To the People of Iowa House District 95
There was no floor action in the House this week as the Appropriations Committee is negotiating with our counterparts in the Senate. Last week, we announced joint budget targets with the Senate. The agreed upon number for total spending for Fiscal Year 2024 is $8.516 billion. This represents 88.25% of ongoing revenue, a responsible number to ensure we can continue to implement the income tax cuts promised to Iowans.
HHS Budget Provides Increase for Mental Health, Nursing Homes
This week, the House and Senate released an agreement on the Health and Human Services Budget for FY 2024. Below is a list of highlights of the significant investments to advance access to mental health and support Iowa’s nursing homes. This budget appropriates $2.124 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.
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse
o This budget provides $13 million in increased state funding towards mental health and substance abuse Medicaid rates. In total with federal funding, this is a $35 million increase to ensure that the state can recruit and retain mental health providers to care for Iowans in need. These increases came based on a Medicaid rate review that compared Iowa’s mental health rates to surrounding states and to Medicare.
o Provides funding and employees to specialize the Independence Mental Health Institute to behaviorally complex youth and the Cherokee MHI to acute and forensic adults.
o Increases funding towards Iowa’s Mental Health and Disability Services Regions based on the state completely taking over the funding of the MHDS Regions last year.
- Nursing Homes
o Provides $15 million of state funding (meaning over $40 million of total funding) increase to Iowa’s nursing homes. Unfortunately, Iowa’s nursing homes have faced significant challenges with workforce, more complex patients, and closures in recent years. This funding, along with a provider tax increase, will ensure Iowa’s nursing homes are on a stable path going forward.
o This budget includes a $68 million increase to the Quality Assurance Assessment Fee. On April 1, the contribution rate increased and has brought in additional federal funding that goes directly to Iowa’s nursing homes ensuring quality care is provided to Iowa’s seniors.
- Family Medicine OB Fellowships – Funds 4 annual family medicine obstetric fellowships every year. In order to participate, the family medicine doctor must sign an agreement with a teaching hospital to participate in the fellowship for one year, and then commit to remaining in Iowa and serving rural and underserved areas for 5 years after completing their fellowship.
- Child Welfare
o Provides $1.3 million increase to Iowa’s child welfare workers. The state has had a difficult time recruiting individuals to these positions to help Iowa’s children in need.
o Increases the allowable expense for nonrecurring legal fees from $500 to $1000 per child for reasonable, necessary costs directly related to the legal adoption of a child eligible for Iowa’s adoption subsidy program.
- Workforce for difficult to serve Iowans
o This budget maintains the $14.6 million increase to home and community-based service providers and $7.4 million intellectual disability waiver wait-list buy-down that began this year by committing $5.5 million to fund quarter 4 of FY2024.
o This budget maintains the $3.8 million appropriation provided last year to Qualified Residential Treatment programs by ensuring that a future shortfall does not occur to the child and family services section.
- Health and Human Services Alignment – this bill continues the work done over the last 2 years regarding alignment of Iowa’s health and human services programs, including adding in aging, human rights, child advocacy board and volunteer programs.
- Medicaid disenrollment – For the last two and a half years, the federal government has prevented states from disenrolling ineligible Medicaid members. This has results in an estimated 100,000 ineligible Iowans receiving free health insurance, without paying any premiums or copays, and the state paying a monthly capitation payment for every single ineligible member. This bill ensures that the state disenrolls these individuals as soon as possible this spring/summer.
- Establishes a Public Assistance Modernization fund to enhance IT capabilities for Iowa’s welfare programs. This will streamline applications for Iowans as well as ensure that those on the programs are truly eligible for the entitlement program.
- Provides a $500,000 increase to the more options for maternal support program that will focus on promoting healthy pregnancies and childbirth through nonprofits that provide pregnancy support services. This bill also allows the funds to carryforward to future fiscal years as DHHS goes through the RFP process.
- Provides a $200,000 increase to the Veterans Home Ownership Assistance Program, allowing 40 more veterans to receive grants every year.
Parent Empowerment, Teacher Empowerment Bills Receive Approval
Led by House Republicans, the Legislature has acted on significant measures this session empowering parents while making clear where the lines of control exist when it comes to parental responsibility and school district’s responsibility.
While it is unfortunate that parents were forced to come to the Legislature to defend and reassert their rights to direct the upbringing of their own children, lawmakers have a duty to respond. Whether the issue is school choice, age-appropriate material, invasive surveys or, somewhat amazingly, whether or not schools can keep secrets from parents, House Republicans have led the way. This bill includes these things:
- Age-Appropriate Language.
o Schools cannot have any curriculum or books that are not age appropriate. Age appropriate is not a description or visual depiction of a sex act as defined in 702.17 of Iowa Code.
o District must publish their book or educational material removal policies and board decision review policies on their websites.
o District must adopt policy for residents of the district and those who open enroll to review instructional materials and include process for student’s to not be provided with certain materials.
o Access to online library.
o Identity of parent/guardian who requests removal must be kept confidential.
o Students cannot be on book review committees.
- Parents Rights Language.
o Parents have the ultimate responsibility, and the fundamental, constitutionally protected right, to make decisions regarding the entire upbringing of their child.
