I support the Governor’s goal to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by focusing on improving health outcomes and rewarding healthy behaviors. That is why the Senate has incorporated those ideas into SF 296, which would expand Medicaid and make affordable health care available to 150,000 low-income Iowans who are currently uninsured.
The Governor’s new health care proposal, on the other hand, would not do enough to help Iowa achieve the goal of becoming the healthiest state in the nation. In fact, we would fall behind other states if the Governor’s plan were adopted.
The Governor’s proposal (House Study Bill 232) covers fewer Iowans and offers fewer medical services. On top of that, his plan would raise local property taxes and cost the state $150 million more than the Senate plan that I voted for.
I will continue to work with the House and the Governor to improve the health care legislation that we have already passed in the Senate. The Iowa Catholic Conference, AARP, the Iowa Hospital Association and at least 75 other Iowa organizations are in favor of the Senate bill because it would move Iowa in the direction of becoming the healthiest state in the nation.
We’re on the right track with SF 296.
ENSURING MORE IOWANS HAVE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
The Legislature is continuing its bipartisan efforts to expand access to affordable health care.
Your address should not determine the health care available to you. That is why the Legislature has worked in recent years to make mental health and disability services more consistent across the state. We recently took another step toward implementing a regional mental health and disability services system that will give Iowans access to critical services, regardless of where they live.
The Senate plan (SF 415) is based on recommendations of an interim committee tasked with analyzing the fiscal viability of the mental health and disability services redesign provisions the Legislature enacted in 2012. The bill, which has now received the stamp of approved from the Senate Appropriations Committee, would:
• Authorize regions to provide mental health and disability services that research shows to be effective and efficient.
• Ensure those currently eligible for county services remain eligible after the regions are formed.
• Allow county services to continue this year while the new regions develop their service plans.
• Establish new technology standards to improve reporting and make information more available to the public online.
• Create a panel to recommend improvements for mental health and other programs for children.
The Senate plan invests $29.8 million over the next year to support local services and ensure Iowans get the care they need as we move through the transition to a regional system.
Senate File1 415 now goes to the full Senate for debate.
BUDGETING FOR BETTER PUBLIC SAFETY
We want our state to be the safest possible place for Iowans. The Justice System Budget (SSB 1249) has been approved by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee with that goal in mind.
Corrections experts and health professionals have told us that the offenders in our prisons and community-based corrections facilities are changing. Incidence of mental illness has increased, with offenders requiring more supervision and treatment. SSB 1249 provides resources to the Department of Corrections to hire the staff to meet those needs and enhance safety at our institutions.
The bill also helps Community Based Corrections Districts open facilities that have already been built but are not yet in use. This is a smart move that will help limit the wait for those in need of critical mental health services. Funding for community-based corrections also provides for efforts to deter future crime and help offenders become contributing members of their communities.
Victims’ assistance grants will see an increase in funding. These grants go to local programs that provide housing and other help to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Additional resources will allow survivors to stay away from dangerous living situations, get the skills they need to hold down a job and deal with the trauma they’ve experienced.
We also increase the number of troopers on Iowa’s roads. More officers on patrol will allow them to more quickly respond to accidents and other problems—ultimately improving safety and saving lives.
SENATE CONFIRMS GOVERNOR’S APPOINTEES
So far this year, the Iowa Senate has confirmed 214 of Governor Branstad’s 216 appointees to Iowa’s statewide boards and commissions.
The Governor appoints members to more than 160 boards and commissions as openings become available. These panels are responsible for advising the Governor, the Legislature and state agencies.
The Senate must confirm the Governor’s appointees, and we take the job seriously. We review their qualifications, talk with them about their background and goals, and listen to input from Iowans. That’s the same kind of due diligence we give to every piece of legislation that comes before us.
Historically, the Senate confirms more than 99 percent of the appointees nominated by Iowa’s Governors. That trend continues as we conclude the confirmation process for the third year of Governor Branstad’s current term.
The few appointees that have failed to be confirmed over the years received serious, substantial consideration. Their non-confirmation came after concerns are addressed in a professional manner.
Learn more about Iowa’s statewide boards and commissions, the work they do and how you can serve at https://openup.iowa.gov.
ENCOURAGING OUR NEXT GENERATION OF FARMERS
Iowa’s strong agricultural heritage will continue as long as we ensure farming is a viable career for our young people. Two bills currently under consideration in the Legislature could help.
House File 599 would expand a tax credit program in which retiring farmers lease or rent land to beginning farmers. The state now provides $6 million in tax credits to retiring farmers who lease land to those starting out. HF 599 calls for doubling that amount so that beginning farmers will be eligible for tax credits if they make improvements to the farm.
This effort is supported by such organizations as the Iowa Agricultural Development Authority, which gives financial help to farmers buying land, equipment or livestock. HF 599 is now in the Senate Ways & Means Committee for further review.
Another bill, House File 457, directs the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to give preference to qualified beginning farmers when current leases for DNR-managed agricultural land expire. Land may be available for crops and for grazing. The DNR must use rental history, market factors and conservation practices—instead of a competitive bid process—to determine the lease amount.
HF 457 was approved unanimously by the Senate on April 10 and will hopefully receive the Governor’s signature in the near future.
CARE FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE IOWANS
This year and every year, we want to honor our commitment to help the most vulnerable Iowans, including those in need of critical health care, older Iowans at risk for abuse and fraud, and veterans coping with medical concerns.
The Health and Human Services Budget aims to do that by:
• Providing vital legal and other decision-making assistance to older Iowans with dementia or Alzheimer’s to ensure they are protected from abuse.
• Improving long-term care by hiring more ombudsmen to meet the needs of patients and their families.
• Expanding mental health and other statewide for young children.
• Cutting the number of uninsured Iowans in half.
• Expanding access to high-quality childcare.
• Implementing programs to reduce juvenile crime and long-term crime rates.
The legislation is now being reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. To read the full bill, go to www.legis.iowa.gov/DOCS/LSA/SC_MaterialsDist/2013/SDJRB039.PDF.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Empowering students to adopt healthy lifestyles
Through April 30, Iowa schools can apply for private funding to participate in the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. General Mills Foundation and other partners are offering public schools this chance to acquire assessment tools, professional development and education for physical educators, and awards and recognition for students. To learn more, go to www.presidentialyouthfitnessprogram.org and click on “Funding Opportunity.”
Submit work for Agriculture Art Award
Iowa artists of all ages are invited to participate in the second annual Celebration of Iowa: Agricultural Art Award. The theme for this year’s exhibit is “Cultivating Change.”
The Agriculture Art Award is a juried art exhibit that highlights our state’s role as a global leader in agriculture. Art work will be judged on innovation of concept, execution of contest theme, and the aesthetic and technical quality of the work.
The exhibit, which features $5,000 in cash prizes in youth and adult divisions, is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.
The submission deadline is July 1. Full details are available at www.iowaagriculture.gov/press/pdfs/2013/AgArtAward2013.pdf.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601