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Stone on the Legislative Week

Week 12 is in the books and this session is flying by!  Budget bills, Senate files and bounce back bills have been on the docket this week.  This week we saw another flurry of bills dealing with a variety of subjects.  From allowing non-viable birth certificates to levee and drainage district assessments to solar energy tax credit overhauls to a non-public special education task force being set up.  I’m proud of the work we’re doing on so many fronts and taking care of all the different needs of Iowans from across the state.

House Republicans Pass $1+ Billion Education Budget
This week, House Republicans passed an Education Budget, HF 2575,  that appropriates $1,004,141,874 in General Fund dollars for the Department for the Blind, the College Student Aid Commission, the Department of Education, Community Colleges, Vocational Rehabilitation, Iowa Public Television, and the Board of Regents. Within the bill, there are many increases in funding.
Department for the Blind
  • $113,000 increase for the Department for the Blind
College Student Aid Commission
  • College Student Aid Commission Administration = $60,000 increase
  • All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship Program = $129,000 increase
  • Teach Iowa Scholar = $250,000 increase
  • Rural Primary Care Loan Repayment Program = $2.3 million increase
  • Healthcare Loan Repayment Program = $750,000 increase
  • Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program = $300,000
  • Iowa Tuition Grant = $1.2 million increase
  • Iowa Tuition Grant (For-profit) = $44,000 increase
  • Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program Scholarship = $200,000
  • Mental Health Practitioner Loan Repayment Program = $1.5 million
  • Iowa Workforce Grant and Incentive Program = $12 million
  • FAFSA assistance with the ICAN = $120,000
Department of Education
  • Early Childhood Iowa = $200,000 increase
  • iJAG (Jobs for America’s Grads) = $3.5 million increase
  • Children’s Mental Health Training = $200,000 increase
  • Best Buddies Iowa = $10,000 increase
  • Therapeutic Classroom Incentive Fund = $42,000 increase
Community Colleges
  • $6.5 million increase for the Community Colleges
Vocational Rehabilitation
  • $120,000 increase for Vocational Rehabilitation
Board of Regents
  • $500,000 for the University of Iowa Family Practice Program
  • $150,000 to Iowa State University for the Cooperative Extension Office
  • $270,000 increase for the Iowa School for the Deaf
  • $114,000 increase for services for Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School
  • $300,000 for the University of Northern Iowa Degree Attainment program
  • $905,000 for the Iowa State University Cybersecurity Simulator
One program in particular that should be highlighted is the new Iowa Workforce Grant and Incentive Program. This is a program focused on addressing Iowa’s workforce shortage problem. This program appropriates $6 million in scholarships to those students attending one of the Regents institutions who are in teacher preparatory programs and $6 million in scholarships to those students who are in majors that align with Iowa’s high demand jobs. In order to be eligible, students must complete the FAFSA, be a resident of Iowa, and be enrolled in either a teacher preparatory program or a program that was jointly approved by the College Student Aid Commission and Iowa Workforce Development. Students will be able to access the money in their third and fourth years of college. Upon graduation, if the student is working as either a teacher or has a high demand job, they will receive a bonus payment after staying one year in Iowa. Students can receive up to $5000 per year, or $2500 per semester. House Republicans think this is a great way to partner with the Regent Universities, Iowa Workforce Development, and students across Iowa to help solve workforce shortages.

House HHS Budget Provides Increase for
Mental Health, Disability Providers

This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the House Health and Human Services Budget (HF 2578) for FY 2023 . Below is a list of highlights of the significant investments to advance access to mental health and support disability providers. In total, this budget appropriates $2.1 billion of state general fund (in total with federal money and other funds it is over $6 billion) towards Medicaid, child care, child welfare, public health and aging and veteran services.

Disability Providers

  • Fully funds Glenwood and Woodward Resource Centers, as well as DHS Department-Wide duties line item that includes central office oversight of the state facilities
  • Community capacity investments to ensure that Iowans can be cared for near their families:
    • Provides a $14.6 million investment in home and community-based services rates. In total, this is a $38.5 million investment when combined with federal match. This allows for a $2 raise to all direct support professionals, and this bill requires this increase to go towards our front-line workers wages.
    • Provides a $7.4 million state investment to reduce the waitlist on the intellectual disability services waiver. This appropriation should add an additional 250 ID waiver slots.
    • Intermediate Care Facilities for those with Intellectual Disabilities receive a total increase of $8.2 million, and also require these funds to go directly to direct support professional wage increases.
    • Provides a $4 million appropriation to create a new home health rate structure that provides an incentive for providing care to rural Medicaid members.

Mental Health – The House has focused on expanding mental health workforce and access to beds for difficult to serve Iowans. This budget funds those priorities, along with the help of the Education budget, and also provides additional rate increases through Medicaid.

  • Provides $2 million for psychiatric tiered rates so that hospitals are reimbursed based on the acuity of the patient and can receive the intensive psychiatric care that they need
  • Funds multisystemic and functional family therapies to provide evidence-based treatments for youth that address a youth’s home and environment to reduce problematic behavior and divert the youth from out-of-home placements.
  • Provides $3 million of state funding, and a total funding increase of $7.9 million, to behavioral health intervention services. This is a 35% increase because there are currently lengthy waitlists for individuals to get services due to staffing shortages.
  • Provides $1.1 million of state funding and almost $3 million of total funding to increase residential substance use treatment rates.
  • Continues to fund, and increase funding towards the MHDS Regions. This $71 million increase will now completely phase out any property tax levies for the regional system.
  • Adds in HF 2245 to ensure that health insurers are not excluding mental health providers providing telehealth to Iowans simply because they are not physically located in Iowa.

Child Welfare

  • Group care for child welfare – this budget provides increases to both shelter and QRTP care for children in foster care.
  • Field Operations: Funds an additional 50 FTEs to reduce caseloads for child abuse.

Long-Term Care – removes the backlog with the state substitute decision maker and adds 3 FTEs at the state-long term care ombudsman

Health and Human Services Alignment – this bill creates a department of health and human services that will over the next year merge together the department of human services and the department of public health to ensure one point of access for Iowans.

Additional health care workforce: We know that individuals with a connection to the state are more likely to stay in the state following their medical education.

  • Adds in HF 468 that requires at least 75% of the students accepted at UI College of medicine and dentistry to be resident of Iowa or currently attending undergraduate school in Iowa.
  • Adds in HF 487 that requires UIHC to offer an interview for the medical resident of the top 7 most-need specialties to those with an Iowa connection.


Obscene Materials in School Libraries

Something else that was brought up this week was how would we deal with obscene and/or pornographic materials that were being found in many different schools in just about every school district around the state.  As we talked about the proper avenue to deal with this upsetting issue, it became evident that this was an issue that was not easily going to be solved.  What we all agreed on was that obscene materials have no place in our schools.  What we couldn’t agree with was how we would solve it.

After much debate, we know that further research needs to be done but we are continuing to work on this issue and will try to have something done before the end of session.  For now though, we will continue to educate parents and others on how to work through current code, school boards, county attorneys and local law enforcement to find answers.  Chapter 728 in current code deals with Iowa’s Obscenity Laws and goes on to define obscene materials and covers dissemination and exhibition of obscene materials to minors and allows county attorneys to investigate and possibly bring about criminal prosecutions if need be.

As we work towards possibly updating current legislation, previous Supreme Court decisions and other case law will need to be considered.  I want to assure everyone out there that I intend to continue to do everything in my power to protect our kids from harmful and obscene materials.  There is definitely more to come on this issue and I will keep everyone updated as to its progress.


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