- SEL Survey Language.
o Must get parental consent prior to giving surveys, parental access to surveys, who created / sponsored the survey, how the data is used, and how the data is stored.
- Special Education / homeschool language.
o AEA does not need to give consent before a special education student can receive CPI and a special education CPI student may dual enroll.
- Gender identity / sexual orientation instruction prohibited in K-6.
- AIDS and HPV / HPV vaccine as specific STDs or communicable diseases removed from being listed out in Code (does not prohibit instruction on these things).
- A school cannot knowingly give false or misleading information to a parent/guardian regarding the student’s gender identity.
- If a student requests an accommodation for a gender identity different than their sex at birth, the teacher must report to the administrator and the administrator contacts the parent/guardian.
- Adds in HF 429 which is our intra-district enrollment language. This allows parents to change the attendance center of their child in cases of bullying and harassment.
The one piece that had yet to be approved by the Senate was teacher empowerment (House File 604). Teachers need the ability to control their classrooms and protect rule-abiding students from disruptive and potentially violent students. Teachers deserve to know why they are being forced to take certain kinds of training. On Wednesday, HF 604 was amended and approved by the Senate. While the Senate weakened the bill’s effort to give teachers direct and clear disciplinary measures to maintain control of their classrooms, it is still a step forward.
Key pieces of the bill include:
- The district must provide the Code section or rules adopted by the State Board or the BOEE that requires the employee to participate in the professional development program.
- The district must provide notice of teacher immunity in regards to coming in physical contact with at student.
- Teacher must notify the parent/guardian within 24 hours if they witness student injury.
- Includes teacher whistleblower protection.
Together, parents, teachers, and the districts can all work together to create the best school that does the best for the students and families.
How House Republicans Created the Taxpayer Relief Fund
Just what is the Taxpayer Relief Fund and how was it created? It is an account in the State Treasury that holds unanticipated state revenue to be returned to the taxpayers. In order for funds to be deposited in the Taxpayer Relief Fund, actual state revenue has to exceed what had been projected for state tax collections by the three-member Revenue Estimating Conference (REC). The difference between what was actually collected in tax revenue and what the REC had projected is deposited into the account once the fiscal year’s books have been closed.
At the behest of House Republicans, the Fund was created in 2011 and was originally called the Taxpayer Trust Fund. House Republicans felt it was important that excess revenue be returned to the taxpayers rather than being spent on various state government bureaucracies. Through intense negotiations, the 2011 House Republican caucus convinced Senate Democrats (the majority party in the Senate at the time) and Governor Branstad to commit this. Thus, the Taxpayer Trust Fund was born. The maximum amount that could be deposited per year under that agreement was limited to no more than $60 million. If there were funds deposited into the account, those funds would be returned to taxpayers through a special income tax credit on Iowans’ state income tax return.
With the change of control in the Iowa Senate, the structure of the Taxpayer Trust Fund was significantly changed. As part of the 2018 state tax reform law, the name of the Fund was changed to the Taxpayer Relief Fund. The limit on the amount of funds that could be deposited into the account was stripped from the law, as was the automatic return of the funds via the personal income tax credit. Instead, the Fund would be dedicated to tax relief. The type or nature of the tax relief was left up to the Legislature to determine.
Using the final numbers for Fiscal Year 2022 as an example, here is how the Taxpayer Relief Fund works. When the Legislature passed the FY 22 budget in May 2021, the revenue forecast called for the state to collect $8.1686 billion in tax revenue. When the books were closed on Fiscal Year 2022, actual state revenue amounted to $9.8034 billion. The difference between the two figures is $1.6348 billion, which is the amount deposited into the Taxpayer Relief Fund.
Thanks to several consecutive years of record tax collections and controlled spending growth, the Taxpayer Relief Fund is projected to have $3.5578 billion in its account. That is a symbol of the strong fiscal leadership that House Republicans has provided the state since 2011.
Senate Gives Final Legislative Approval of Veterinary Scope of Practice Update Legislation
On Monday, April 24th, the Senate considered and passed House File 670 by a 49-0 vote. HF 670 updates the state Veterinary Practice Code chapter (169) for the first time in over 25-years. Much of the legislation is codifying regulations which the Iowa Veterinary Board has adopted to deal with the evolution of the profession during the last three decades but for which the Code provided the Board with generalized rule making authority. The provisions in HF 670 were negotiated by the different parties in the profession and represent a consensus of the parties. The new Code language recognizes and specifies the scope of veterinary services that veterinary students, veterinary technicians and auxiliary veterinary personnel can perform and their relation to supervisory veterinarians.
HF 670 directs the Board of Veterinary medicine to submit notice of intended rule making to implement this legislation no later than January 1, 2024, and the legislation as a whole has a delayed effective date of July 1, 2024, to accommodate the new rule making process. This piece of policy is something I heard about from my local Farm Bureau members about a lot, so I was happy to see this piece of legislation get over the finish line.
Staying in Touch
As always, as session wraps up you can shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the capitol switchboard at (515) 281-3221.
Rep. Taylor Collins
Iowa House District 95