Month: April 2019

Feds launch investigative review of oversight of privatized Medicaid

Iowa Senate News Release
For Immediate Release:  April 17, 2019

 Key Iowa Senators applaud investigation by U.S. Inspector General

DES MOINES – The U.S. Office of Inspector General has launched an investigative review of whether federal officials are providing sufficient and appropriate oversight to ensure that people with Medicaid are receiving the care to which they are entitled.

Citing the lack of oversight of privatized Medicaid by Governor Reynolds and the Republican-controlled Legislature, two key Iowa State Senators today praised the new investigation.

“Since it was launched three years ago in Iowa, privatized Medicaid has been unsustainable, unaffordable and unaccountable,” Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City and Liz Mathis of Hiawatha wrote in a letter to U.S. Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson. “There has been little effort by the Governor or majority party in the Iowa General Assembly to provide proper oversight for the out-of-state managed care organizations (MCOs).”

The Senators added: “Medicaid advocates, policymakers and other taxpayers deserve an investigation by the Inspector General that provides an answer to the question that we have asked since the start of Medicaid privatization in Iowa: Are some MCOs putting the bottom line ahead of patient health and safety?”

The Inspector General initiated the review of the oversight role of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the request of U.S. Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging.

In his request, Casey cited reports from across the country “alleging that some Medicaid managed care companies (MCOs) continuously deny care to patients sorely in need of care. In some cases, patients have experienced entirely preventable life-altering harms.”

“Medicaid is emblematic of who we are as a nation, reflecting who we value and the ideals we are willing to fight for,” Casey added. “We must ensure Medicaid MCOs live up to these ideals and provide Americans with the health care that they deserve.”

In its description of the investigation, the Inspector General acknowledges that privatized Medicaid “can create an incentive to deny beneficiaries’ access to covered services.”

“Our review will determine whether Medicaid MCOs complied with Federal requirements when denying access to requested medical and dental services and drug prescriptions that required prior authorization,” the agency’s website states (https://tinyurl.com/y2x257yx ).

###

Don’t let Medicaid mess undermine children’s health insurance

Iowa Senate News Release
Senator Nate Boulton
Representative John Forbes
For Immediate Release:  April 15, 2019

 

Don’t let Medicaid mess undermine Iowa’s successful children’s health insurance program

Two members of the board of Hawki, Iowa’s nationally recognized Hawki children’s health insurance program, today raised concerns in a letter about maintaining quality as it becomes part of Iowa’s troubled privatized Medicaid program.

“This is another challenging transition for Iowa families,” said Senator Nate Boulton.  “Unitedhealthcare had been a Hawki provider for more than five years.  Those families need as much support as possible to make sure their care is not interrupted.  Specifically, we must make sure providers continue to welcome Hawki kids into their care.”

“The Hawki transition is another opportunity for the Reynolds Administration to show that it has learned from past mistakes,” said Representative John Forbes.  “Iowans were promised that a privatized health care system would increase quality and access to care. However, too often they have instead gotten more headaches and problems.”

Hawki provides low-cost health coverage for more than 70,000 children from working families across the state.   The Hawki Board of Directors guides the Department of Human Services’ efforts to develop, implement and administer the Hawki program.

The questions for the board included:

  • How will the Board/DHS communicate with Hawki families about the transition from UnitedHealthcare to one of the two remaining managed-care organizations, Amerigroup Iowa or Iowa Total Care?
  • How will the Board/DHS communicate with schools across the state to make sure that parents and school officials are aware of the upcoming changes?  This is especially concerning for parents/guardians because they will be scheduling annual physicals, immunizations and other routine care during the summer months.
  • How will parents/guardians learn whether they will be able to keep their current pediatrician or other health care provider if they are transitioning to Amerigroup Iowa or Iowa Total Care?
  • How will the Board/DHS ensure healthcare providers continue to see Hawki as a secure and trustworthy benefit program, one that they want to be involved with?

-end-

Transportation Committee Report – Week 13, 2019

FLOOR ACTION:

HF 418 – Commercial Driver’s Licenses

HF 390 – Required notices of certain aircraft

 

FLOOR ACTION:

HF 418 – Commercial Driver’s Licenses

HF418 requires Iowa to comply with federal regulations for commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) or face loss of federal highway funding. It requires the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to check the national drug and alcohol clearinghouse to determine if an applicant qualifies for issuance, renewal or upgrade. The bill also allows an Iowa nonprofit corporation that serves as a trade association for Iowa-based motor carriers to be a third-party tester.
[4/8: 50-0]

 

HF 390 – Required notices of certain aircraft

HF 390 eliminates the requirement for aircraft owners to keep current paper registration certificates on aircraft that have been junked or destroyed by fire or accident. The change was made because aircraft registrations are now checked electronically. The bill removes outdated references to paper aircraft certificates and changes references from “returning certificates” to “providing notice” to the DOT.
[4/8: 50-0]

State Government Committee Report – Week 13, 2019

FLOOR ACTION:

HF 393 – Attribution required on calls and texts

HF 701 Prohibits a city or county from adopting or enforcing an ordinance

 

FLOOR ACTION:

HF 393 – Attribution required on calls and texts

HF 393 modifies the procedure for reporting gifts. Currently, all gifts received by a department or the governor must be reported to the Iowa Campaign Ethics Board and the Government Oversight Committee. The bill limits the reporting requirement to gifts with a value of $50 or more and to report the gift within 20 days.
[4/10: 49-0 (Excused: Feenstra)]

 

HF 701 Prohibits a city or county from adopting or enforcing an ordinance

HF 701 prohibits a city or county from adopting or enforcing an ordinance, regulation or restriction that would prevent a nonconforming use from continuing if the use was legal before. This local control reversal applies unless a discontinuance is necessary for the safety of life or property; the nonconforming use is legally abandoned; or the nonconforming use is enlarged or extended.

