed to buy a handgun.

The Week in Photos

Hemophilia of Iowa celebrated their legislative day here at the Capitol this week. This gave me the opportunity to meet with some great constituents from Cedar Rapids, Julie and Mark Castenson, along with their son, Asher. HOI is an organization whose goal is to assist anyone in Iowa affected with a blood coagulation disorder to become healthier and more self-sufficient.
Julie and Mark filled me in on what Asher goes through on a daily basis in order to stay on top of his condition.

The Castensons spoke to me about HF233/SSB 1072. This is a bill aimed at revising “fail first” protocols among Iowa’s health plans. “Fail first” protocols control the order and use of prescription drugs that a patient may use. Often, patients must try, and then fail on lower-cost or older drugs selected by their health plan before coverage is granted for the drug prescribed by the patient’s health care provider.

HOI would like to ensure that appropriate medicine – not just cost – dictates patient treatment. This will not prevent insurers from requiring generic version equivalents when they are available, but it will require that the “fail first” exceptions process be transparent and accessible to patients and health care providers.

For more information on this condition, go to:


Colors of cardinal and gold were prominent Monday as Iowa State students gathered in the Rotunda for ISU Day at the Capitol.

Members of the Student Body Government spoke to me about a bill they helped craft, which is currently making its way through committee in the Senate. SSB 1088 aims to eliminate the disincentive that currently prevents some alcohol related emergencies from being reported to authorities.

Currently, if an individual suffers an alcohol related medical emergency, both the person suffering the emergency, and the person who reports it, may face charges. This creates a situation where people/friends are reluctant to alert authorities about emergencies when they arise. SSB 1088 would prohibit certain disciplinary sanctions for the individual suffering the emergency, and the first person who reports it to authorities. This may actually incentivize prompt reporting of emergencies and save lives.

Pictured are ISU students Matthew Voss, Jack Groves, Isaiah Baker, Katie Holmes, Montana Crow, and Zoey Shipley.


What a pleasant surprise to get a visit from seniors at Davenport Central High school Mondy afternoon. The students are members of Davenport students’ “Worth Less” movement.

The Worth Less movement aims to raise awareness about the fact that, based on allocation of funds, the Davenport School District receives $173 less per student than many other school districts in the state.
In order to remedy this, the students are asking for support of SSB 1124 and HF 21. These bills aim to address this iniquity, and establish a state cost per pupil equity budget adjustment.

I would like to thank these students for their visit, and their passionate advocacy for their school district. I will continue fighting in the Iowa House to make sure that Iowa’s educational system is the best that it can possibly be for ALL Iowa students.

Mickey Sloat and Sam Stephen

Madeline Pines, Morgan Kurtz, and Alexandria Bribriesco


The Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa visited the Capitol Tuesday morning in celebration of Refugee Day.
RACI is a voluntary membership network of service providers, government agencies, religious groups, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions that work together to better serve the needs of the growing refugee population in central Iowa. With the help of a Refugee Coordinator, RACI supports its members by providing educational, outreach and advocacy efforts seeking to make central Iowa a more welcoming community for refugees. My conversations today centered on concerns about immigration bills, in both the House and the Senate.

Iowa has a long and successful history of accepting refugees and incorporating them into the cultural fabric of our communities. Not only have these refugees enriched the cultural lives of all Iowans, but their entrepreneurial spirt has provided a tremendous boost to Iowa’s economy.
I want to thank RACI for everything they do, and I plan to work hard to ensure that Iowa remains an attractive and welcoming place- a place to call “home” for people escaping violence, famine, political or religious strife.
Pictured is Anindita Das, Ph.D., Coordinator Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa. She is also a Community Specialist with the Community & Economic Development Program of Iowa State University Extension & Outreach.

For more information visit:


I was pleased to spend some time visiting with Cedar Rapids resident, Dr. Jim Bell Tuesday morning. Dr. Bell was here with the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians.

Among other things, the IAFP were here to discuss a growing problem in Iowa – a shortage of primary care physicians, especially in Iowa’s rural areas. 73 of Iowa’s 99 counties are in need of more family physicians. The average educational debt for medical students, upon completion of their training, is $160,000. Due to high debt loads, many students pursue specialties that are more lucrative than primary care, making recruitment and training of family physicians very difficult.

The IAFP is supporting the continuation of the Rural Iowa Primary Care Loan Repayment Program in order to continue alleviating this on-going problem. Twenty students per year can be accepted into this program. Under the guidelines, students train in an approved specialty and agree to serve full-time in a community of fewer than 26,000 for a period of five years. A repayment amount, of up to $50,000 annually, is then paid to the physician after the first year of the five-year service commitment.

It is always informative, for me, when I have an opportunity visit with Dr. Bell and I want to thank him for speaking with me again this week.

For more information visit:


Meeting This week with AARP members from Linn County. These Cedar Rapids and Marion residents were here to advocate the Iowa’s Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable Act (CARE).

