Greetings to you all,

I hope that everyone is doing well as the weather continues to change. This was a very debate-heavy week here at the House as we deliberated on a number of new issues.

Beginning on Tuesday, the House debated and passed 10 bills. You can find all of the bills here, and review some of the highlights below:

  • SF 2296: An act which allows a peace officer to search garbage placed outside a person’s residence for the purposes of waste collection without obtaining a warrant
  • HF 2554: An act which requires Medicaid to cover functional family therapy (FFT) and multisystemic therapy (MST), treatments that have shown to help divert youth from the juvenile justice system

On Wednesday the House also debated and passed four bills:

  • HF 2355: An act eliminating certain unemployment benefits for Iowa workers
  • HF 2384: An act which regulates Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) regarding drug pricing and drug pricing transparency
  • SF 522: An act which increases penalties for elder abuse
  • HF 2560: An act which appropriates funds to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, among other entities

I am especially disappointed by the passage of HF 2355, a bill which, among other things, reduces unemployment benefits by 10 weeks for Iowa workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. I spoke on the House floor in opposition to this bill about my experience being laid off unexpectedly while having a family to care for and mortgage to pay. The stress of this situation is extremely taxing, and I don’t know where I would be today without the support of unemployment benefits to get me and my family through this stressful time. The majority party has decided to approach the worker shortage by attacking and punishing workers instead of helping them, and I am disappointed to see this legislation pass the House. You can view my speech here, beginning at 4:34:30.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet with the Dubuque UAW on the House floor. Workers’ rights have become increasingly important this week at the Capitol, and I was pleased to see them at the Statehouse.

Debate continued on Thursday, where the House deliberated another 13 bills. Here are the highlights, and you can review the full list of bills here.

  • SF 2285: An act that creates requirements for additional members of a city planning and zoning commission
  • SF 551: An act which allows emergency responders to speed when responding to emergencies in their own personal vehicles
  • HF 2567: An act which creates regulations related to mandatory reporting in schools

On Friday, I and my fellow Black Hawk County legislators will be hosting a public forum on the environment. All who are interested are invited to come ask questions and hear our remarks on current environmental issues. The forum will take place at the Hawkeye College Van G. Miller Learning Center (120 Jefferson) from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. I hope to see you all there!

In the Statehouse Newsletter, you will find information about

  • Iowans’ priorities for the state budget
  • Public opposition to cutting unemployment benefits
  • A tragic anniversary fueling the push for improved worker safety
  • Democrats’ focus on cybersecurity legislation
  • Continued low funding for the Resource Enhancement and Protection Fund (REAP)

Please share your comments with me.

Going forward, I will be listening and working closely with local leaders and community members, to make sure the state is partnering with those in our community who need help and assistance. I’m available by email, phone, and social media, to answer questions and listen to your concerns. You can always reach me by email or call me at home at 319-266-9021. We can also stay connected through social media, including FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. I appreciate hearing from you and I thank you for your continued support.

Thank you for taking the time to read the Statehouse News. Please keep in touch! I hope everyone stays safe.

Upcoming Events

Mar 22, 24-25 Elias String Quartet Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, 7pm, 319-273-7469

Mar 23-26 FIRST Robotics Competition Iowa Regional McLeod Center, 515-708-5186

Mar 27 Waterloo Black Hawks Hockey vs. Lincoln Young Arena, 3pm, 319-232-3444

Mar 31 Holy Rocka Rollaz Hawkeye Community College, 7pm, 319-296-2320

Apr 1 Carden Circus The Hippodrome, 4:30pm & 7:30pm, 319-234-7515

Apr 1-3 USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals UNI-Dome, 719-598-8181

Apr 1-3 Judy Moody and Stink Hope Martin Theatre, Fri 7pm; Sat & Sun 2pm, 319-235-0367

Apr 2 Waterloo Black Hawks Hockey vs. Dubuque Young Arena, 6pm, 319-232-3444

Apr 2-3 UNI Women’s Softball vs Missouri State Robinson-Dresser, Sat 12pm & 2pm; Sun 12pm, 319-273-4849

Apr 3 Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, 7pm, 319-273-7469


Focusing on the Priorities of Iowans

Budget Process Begins 

As lawmakers begin formulating the state budget, House Democrats are listening and focusing on the priorities of Iowans, including emphasis on strong public schools, support for Iowan families, and expanded access to healthcare and childcare.