This bill is a result of a recent court case. Mobile home advocates say it codifies current case law. Opponents say it expands beyond case law. A strike-all amendment adopted on the Senate floor limits the case law provisions of “nonconforming use zoning” to preexisting manufactured, modular or mobile homes. It adds a fourth provision to include obstruction with a shared driveway or sidewalk.
[4/9: 35-13 (No: Bolkcom, Boulton, Celsi, Dotzler, Giddens, Hogg, Jochum, Mathis, Petersen, Quirmbach, Ragan, J. Smith, Wahls; Excused: Bisignano and Feenstra)]

Natural Resources & Environment Committee Report – Week 13, 2019

COMMITTEE ACTION:

SF 409– Administrative procedures by DNR

 

COMMITTEE ACTION:

SF 409– Administrative procedures by DNR

SF 409 is a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposal that makes a number of changes to administrative procedures. Changes include:

  • Standardizing administrative appeal procedures. Existing laws provide 30 days to appeal or do not establish a timeframe. Additionally, the start of an appeal period is variously defined or not defined. The proposed revisions establish a consistent period of 60 days from when DNR mails the order.
  • Clarifying that a rural water utility can construct extensions of sewer or water supply systems under existing permitting authority in certain circumstances.
  • Allowing for waiver of certain requirements for written permits. Under the bill, the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) may allow exemptions for a class of disposal systems or the DNR director may allow exemptions for individual systems.
  • Exempting DNR from having to publish notices for public water supply permits in a local newspaper, though public notice is still required.
  • Directing DNR to send information on an administrative order to the attorney representing the party in the matter.

The Senate adopted an amendment on the floor that removed requirements for publishing notice of intent to conduct activities that are authorized under general permits issued by DNR. The amendment instead requires that notice of the intent to conduct activity be sent to the DNR in an electronic format.
[4/10: 37-12 (No: Bisignano, Bolkcom, Celsi, Chapman, Dotzler, Hogg, Jochum, Kinney, Petersen, Ragan, R. Taylor, Wahls; Absent: Feenstra)]

Judiciary Committee Report – Week 13, 2019

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 114 – Vehicular homicide while speeding

SF 329 – Expert witness testimony in child sex abuse and child endangerment cases

SF 379 – Qualifications to practice law in Iowa

HF 323 – Exploitation of a dependent adult by a caretaker

HF 591 – Juvenile court jurisdiction over minor guardianships

HF 610 – Adult guardianships and conservatorships and minor conservatorships

HF 650 – Immunity from civil liability for negligent hiring

HF 679 – Substantive Code Editor’s bill

COMMITTEE ACTION:

HF 566 – Criminal Trespass

HF 732 – Medical cannabidiol

HF 737 – Animal mistreatment

 

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 114 – Vehicular homicide while speeding

SF 114 adds a potential new criminal charge of “homicide by vehicle” when an individual exceeds a posted speed limit by 25 miles per hour or more and unintentionally kills another person, if the death is directly or indirectly attributable to the excessive speed. A conviction or guilty plea is punished as a Class “C” felony (up to 10 years in prison and a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000). Also under the bill, it will be a Class “D” felony if a person exceeds the speed limit by 25 miles per hour or more and, as a result, causes a serious injury. A “D” felony is punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of between $750 and $7,500. The bill excludes public safety officers if the death or injury occurs while performing official duties.
[4/2: 44-1 (No: R. Taylor; Absent:  Bisignano, Brown, Kinney, Mathis, Zaun)]

 

SF 329 – Expert witness testimony in child sex abuse and child endangerment cases

SF 329 is a county attorneys’ priority bill, which was filed because of inconsistent court decisions relating to expert witness testimony in child sex abuse, child abuse and endangerment cases. The bill provides that testimony from a qualified expert witness is admissible in child sexual abuse, child abuse and child endangerment cases. Allowed testimony includes testimony based upon the expert’s education, training and experience relating to the various reasons child victims delay disclosure or intermittently disclose details of sexual abuse and child endangerment; the process engaged in by perpetrators of sexual abuse to groom their victims, or grooming behaviors in general; various reasons that child victims recant allegations of sexual abuse or child endangerment; and possible symptoms or post-allegation behaviors of a child who is the victim of sexual abuse or child endangerment.
[4/9: 48-0 (Absent: Bisignano, Feenstra)]

 