The CARE Act (currently HSB 564) recognizes the critical role family caregivers play in keeping their loved ones out of costly institutions. It does this using a three step approach:

1) The name of the family caregiver is recorded when the loved one is admitted into a hospital, IF a patient chooses to designate one
2) The caregiver is then notified when their loved one is to be discharged or transferred
3) The hospital must discuss the patient’s care needs with the caregiver and provide an explanation of medical tasks – such as medication management, injections, wound care, etc – that the caregiver will perform at home.

The vast majority of older Iowans want to live independently at home and most seniors who receive assistance at home rely exclusively on unpaid family caregivers for help. In Iowa alone, family caregivers provided unpaid care valued at nearly $4 billion in 2013.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to visit with me on Tuesday, advocating for the Iowa CARE Act.
For more information visit:

Pictured: Eleanor Hurst, Mary Muehl, Jerene Thomas, Donna Spilker, Chris Bolden, Sandy Bruns, Barbara Osgood, Bob Hearst, and Les Kapler.


It was my privilege, Tuesday afternoon, to meet with employees of Waypoint Services of Cedar Rapids, on the Rotunda just outside the House Chamber.

Waypoint is more than 120 years old and initially served women who migrated to the area in search of employment. Over the years, it has evolved into an invaluable resource in the community, providing shelter and support for those in crisis due to homelessness, poverty, or domestic violence. It also provides quality child care to more than 500 children from every socio-economic level.

In Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Waypoint served 2112 people affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence; 699 individuals sought shelter or housing to flee an abusive situation; and 371 individuals sought culturally specific services for abuse/assault.

Waypoint was here today to request level state funding in our budget for the upcoming year. This would allow them to maintain access to advocates in their home community, ensure that someone is available 24/7 to respond to crises, maintain strong programs that work with rural and urban populations, and continue serving the community.

I support the state’s funding for Waypoint and will fight to make sure that they receive the resources they need.

THANK YOU! To all who visited, and keep up the good work.

For more information visit:

Pictured: Tiffany Flowers, Amani Community Services; Megan Jonas, Waypoint; Carrie Siagle, Waypoint; Kelsey Ryan, Waypoint; Kelley Schmitz, Cedar Valley Friends of the Family; and Nelly Hill, Waypoint.


As many of you know, February is Black History Month and we have been continuously celebrating this occasion in the Iowa House.

Presentations at the beginning of each day’s session have honored African-American citizens who made exceptional contributions to local, state, and national history. These honorees have ranged from local teachers, to George Washington Carver and President Barack Obama.

At Tuesday’s culminating Black History Program, the Governor and the Black Caucus delivered speeches, followed by entertainment from the 515 Group and the Capital City Steppers. To cap off the celebration, host vendors served what several of our clerks called “some of the best food at the Capitol to date”.

I’m glad that we have this each year in Iowa’s Capitol as it is an annual reminder that it is impossible to overstate the significant positive role that African Americans have played in Iowa and US history.


There were many groups visiting the Capitol this week, including the Iowa Podiatric Medical Society, so I heeled on down to the Rotunda for the sole purpose of having a toe-to-toe conversation with renowned podiatrist from Cedar Rapids, Dr. Eugene Nassif of the Foot and Ankle Specialists of Iowa. Dr. Nassif is a member of The Iowa Podiatric Medical Society (IPMS), a professional organization of podiatrists located throughout the state of Iowa.

During the visit, Dr. Nassif shared information on the priorities of the IPMS: retaining current Medicaid podiatric payment rates and increasing Managed Care Organization oversight with increased transparency.

Pictured are Dr. Nassif and his son, Gene, who is currently working here as a clerk in the Iowa House.


Hy-Vee held their legislative reception, Tuesday night, at their headquarters in West Des Moines where I was greeted by three local Store Directors from Cedar Rapids: Dave Blum from the Oakland Road store; Greg Wery from the Wilson Avenue store; and my host for the evening, Tracy Kading from the Edgewood Road store.

In 1930, a small general store opened in Beaconsfield, Iowa. That store grew to become Hy-Vee. – a employee-owned Midwestern supermarket chain that now employs more than 36,000 Iowans in 124 stores and 134 pharmacies.

Since Hy-Vee’s stated mission is “Making lives easier, healthier, happier” I focused my questions and conversation on topics that impact constituents and our local communities: nutrition and diet, hiring those with disabilities, expansion of local production of foods, recycling, environmental impacts and improving the bottle bill to keep more debris out of our landfills, local gardens, health care, minimum wage, food waste reduction, feeding the needy, support of the community and corporate citizenship.

I can ask a lot of questions and Tracy Kading was more than gracious in discussing these and other topics with me for most of the evening. I was impressed with both the depth of knowledge that this Hy-Vee manager demonstrated (about each of these issues) and the company’s obvious commitment to help solve problems and improve the lives of Iowans – strengthening ties with their local communities.


I had the opportunity to speak with a large group Kirkwood Community College Respiratory Therapist students on Wednesday. These students were here with the Iowa Society for Respiratory Care.

