Payroll Debit Cards, Accurate Court Records, Mental Health – The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

Note: This is edited from the weekly email report from Senator Courtney. To see the full report please go to Senator Courtney’s website.

Imagine it’s payday, and you get your pay for the week. It’s on a payroll card (similar to a debit card) instead of a check or direct deposit. You didn’t have a choice in receiving your pay this way. You try to retrieve your money from the payroll card, and you discover you’re being charged a fee to receive your hard-earned pay.

Legislators recently heard from Iowans who came to the Statehouse to tell their stories. We learned that many Iowans don’t have a choice in how they are paid and may incur high fees when paid by payroll card.

Nobody should have to pay a fee to collect their wages. That’s why legislation aimed at clarifying the law regarding payroll cards is moving forward.

Senate Study Bill 1004 requires an employee to voluntarily agree to payment via a payroll card. The agreement must be in writing, and the employee must have the option to withdraw all the wages due in a pay period without incurring a fee. The bill also requires the employer to keep the records of consent and to provide another payment method if an employee requests it at a later time.

SSB 1004 is a simple, common sense bill that aims to protect employee’s pay and rights.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved a bill allowing those charged with a crime to apply to have court records of the criminal charge and proceedings expunged if the charges were dismissed or resulted in a “not guilty” verdict.

Sometimes people are wrongly accused of a crime. This can have all sorts of other negative consequences. Many employers access Iowa Courts Online during the hiring process and property owners check online court records when deciding whom to rent to. Just seeing someone’s name in the court records can hurt their chances of getting a job or finding housing.

Senate Study Bill 1110 will provide those who were never convicted of the crime a better opportunity to move on with their lives. A defendant in a case will be able to make application to the court to expunge a criminal record when all criminal charges in the case are dismissed, or the defendant is acquitted of all charges in the case and:

• All court costs, fees and financial obligations ordered by the court are paid.

• The case is dismissed permanently or is beyond the statute of limitations.

• The defendant is not being charged with a crime in a related case or has not been convicted of a crime in a related case.

• The defendant was not found “not guilty by reason of insanity” or incompetent to stand trial.

• All parties in the case have notice of the application to expunge and an opportunity to object.

If all requirements are met, the court must expunge the records of the criminal case. The expunged record will be a confidential record exempt from public access but will be available to the defendant and to various justice system agencies. It’s a step in the right direction toward a fairer system of justice.

I am committed to continuous improvement of Iowa’s modernized mental health system. That’s why I was as surprised as everyone else when Governor Branstad announced plans to close Mental Health Institutes (MHI) in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda.

These facilities offer specialized services that are not available in many areas of the state, including dual inpatient treatment for mental health and substance abuse, as well as psychiatric services designed specifically for older Iowans. Closing these MHIs could reduce or eliminate services for Iowans with severe mental health issues, forcing them to travel hundreds of miles to receive critical care.

It’s important that Iowans have access to mental health services close to home, from basic outpatient therapy to intensive, inpatient care for the most severe cases. The Legislature has been working to improve Iowa’s mental health system for years, but that work is not yet complete.

In the weeks since the Governor proposed the MHI closings, mental health professionals, community leaders, former patients and their families, and advocates have urged the Legislature to resist the proposed closings. The message is clear: Iowa needs to develop and invest in additional community based mental health services before we consider closing existing facilities.

The Governor’s proposal removes a needed mental health service with no coherent plan to ensure effective treatment for some of the worst mental illness cases in Iowa. The Senate is taking a different approach.

SF 333 requires that the state Department of Human Services admit eligible Iowans to the MHIs through the current fiscal year that ends June 30. This bill recently passed on a bipartisan, unanimous vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee. During last year’s budgeting process, the Legislature approved funding for this purpose and the Governor signed the legislation. The Governor should use those funds as approved.

The second bill, SF 308, sets up a process for the state to develop and implement crucial community based mental health services. Services outlined in the plan and approved by the Legislature must be in place before we consider closing the MHIs. The plan must include input from stakeholders and experts, ensure that transitional services are offered without hurting quality of care, ensure local access to highly trained community and institutionally based care providers, and identify stable funding for new services. The Senate Human Resources Committee has approved this bill.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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