SF 379 – Qualifications to practice law in Iowa

SF 379 is a Judicial Branch proposal that eliminates provisions in the Iowa Code that limit attorney admissions to applicants who are residents of Iowa. The U.S. Supreme Court says this requirement is unconstitutional. The bill also authorizes an attorney who has been admitted to practice law in a territory of the U.S. to be admitted to practice law in Iowa without an examination. Thus, an attorney from a U.S. territory would be treated just like an attorney from another state or the District of Columbia. The bill also says an out-of-state attorney from the District of Columbia or a U.S. territory may apply to appear pro hac vice (“for this event”) in an Iowa case with a local attorney. The local attorney does not need to be a resident of Iowa, but must be admitted to practice law in Iowa.
[4/9: 48-0 (Absent: Bisignano, Feenstra)]

 

HF 323 – Exploitation of a dependent adult by a caretaker

HF 323 changes the definition of exploitation of a dependent adult by a caretaker in Code Chapter 235B relating to Dependent Adult Abuse Services and Registry Information administered by the Department of Human Services. Current law requires that physical or financial exploitation of a dependent adult by a caretaker must be for “one’s own personal or pecuniary profit.” SF 153 removes the requirement that it be done for one’s own personal or pecuniary profit.
[4/10: 49-0 (Absent: Feenstra)]

 

HF 591 – Juvenile court jurisdiction over minor guardianships

HF 591 creates a new Code Chapter, 232D, the Iowa Minor Guardianship Proceedings Act, relating to minor guardianships requiring that they be under the jurisdiction of juvenile court. A minor is defined as anyone under the age of 18. Thus, all the current minor guardianships would be transferred from probate court to juvenile court and going forward, all new minor guardianships would be filed in juvenile court. The bill:

  • Sets out requirements for a minor guardianship with parental consent as well as for a minor guardianship without parental consent, including requirements for the petition for guardianship and the required notice to interested parties.
  • Guardianships with parental consent require an agreement between the parents and guardian to be filed with the court outlining the responsibilities of the guardian, the responsibilities of the parent or parents, and the expected duration of the guardianship.
  • Guardianships without parental consent must be evidenced by clear and convincing evidence that no parent is willing or able to care for the child and appointment of the guardian would be in the best interests of the child.
  • Authorizes minor guardianships in termination of parental rights cases and child in need of assistance cases.
  • Requires all proposed guardians have background checks, which would include a criminal history check, child abuse registry check, dependent adult abuse registry check and sex offender registry check.
  • Allows the court to appoint an attorney for the minor and an attorney for the parents, if the parents object to the appointment of a guardian, request an attorney and are unable to pay for an attorney.
  • The court may appoint a court visitor (formerly referred to as a guardian ad litem) who cannot be the same person as the attorney for the minor and who must file a report with the court after an investigation regarding the potential appointment of a guardian.
  • Sets out the responsibilities and duties of a guardian and requires the guardian to file reports, including an initial care plan for the minor and annual reports thereafter. The required reports may not be waived.
  • Sets out procedures for removal of a guardian, as well as for termination and modification of guardianships.
    [4/10: 49-0 (Absent: Feenstra)]

 

HF 610 – Adult guardianships and conservatorships and minor conservatorships

HF 610 proposes changes to Iowa’s adult guardianship and conservatorship laws, which will apply to minor conservatorships as well. The bill is based on recommendations from the Judicial Branch Guardianship and Conservatorship Task Force that met over a two-year period. More than 70 Iowans from multiple stakeholder groups participated. The bill:

  • Requires criminal background checks for proposed guardians and conservators, as well as checks of the dependent adult abuse, sex offender and child abuse registries.
  • Requires a conservator surety bond or a similar alternative to protect a person’s assets.
  • Requires stronger requirements for court monitoring of guardians and conservators to ensure they perform their duties and that those under guardianship receive needed care and protection.
  • Requires a hearing on the proposed guardianship or conservatorship and that a record of the hearing be made.
  • Authorizes a “court visitor” to provide the court with information on whether a conservatorship or guardianship is appropriate.
  • Requires the court to consider less drastic alternatives that might be appropriate, and requires the court to consider limited guardianships or conservatorships.
    [4/10: 49-0 (Absent: Feenstra)]

HF 650 – Immunity from civil liability for negligent hiring

HF 650 prohibits a cause of action for damages against a private employer, general contractor or premises owner for negligently hiring an employee, agent or independent contractor who has been convicted of a public offense. However, a cause of action for negligent hiring based on evidence that the employee, agent or independent contractor has been convicted of a public offense is not prohibited if all of these criteria are met:

  • The employer knew or should have known of the conviction.
  • The employee was convicted of any of these crimes:
  • A public offense that was committed while performing duties substantially similar to those to be performed taking into consideration these factors:
    • Nature and seriousness of the public offense.
    • Extent and nature of employee’s past criminal activity.
    • Age of employee when offense was committed.
    • Amount of time that has elapsed since the last criminal activity.
  • A sexually violent offense
  • Dependent adult abuse
  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Felony assault
  • Domestic abuse assault
  • First-degree kidnapping
  • Robbery first degree
  • Manufacture or possession of a controlled substance on school grounds and other public properties
  • A felony offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon

The protections provided in this bill will not apply in a suit concerning the misuse of funds or property of a person other than the employer by an employee if, on the date the employee was hired, the employee had been convicted of a public offense that included fraud or the misuse of funds or property as an element of the public offense, and it was foreseeable that the position for which the employee, agent or independent contractor was hired would involve discharging a fiduciary responsibility in the management of funds or property.
[4/8: 50-0]

 

HF 679 – Substantive Code Editor’s bill

HF 679 is commonly referred to as the Substantive Code Editor’s Bill and is submitted annually by the Iowa Code Editor to the Judiciary Committee pursuant to Iowa Code Section 2B.6 and Joint Rule 11. The substantive Code Editor’s bill makes various changes throughout the Code, including, but not limited to, correcting language to conform to other Code language or current practices, eliminating conflicting language or ambiguous language, and repealing or striking redundant language.
[4/9: 48-0 (Absent: Bisignano, Feenstra)]

 

COMMITTEE ACTION:

HF 566 – Criminal Trespass

HF 566 amends Iowa’s criminal trespass laws. During the 2017 legislative session, the law was changed to make trespass punishable as a scheduled violation, but if a person refused to leave the property or returns to the property, an officer could arrest the person. The Department of Public Safety sponsored HF 566 because the 2017 change was not practicable for law enforcement. It is particularly impractical when multiple people congregate and are trespassing.

HF 566 returns the penalty for trespass back to a simple misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of at least $65 but not more than $625, or both jail and a fine. However, if a person commits trespass while hunting, fishing or trapping, it is a simple misdemeanor punishable as a scheduled fine (citation) of $200 for the first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1000 for a third or subsequent violation. There is an exception: if a person is hunting deer other than farm deer or preserve whitetail and is issued a citation but refuses to leave the property or returns to the property after receiving a citation, an officer may arrest the trespasser.
[4/4: 14-0 (Absent: Whiting)]

 

HF 732 – Medical cannabidiol

HF 732 makes these changes to the current medical cannabidiol program:

  • Amends “debilitating medical condition” under Code definitions by replacing “untreatable pain” with “severe or chronic pain.”
  • Allows licensed physician assistants and registered nurse practitioners to provide written certification attesting to patients’ eligibility for the medical cannabis program.
  • Removes the current 3% THC cap and replaces this with a 25 gram over 90-day period maximum disbursement.
  • Removes the prohibition on certain felons applying for medical cannabidiol registration card.
  • Allows medical cannabidiol dispensaries to employ licensed pharmacists or pharmacy technicians.
  • Creates a waiver process that allows a provider to certify a qualified patient to receive more than 25 grams of THC over a 90-day period if the health care practitioner determines 25 grams is not adequate or the patient’s debilitating condition is a terminal illness with life expectancy of less than one year.
  • Directs the Iowa Department of Public Health to adopt rules for collecting and evaluating data relating to patient demographics, effective treatment options, clinical outcomes and quality-of-life outcomes for reporting on benefits, risks and outcomes for patients participating in the program.

The committee adopted an amendment to the House File that keeps the 3% THC cap, rather than the 25 grams over 90-day period maximum disbursement.
[4/4: 13-1 (No: Garrett; Absent: Whiting)]

 

HF 737 – Animal mistreatment

HF 737 makes changes to Iowa’s current non-agricultural animal cruelty laws, which are considered weak. The Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Iowa 48 among the 50 states for its lack of effective animal protection laws. The bill strengthens penalties for animal mistreatment and includes these elements:

  1. Creates the crime of tampering with a rabies vaccination tag when a person knowingly removes, damages or destroys a tag when it is attached to a collar worn by a dog.
    1. First offense is a simple misdemeanor.
    2. Second or subsequent offense is a serious misdemeanor.
  2. Creates the crime of tampering with an electronic handling device when a person knowingly removes, disables or destroys an electric device designed and used to maintain custody or control of the dog or modify its behavior when the device is attached to or worn by the dog or attached to an item worn by the dog.
    1. First offense is a simple misdemeanor.
    2. Second or subsequent offense is a serious misdemeanor.
  3. Section 3: Excludes preserve whitetail deer from the animal cruelty chapter.
  4. Section 4: Adds definitions to the 717B Chapter relating to injury to animals other than livestock.
  5. Section 5: Defines animal abuse and imposes penalties. Animal abuse is when a person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly acts to inflict injury, serious injury or death on an animal by force, violence or poisoning. There are exclusions, but the law will apply to an owner of the animal.
    1. Animal abuse causing injury other than a serious injury or death is a serious misdemeanor.
    2. Animal abuse causing serious injury or death is an aggravated misdemeanor.
    3. It is a D felony if a person has been previously convicted of other animal mistreatment offenses.
  6. Section 6: Defines animal neglect and imposes penalties. It is animal neglect when a person owns or has custody of an animal, confines that animal and fails to provide the animal with access to food in an amount and quality reasonably sufficient to satisfy the basic nutrition level to the extent that the animal’s health or life is endangered; access to a supply of potable water in an amount reasonably sufficient to satisfy the animal’s basic hydration level; sanitary conditions free from excessive animal waste or the overcrowding of animals to the extent that the animal’s health or life is endangered; ventilated shelter to protect the animal from the elements and weather conditions to maintain the animal in a state of good health; necessary grooming; necessary veterinary care.
    1. Animal neglect that does not cause injury, serious injury or death is a simple misdemeanor.
    2. Animal neglect causing serious injury or death is an aggravated misdemeanor.
    3. Animal neglect causing serious injury or death is a D felony if the person has previously been convicted of various animal mistreatment offenses.
  7. Section 7: Defines animal torture as intentionally or knowingly inflicting severe and prolonged or repeated physical pain that causes the animal’s serious injury or death. Juvenile court will have exclusive jurisdiction over a juvenile under 17 who is charged with animal torture.
    1. Animal torture is a class D felony.
    2. It’s a class C felony if the person was previously convicted of various animal mistreatment offenses.
  8. Section 8: Court orders for evaluation and treatment.
    1. A court may order psychological or psychiatric evaluation and treatment, if appropriate. However, the court must order evaluation and treatment if the convicted person is a juvenile or an adult convicted of animal abuse punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor or class D felony, animal neglect punishable as an aggravated misdemeanor of class D felony or animal torture.
  9. Section 9: Abandonment of cats and dogs. A person who owns or has custody of a cat or dog and relinquishes all rights in and duties to care for the cat or dog is guilty of abandonment. There are exclusions in the bill.
    1. Animal abandonment that does not cause injury or death to an animal is a simple misdemeanor.
    2. Causing injury other than serious injury or death is a serious misdemeanor.

Causing serious injury or death is an aggravated misdemeanor.
[4/4: 12-2 (No: Sweeney, R. Taylor; Absent: Whiting)]

Human Resources Committee Report – Week 13, 2019

COMMITTEE ACTION:

HF 292 – Medicaid appeals report

HF 532 – Medical residencies

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 563 – Pharmacy Benefit Manager Reporting

HF 700 – Pharmacists authority to refill insulin prescriptions

SF 542 – Dually eligible Medicare and Medicaid members in nursing facilities

COMMITTEE ACTION:

HF 292 – Medicaid appeals report

HF 292 requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to report annually their analysis and findings relative to Medicaid member appeals that have been dismissed, withdrawn or overturned to determine if there are any negative patterns or trends. Current law requires them to report this information twice per year. An amendment was also adopted in committee to require the twice-per-year reporting until 2021, when the schedule will return to once per year.
[4/4: 12-0 (Excused: Garrett)]

 

HF 532 – Medical residencies

HF 532 requires the Medical Residency Training state matching grants program and the awarding of residencies by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) to give priority to eligible applicants who are residents of Iowa, attended and earned an undergraduate degree from an Iowa college or university, or attended and earned a medical degree from a medical school in Iowa. A person who receives these types of medical residency positions must be provided the opportunity to participate in a rural rotation to expose the resident to rural areas of Iowa. An amendment was adopted in committee to specify primary care (including psychiatry) resident positions. The amendment also directs the UIHC to allow DMU fourth-year students to take elective classes at Carver College of Medicine if space is available.  The University of Iowa’s College of Medicine must conduct a study of the state’s workforce challenges in recruiting and retaining primary and specialty care physicians.
[4/4: 12-0 (Excused: Garrett)]

 

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 563 – Pharmacy Benefit Manager Reporting

SF 563, as amended on the floor, requires a Pharmacy Benefit Manager to submit an annual report to the Insurance Commissioner regarding fees, drug prices and rebates the received, in the aggregate. The Insurance Commissioner must make the information available to the public online.
[4/10: 49-0 (Excused: Feenstra)]

 

HF 700 – Pharmacists authority to refill insulin prescriptions

HF 700, as amended on the floor, adds to the existing authority for a pharmacist to refill a prescription without prescriber authorization. A pharmacist may exercise professional judgment and refill a prescription for and dispense insulin without prescriber authorization if the following conditions exist: the pharmacy has a record of the patient’s expired prescription; the pharmacist is unable to contact the prescriber; and the insulin is essential to the health of the patient. Up to a 30-day supply can be dispensed one time in a 12-month period.
[4/9: 49-0 (Excused: Feenstra)]

 

SF 542 – Dually eligible Medicare and Medicaid members in nursing facilities

SF 542  requires the Iowa Department of Human Services to seek approval from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow the payment of nursing facility room and board expenses for a dually eligible Medicare and Medicaid member receiving the Medicare hospice benefit or a Medicaid-only member receiving hospice to be made directly to the nursing facility. Currently, the payments are made to hospice and passed along to the nursing facility. This bill is based on one of the options put forward by a 2018 interim workgroup.
[4/9: 48-0 (Excused: Bisignano, Feenstra)]

Commerce Committee Report – Week 13, 2019

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 402 – Credit Union Division “good faith” requirement

SF 403 – Credit Union Superintendent subpoena power

HF 260 – Permissible interest rates

 

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 402 – Credit Union Division “good faith” requirement