The ISRC was here to advocate against passage of HSB 138. This bill, “eliminates the following boards and removes all licensing and registration requirements for their regulated professions: the board of respiratory care and polysomnography, the board of massage therapy, the board of hearing aid specialists, the board of barbering, and the interior design examining board.”

The ISRC is concerned that HSB 138 would eliminate requirements for professional certification for those practicing their profession, leading to drastically reduced quality of care. During a session when there are already proposals (HSB 105 and SSB 1087) to cap the amount of money a patient can claim due to medical malpractice suits, Republicans appear to be creating a larger recipe for disaster in Iowa with regard to patient safety.

HSB 138 would certainly decrease the confidence that Iowa patients/clients have in the qualifications and oversight of those practicing selected professions.

Thank you to the students from Kirkwood and the representatives of the ISRC for spending some time talking with me.

Hannah Sondag, Christina Graham, Bailey Lillywhite, Ashley Switzer, Olivia Rump, Kristin Holtz, Hallie Techau, Samah Ali, Laura Stradt, Kyle Cheney, Chrystal Jensen, and Chase Dieleman

Senator Wally Horn and Kirkwood students


An elegant and well-mannered group of elementary school students from Lisbon visited me Wednesday, accompanied by their teacher Emily Krall Wieseler.

Emily has been bringing students to visit the Capitol each of the last few years, and this was her largest group yet – at 11 students. I answered questions for several minutes and talked to the students about what we do here in the legislature – votes and funding that affect their lives.

I always enjoy the opportunity to speak with young Iowans about the legislative process. These students are the next generation of Iowa voters and it’s important to spark a passion for engagement as early as possible.
Thank you to Ms. Krall Wieseler and all of her students for the visit!


Retired and Senior Volunteer Projects (RSVP) visited the Capitol, late Wednesday morning, and it gave me the opportunity to speak with Kayla Paulson and Rosemary Schwartz. Kayla is the RSVP Director for Linn and Jones Counties, and Rosemary is the Director for Johnson, Iowa, Muscatine, and Des Moines Counties.
RSVP is a point of coordination for volunteers 55+ and nonprofit organizations in need of volunteers. The purpose of RSVP is to engage individuals 55 and older in helping to meet community needs; and to provide a high quality life enriching experience for the volunteers. It is now the largest volunteer organization in the state of Iowa for people 55 and older. From July 2015-June 2016 5,342 Iowans volunteered with RSVP, donating more than 344,000 hours.

With the help of state funds RSVP was able to receive a match of $881,226 in federal funding. They were here Wednesday to request a continuation in financial support for this beneficial statewide organization.
For information or to volunteer in Linn County:


I was thrilled to see representatives from RAGBRAI and the Des Moines Bicycle Collective in the rotunda today, as well as having a chance to visit with Dave Dvorak, constituent and avid biker extraordinaire – riding 10,000 miles just two years ago and logging another 8,000 miles last year.

Dave was here to speak with me about language that has been added to the “Change Lanes to Pass” bill, which would require bicyclists to have daytime lights while biking – costing no small chunk of change. This could also have unintended consequences for Iowa’s tourism industry, including the annual RAGBRAI ride. So, although this bill has some good safety measures, it needs alternatives to the requirements for “daytime lights”.

Among the many bicycling groups here today was the Des Moines Bicycle Collective – champions for stronger communities, vibrant neighborhoods and healthy individuals, encouraging active transportation choices.

In addition to offering the region’s only nonprofit, “do-it-together”, community bike shop, the Des Moines Bicycle Collective exists to provide opportunities for education, empowerment and social change through bicycle restoration, charitable bicycle donations, event planning, bike valet, educational programs and bike sharing.

DMBC has assisted in setting up a bike sharing system in Des Moines where members can rent bicycles in areas throughout the city, use them for the day for $3, and return them to designated areas when they are done. This program has recently increased in size as Hy-Vee agreed to contribute another 15 new bicycles to the program. I couldn’t resist jumping on one of the bikes for a spin around the Rotunda. Not!


Really nice to see my favorite colleagues from the Linn County League of Women’s Voters this afternoon. They came to discuss a wide range of issues with elected officials, including clean water and proposed voter ID legislation.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

The Linn County LWV also puts together our largest public legislative forums which provide constituents with regular opportunities to visit directly with their elected officials.

Pictured: Helane Golden, Judy McDowell, Maryann Stewart, Audrey Hauter, Dianne Besler Kamp
For more information visit:

Continue Reading the Statehouse News

Republican Budget Cuts Lead to Higher Tuition at Community Colleges
Chief Justice Cady Warns of Dire Financial Circumstances
Veterans Trust Fund Addressing Homelessness
Steps Taken to Clarify Role of Motor Vehicle Enforcement Officers
Civics Quiz Could Be Graduation Requirement
Small Community Water Quality Help Available

To read the rest of my Statehouse News go to:

This post was written by