While not all of the budget details have yet been released, debate continues and has been largely dominated by divisive issues brought up by majority party lawmakers.

According to a new Des Moines Register poll, most Iowans are opposed to many of the bills being considered by Republican lawmakers this session, including vouchers for private schoolsjailing teachers, and cutting unemployment benefits to Iowans out of work for no fault of their own.

Other budget priorities offered by Democratic lawmakers this session raise wages, build more affordable housing, create good paying jobs, protect our natural resources, and keep workers at Iowa’s correctional facilities safe.

Budget Projections for 2023 and Beyond

Earlier this month, Iowa’s budget experts, the Revenue Estimating Committee (REC), predicted a steep decline in state revenues for the upcoming year after hundreds of millions in new tax giveaways to corporations and millionaires were signed into law March 1st.
For Fiscal Year 2023, the REC estimates dropped by $54.3 million from December of last year. For Fiscal Year 2024, projected growth in revenues is down 2.1 percent, which will leave the state with $193.4 million less in the state’s budget.


Iowans Oppose Cutting Unemployment Benefits

Even with a majority of Iowans opposed, Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House passed a bill this week to permanently cut 10-weeks of unemployment benefits for struggling Iowans. According to a recent Iowa Poll, most Iowans are opposed to the cuts.

Last spring, Governor Reynolds abruptly ended federal unemployment benefits for Iowans who were laid off or forced to stay home to care for family members or children during the pandemic. While the Governor claimed that unemployment benefits kept unemployed Iowans from looking for jobs, it did not make a difference or fix Iowa’s workforce shortage.

An additional provision within the bill mandates that folks on unemployment accept a job, even if the offered wage is significantly less than the wage they were making and will not cover all their expenses.

During debate, majority party lawmakers said the bill will solve Iowa’s workforce shortage. According to research previous cuts to unemployment programs pushed few people back to work and fueled a cut in household spending.

Many Iowans have expressed concerns that the bill will only further hurt Iowans who have been laid off, keep wages low, and make Iowa an unwelcoming state.


Anniversary of Correctional Officer Deaths Causes Push for Worker Safety

One year after the tragic events in the Anamosa State Penitentiary that led to the deaths of two Iowans, legislation was introduced that will improve safety for Iowa’s correctional workers. On March 23, 2021, nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland were both murdered, and dental assistant Lorie Matthes was held against her will by an inmate while on duty in Anamosa. This was the first time an inmate had killed a worker since 1972.

House Democrats are spearheading legislation that would provide the Department of Corrections (DOC) with the resources needed to keep workers safe, in hopes of preventing tragedies in the future. The Lorena Schulte and Lorie Matthes Act and Robert McFarland Act will keep more employees safe, give them bargaining rights, and pay surviving spouse and children health insurance after a fatality.


Democrats Focus on Passing Cybersecurity Legislation

In light of recent global events, the risk of cybersecurity attacks by Russia has increased. Federal agencies such as the National Security Agency, FBI, and Homeland Security are well-equipped to deal with Russian cyberwarfare. However, cities and states find themselves at an increased risk. Hackers tend to attack vital infrastructure that suffers from downtime such as transportation, hospitals, and the gas or oil industry.