SF 402 is a proposal by the Credit Union Division to add a new section to Code Ch. 533 – Credit Unions. It stipulates that any information, record, application or document provided to the division must be provided in good faith. A director, officer, agent or employee of a state credit union, a credit union service organization, or any other person must not intentionally publish, report, submit or file any information, record, application or document that is false or misleading by statement or omission. Any such information provided in the absence of good faith or in violation of the bill may be subject to revocation of prior approval or denial.
[4/8: 50-0]

 

SF 403 – Credit Union Superintendent subpoena power

SF 403 is a recommendation by the Credit Union Division of the Department of Commerce. Currently, the superintendent of credit unions can subpoena witnesses and compel the production of any relevant record only during the period of an examination of a state credit union. This bill expands the timeframe to include the examination period and time related to any report or filing made by or provided to the division. If a person subpoenaed by the superintendent fails to produce a record as required by the terms of the subpoena, the superintendent may apply to Polk County district court to issue an order compelling compliance. The refusal of any person to obey such an order without reasonable cause constitutes contempt of court.
[4/8: 50-0]

 

HF 260 – Permissible interest rates

HF 260 (SF 320) allows the Iowa Superintendent of Banking to set interest rates on a tiered basis and finance charges for certain loans of $30,000 or less. It applies to non-depository lenders who acquire financing on the open market (banks and credit unions are depository lenders). These lenders offer installment loans to consumers, typically small loans for appliances or vehicles. Customers may prefer this local financing option to apply for a loan rather than another financial institution, delayed deposit companies (payday loans), or out-of-state online lenders that charge higher rates and fees. Currently, the Superintendent can establish the maximum rate of interest or charges for regulated loans (Code Ch. 536, Regulated Loans) with unpaid principal balances of $10,000 or less. This increases that amount to $30,000. The maximum interest rate is capped at 36 percent. For loans with unpaid principal balances in excess of $30,000, the maximum interest rate or charges remains the greater of the rate permitted in Code Ch. 535 or the rate authorized for supervised financial organizations in Code Ch. 537. The bill authorizes a creditor to contract for and receive, for an interest-bearing consumer credit transaction, a service charge (a.k.a. loan origination fee) in an amount not to exceed 10 percent of the amount financed or $30, whichever is less. If the creditor has received such a service charge, the creditor cannot collect or retain a minimum charge upon prepayment as authorized under Code section 537.2510; rebate upon prepayment does not apply to service charges collected pursuant to the bill. Similar legislation was introduced last session.

Stakeholders worked with the Banking Division and Attorney General’s office to refine the proposal to ensure regulation and consumer protection. The companies will continue to be regulated and licensed by the Superintendent of Banking and be under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General via the Uniform Consumer Credit Code.
[4/8: 40-10 (No: Bolkcom, Celsi, Dotzler, Giddens, Hogg, Jochum, Lykam, J. Smith, T. Taylor, Wahls)]

Appropriations Committee Report – Week 13, 2019

COMMITTEE ACTION:

SF 615/SSB 1255 –Justice Budget

SF616/SSB 1254 – Judicial Branch Budget

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 609 – Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget

 

COMMITTEE ACTION:

SF 615/SSB 1255 –Justice Budget

SF 615 is the Justice System Budget bill that appropriates $579,014,608 from the state’s general fund for FY20. That is $8,203,423 over estimated FY19 ($570,811,185), a 1.4% increase. However, note that most departments and agencies did not receive any proposed increase in the bill.

 

Justice System departments and agencies include:

  • Attorney General’s Office, including Victim Assistance Grants and Legal Services Poverty Grants
  • Civil Rights Commission
  • Department of Corrections and Community Based Corrections
  • Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning of the Department of Human Rights
  • Public Defender Office, which includes Indigent Defense
  • Iowa Law Enforcement Academy
  • Board of Parole
  • Department of Public Defense (Iowa National Guard)
  • Department of Public Safety, including Iowa State Patrol and other divisions
  • Homeland Security and Emergency Management

 

FY19 Supplemental Appropriations in this bill:

  • $2.5 million for indigent defense
  • $295,982 for the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy for relocation expenses

 

Increased appropriations:

  • Legal Services Poverty Grants – increase of $160,000

 

  • Department of Corrections – increase of $2,173,963
    • Central office: $316,515
    • Ft. Madison – Iowa State Penitentiary: $400,000
    • Iowa Medical and Classification Center (also known as Oakdale but actually in Coralville): $565,764 for pharmaceuticals
    • Newton Correctional Facility: $65,938
    • Community Based Corrections District 1 –(Northeast Iowa): $125,090 for a community treatment coordinator
    • CBC District 2 (North Central Iowa): $70,351 for a community treatment coordinator
    • CBC District 3 (Northwest Iowa ): $70,351 fora community treatment coordinator
    • CBC District 4 (Southwest Iowa): $70,351 for a community treatment coordinator
    • CBC District 5 (Polk County, surrounding counties and south central counties): $140,702 for two community treatment coordinator FTEs
    • CBC District 7 (Eastern Iowa, including Scott County): $70,351 for a community treatment coordinator
    • CBC District 8 (Southeast Iowa): $278,550 for community treatment coordinator and two probation and parole officer FTE positions previously funded by a grant.