This week, House Democrats are working together to pass legislation focusing on strengthening the state’s cybersecurity. House File 2555 creates a cybersecurity simulation training center (CySim) at Iowa State University. CySim will both conduct and sponsor research and activities that enable businesses, state agencies, political subdivisions, and students and educators the ability to mitigate cyber threats and attacks. The bill also allows cybersecurity training exercises, developing case studies, and coordinating cybersecurity workforce development. The bill passed the Iowa House with bipartisan support.

As current events unfold, Iowa House Democrats urge Iowans to be aware and protect oneself by shielding up with multi-factor authentication use on all online accounts; updating antivirus and malware software on all devices; use strong and unique passwords for each account; think before clicking on attachments or files; and be cautious about shared online information.


Continued Historically Low Funding of REAP

The popular program, REAP, known as the Resource Enhancement and Protection Fund, was once again funded at its lowest level for the 6th straight year. The $12 million allocation from the Iowa House majority party, is part of the annual funding in House File 2560 for the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (DNR) voted on this week in the Iowa House.

The REAP program is authorized to receive $20 million annually, but funding is often lowered by Republicans charged with setting the budget. REAP was established to invest in the enhancement and protection of Iowa’s natural and cultural resources. The funding is specifically targeted to provide more public land, or open spaces, county conservation, soil and water enhancement, city open spaces and parks, public land management of conservation land, habitat and facilities, historical resources, and roadside vegetation.

The DNR annually holds REAP assemblies to gather input from the public on the program. This includes identifying local projects for REAP funding and discussing changes to REAP policies and programs. During 2023, 18 REAP Assemblies will be conducted across the state. For additional information, see: iowadnr.gov/Conservation/REAP/REAP-Public-Participation/REAP-Regional-Assemblies.


More Iowa News

YEAR OF THE IOWA ROAD TRIP: Warmer weather is on the horizon and Iowans are starting to plan their summer road trips. Help support Iowa’s booming tourism industry by vacationing in Iowa. Travel Iowa offers six digital passports for people to use to explore distilleries, wineries, breweries, state parks, Iowa’s scenic byways, and Iowa farms. Win prizes for visiting attractions when using the passports. The spring/summer edition of Travel Iowa is available online or a free print version of the magazine can be ordered. Visit traveliowa.com to plan your next trip!

TRAINING FUNDS ANNOUNCED FOR TEACHERS IN COMPUTER SCIENCE: Over $500,000 has been awarded to teachers for professional development training in computer science. The awards, through the Iowa Department of Education, will go to 136 school districts and nonpublic schools. In 2017, Senate File 274 established the fund to pay for teacher professional development, including training to teach specific computer science courses and earning in-depth university endorsements to teach computer science. Training that prepares educators to teach computer science in the next six to 12 months is a priority. Recipients will report their progress after the 2021-22 school year. A list of the 136 rural, suburban and urban school districts, nonpublic schools and Area Education Agencies receiving awards is available on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT TURNS 12: This week marks the 12th anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. Since 2010, the ACA has extended insurance coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans and made health care affordable for more lower-and-middle income Americans. Since March 23, 2010, there have been at least 70 GOP-led attempts to repeal, modify, or curb ACA protections and coverage. Despite these failed attempts, the ACA still stands. To date, the ACA’s most popular provisions include pre-existing condition protections and allowing young adults 26 and younger to remain on their parents’ insurance plan. Currently 1.3 million Iowans have a pre-existing condition and nearly 227,000 Iowans could lose their health coverage if the ACA was overturned. During special enrollment periods, Iowa’s enrollment numbers have doubled from 2019 to 2021. Last year, Congress passed and President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, which expands ACA subsidies to cover more middle-class families during 2021 and 2022. During this time, Iowans will not have to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for an ACA marketplace silver plan and individuals below 150 percent of the poverty level will pay no premium cost. Happy 12th Birthday, ACA!ilver plan and individuals below 150 percent of the poverty level will pay no premium cost. Happy 12th Birthday, ACA!

By | 2022-03-25T14:44:57+00:00 March 25th, 2022|Newsletters|