 

  • Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning receives a new, separate line item of $140,000 for “a single grant to a program located in a city with a higher than average juvenile crime rate as determined by CJJP with a population greater than 80,000.”

 

  • Iowa Law Enforcement Academy: increase of $729,460 for relocation expenses while the current Academy building is renovated or replaced.

 

  • Public Defender: $100,000

 

  • Indigent Defense: $1.6 million

 

  • Department of Public Safety: increase of $3.4 million
  • Division of Criminal Investigation: $1 million
  • Crime Lab: $50,000
  • Narcotics Enforcement: $200,000
  • Undercover Funds: $50,000
  • Iowa State Patrol: $2 million and 15 FTEs
  • Firefighter training: $50,000
  • Office to Combat Human Trafficking: $50,000

 

New language and language changes in the bill:

  • Contingent upon passage of SF 366, the sports gambling bill, SSB 1255 appropriates an additional $300,000 from the Gaming Enforcement Fund and authorizes three FTEs. This fund is not comprised of general fund monies, but includes monies deposited by the gaming industry to pay all costs for gaming enforcement officers at facilities throughout the state.
  • Requires the Attorney General to report all money settlement awards and court money awards made to the state. The AG must report which funds are designated to receive the moneys and under what legal authority the designation is being made.
  • Sets up a fire service training revolving fund under the control of the Department of Public Safety. These monies come from fees paid for fire service training classes. Iowa State University previously did the accounting, etc., relating to fees, but they informed the state in the fall that they would no longer do it for the Fire Service Training Bureau.
  • Authorizes the Department of Corrections to use any FY19 appropriations to resolve a settlement agreement with Iowa OSHA relating to inadequate communication devices for staff at the Iowa State Penitentiary. It is imperative that staff be able to communicate when there are attacks and other issues at the prison.
  • Allows the Public Defender Indigent Defense Division to continue its pilot project allowing indigent persons to choose an eligible attorney to represent them. The pilot project is limited to four counties.
    [4/4: 14-7 (Yes: Republicans, Lykam)]

 

SF616/SSB 1254 – Judicial Branch Budget

SF 616 is the FY20 Judicial Branch budget. The bill appropriates $184,224,293, which is $1.9 million less than what the Judicial Branch requested.

FY20                      $184,226,293
FY19                      $180,674,797
Increase               $    3,551,496
Percentage Increase               1.96%

 

  • Requires the clerks of court offices to operate in all 99 counties and be accessible to the public as much as reasonably possible. However, at a minimum, clerks’ offices must be open to the public for at least the same hours as other county offices in the county and if county offices have differing hours, the clerk’s office must be open “consistent with the county office that is open the greatest number of hours.”
  • Establishes annual salary rates for all judicial officers and makes salaries provided for in this section paid from funds allocated to the Judicial Branch from the salary adjustment fund, but if that isn’t sufficient, from funds appropriated in this bill. These salaries represent an approximate 2% salary increase for judicial officers.
  • Removes the enhanced court collections fund and court technology and modernization fund language that was in previous budget bills. There is language relating to these funds in SF 457.
  • Removes language which says any pass-through budget request from the Judicial Branch will be reduced by any amount of salary increases for judicial officers.
    [4/4: 13-8, party-line]

 

FLOOR ACTION:

SF 609 – Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget

SF 609 is the FY20 budget for the Department of Agriculture (IDALS) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

FY19 Appropriation                                                                         $39.4 million
FY20 Appropriation                                                                         $40.0 million
Difference                                                                                          $604,000
Percent Increase                                                                              1.5 percent

 

Significant Funding Increases

Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS)

  • There is a $304,000 increase for IDALS operations in the Senate Republican’s proposed Agriculture & Natural Resources budget over FY19 appropriations. This provides funding to establish the industrial hemp program in IDALS and implement the Iowa Hemp Act (SF 599/HF 733).
  • There is a conditional transfer of $200,000 from the general appropriation to IDALS to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at ISU. The transfer will occur if SF 601 or successor legislation is signed into law. SF 601 would establish a new pesticide fees fund under the control of IDALS. Currently, pesticide fees are deposited into the general fund and appropriated by the legislature. By depositing the fees directly into a fund under IDALS, they will have direct access to the pesticide fee revenues. Because the current fees do not directly flow to the department, it is anticipated that IDALS will have more funds available when pesticide fees are directly assigned to the department. The conditional transfer will provide more funding to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory without reducing overall funding for IDALS.

 

Farmers with Disabilities

  • There is a $50,000 increase for the Farmers with Disabilities program over FY19, increasing the appropriation to $180,000. This money provides support to Easter Seals to administer the Rural Solutions program that assists farmers with physical or mental disabilities. The program offers agricultural worksite and home modification consultations, peer support, services for the family, information and referrals, and medical equipment loan services.

 

Foreign Animal Disease Response Fund

  • The budget increases funding for Foreign Animal Disease response by $250,000, doubling the appropriation to $500,000. This funding assists IDALS in developing response and preparedness efforts for future outbreaks of infectious animal diseases. IDALS, in cooperation with farm groups and the Livestock Health Advisory Council at Iowa State University, will develop measures to prepare for, prevent, control or eradicate the transmission and incidence of foreign animal diseases for livestock in the state.

 

Other Significant Funding Issues

Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

  • This budget proposes status quo funding for DNR. This funding level is $1.3 million less than the department received from the general fund in FY16.
  • The budget does include new language that will allow DNR to use up to $250,000 from the existing appropriation for state parks operations and maintenance in the Environment First Fund to provide for up to three new state park rangers.

 

Resource Enhancement and Protection program (REAP)

  • The budget appropriates $12 million for REAP. This is $4 million below the amount appropriated in FY17 and $6 million below the highest funding levels for the program in FY10. Unlike previous years, Republicans are not proposing to divert funding from REAP to backfill funding shortfalls for state parks operations and maintenance. *See proposed Breitbach amendment*
  • REAP funding is allocated under the formula to these separate accounts:
  • Open Spaces – Open spaces is used to permanently protect and develop Iowa’s public lands and waters. DNR also uses funds in this account to pay property taxes owed to counties for land that has been acquired by DNR.
  • County conservation boards – County conservation boards compete for grants that they can use to develop programing and public areas under their control.
  • Soil and water conservation – This money is divided between projects and practices funding. IDALS has used funding from this area in the past to support urban soil conservation and water quality projects.
  • City parks and open spaces – Cities compete for grants that they can use to develop public areas and amenities to promote outdoor recreation and natural habitat.
  • DNR Land Management – DNR uses these funds to manage state conservation lands and facilities.
  • Cultural Affairs – Grants for historical preservation and country schools.

In FY19, Republicans diverted $3 million from REAP to pay for state parks maintenance, repair and operations. REAP is a stand-alone program and should not be weakened so Republicans can minimize the damaging cuts in their budget. The program has helped bring together a broad coalition of hunting, fishing, conservation, recreation and environmental organizations together to push for projects that will improve the state’s quality of life and make it a better place to live and raise a family. Diverting money from one portion of the program hurts its effectiveness as a way to invest in Iowa’s future.

 

Farm Demonstration Projects/Iowa Soybean Association

  • The bill appropriates $100,000 to the Iowa Soybean Association to continue to support farm demonstration projects that do research into nutrient resource management. This money comes from remaining funds in the Watershed Improvement Review Board fund.

 

Major Language Changes/Budget Concerns

The bill does include some changes to current Code language. These changes include:

  • Technical fixes to reflect the transfer of the geological survey from DNR to the University of Iowa.
  • Codifying past appropriations language providing that IDALS will administer biofuels auditing and administration programs to ensure motor fuel quality sold by retailers and renewable fuels producers.
  • Provides a grain warehouse operator’s lien with primacy above all other creditors.
  • Raises the small air permit fee fund cap from $250,000 to $750,000. The cap was put in place when the air permit fee system was redesigned in 2016. This cap restricts the amount of money DNR can raise through fees to support the processing of small source air quality permit applications. The fee cap also restricts how much money DNR can spend on processing these permits. Raising the fee fund cap allows for DNR to collect more fees to fund services for small source air permit holders. The fees can be changed through rulemaking by DNR, but that rulemaking process requires an extensive stakeholder review process. The proposal to raise the fee cap is supported by many small source permit holders.
  • Ends mandates for mercury thermostat manufactures and retailers regarding the collection of thermostats that contain a mercury switch beginning in 2022. The sale of these thermostats has been banned in Iowa since 2009. With the ban on the sale of these thermostats, the state mandated the collection of existing thermostats by manufacturers and retailers who made or sold those items. The amendment repeals the mandated collection programs and reporting requirements. The manufacturers are continuing their collection efforts, but believe the mandated system is now unnecessary as the number of mercury thermostats remaining in use drops.

 

Under this budget, support for agriculture and natural resources in this state continues to suffer. Reduced funding has led to the elimination of successful programs and a large number of unfilled positions that should be providing services to Iowans. Cooperation between agriculture and natural resources is needed to move our state forward. This budget continues to pit them against each other.

An amendment was adopted on the Senate floor. This amendment makes three changes to the bill:

  • Makes a technical correction to the $100,000 appropriation for the farm demonstration projects. The current language does not provide any additional money for the projects and only reauthorizes money that was appropriated in the FY19 budget bill.
  • Diverts $1 million from the REAP Open Spaces account to provide additional money for state parks maintenance and repair.
  • Removes the proposed Code language that would have provided primacy to grain warehouse operators’ liens.
    [4/8: 32-18, party-line]

2019 Weekly Bill Tracking, Thurs. April 4 – Wed. April 10

WEEKLY BILL TRACKING Thurs. April 4 – Wed. April 10, 2019 HOUSE DEMOCRATIC RESEARCH STAFF Appropriations HF 674        Automated Traffic Enforcement. Establishes traffic camera regulation for local cities and law enforcement (passed House Appropriations 15-9) to House Calendar. HF 756         Federal Block Grants. Allocates Federal block grant appropriations to various State Agencies. (Passed the House 96-0) […]