Author: Iowa Senate Democrats

Senate Dems select leadership team

Iowa Senate News Release
For immediate release: November 11, 2018  

 

Democratic members of the Iowa Senate re-elected Sen. Janet Petersen today to serve as the Democratic Leader of the Iowa Senate.

Senator Petersen released this statement:

“I am honored to have the continued support of my fellow Democratic Senators.”

“For the past two years, the Republican-led Senate pushed through damaging policies that helped out-of-state companies and special interests instead of hard-working Iowa families.

“Senate Democrats will continue standing up for Iowans. We believe every Iowan – regardless of whether they live in rural areas, small towns, urban or suburban parts of our state – deserves access to affordable health care, strong public schools, and the chance to get ahead in life.

“We will work with the Governor and Republican legislators on issues where we can find common ground over the next two years. But, if we continue to see Republicans push an agenda that hurts the health care, education, and financial security of working Iowans, we will be fierce in our opposition.”

The new Democratic leadership team consists of these Senators:

  • Democratic Leader, Senator Janet Petersen, Des Moines
  • Democratic Whip, Senator Amanda Ragan, Mason City
  • Assistant Leaders:
    • Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City
    • Senator Bill Dotzler, Waterloo
    • Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque
    • Senator Liz Mathis, Hiawatha
    • Senator Herman Quirmbach, Ames
    • Senator Rich Taylor, Mount Pleasant

Petersen is in her second term in the Iowa Senate after serving six terms in the Iowa House. She represents Senate District 18 in northwest Des Moines.

In 2008, Petersen founded a nonprofit organization with four other central Iowa women called Healthy Birth Day. The organization, best known for its Count the Kicks campaign, is devoted to preventing stillbirths and improving birth outcomes.

Petersen and her husband Brian Pattinson have three children.

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Is rationing health care the Iowa GOP’s secret plan to “fix” Medicaid mess?

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen

In the final days of the 2018 campaign, a Northwest Iowa State Senator may have mistakenly released the Republican Party of Iowa’s secret plan to “fix” the Medicaid privatization mess.

During a forum last week sponsored by the Sioux City Rotary Club, State Senator Jim Carlin of Sioux City proposed rationing health care for Medicaid recipients.

Carlin specifically said lawmakers should “look into limiting the number of doctor visits” by people on Medicaid.

Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen called Carlin’s proposal “mean-spirited and dangerous.”

“This is another example of a politician playing doctor,” Petersen said. “The last thing that Iowa parents need is to be worried about politicians placing arbitrary caps on the number of times their children can visit the family doctor for an ear infection, a broken arm or diabetes. And how could the Legislature and Governor limit the number of doctor visits for disabled Iowans or those with chronic illnesses? That’s mean-spirited and dangerous.”

Throughout 2017 and 2018, Governor Reynolds and other Republican leaders acknowledged “mistakes were made” with Medicaid privatization, but they have offered no solutions for reversing course on a change that has turned over health care management for hundreds of thousands of Iowans to out-of-state corporations.

As a result, the Reynolds Administration, Senator Carlin and others in the Republican-controlled Legislature have led an effort that has:

  1. Cut and delayed payments to Iowa health care providers that provide critical services to hundreds of thousands of Iowans.
  2. Made health care services even less accessible to Medicaid members.
  3. Shifted more than $100 million away from education, health care and public safety to cover the additional payments to out-of-state corporations.

“Make no mistake about it, Senator Carlin’s plan would cost Iowa taxpayers more money in the long run and would further endanger the health and safety of Iowans,” Petersen said.

Read the full Sioux City Journal article: https://tinyurl.com/yd4oouq2

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Iowa workers vote for strong unions

IA SEN NEWS
Oct. 29, 2018

Statement by Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen

“The results of the recertification elections today are a huge victory for working families across Iowa.

“With the deck stacked against them by the Governor and Republican-controlled Legislature, Iowa workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of being represented by strong unions.

“Our friends and neighbors across the state who work every day to teach our kids, keep our families and communities safe, and protect the most vulnerable Iowans need to have a voice in the workplace. Iowans depend on their voices being heard.

“Congratulations to Iowa’s public workers and their unions for this huge victory today.”

 

–end–

Privatizing IPERS: An Analysis of Senate File 45 (Updated 10/26/18)

SENATE FILE 45 was introduced by Senator Brad Zaun (R) on the first day of the 2017 legislative session.  (PDF of this document)

Senator Zaun is the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Vice Chair of the Labor and Business Relations Committee, and a member of the State Government and Commerce Committees

The bill mandates employees newly hired on or after July 1, 2019, who would otherwise be members of the public safety peace officers’ retirement (PORS), accident/disability system, the Iowa public employees’ retirement system (IPERS), the statewide fire and police retirement system (411), or the judicial retirement system, SHALL NOT become members of their respective retirement systems.  These are all state defined benefit pension plans.

Instead, Senator Zaun’s bill directs each retirement system to develop an alternative defined contribution plan for employees newly hired on or after July 1, 2019. This would repeal the current pension systems in Iowa and replace them with a private market/401(k) type plan.

The bill directs each retirement system to submit a plan to create an alternative defined contribution plan to the public retirement systems committee by October 1, 2018.

This is a bad bill – built on a bad idea.

While Senate File 45 would get rid of all public defined benefit pensions,  this year most discussion is on the IPERS pension system.

IPERS is 82.4 percent funded, which rating agencies say is like being an “A” student.  While some public worker pension systems in other states are in bad shape, Iowa’s system was ranked as the 10th best-positioned pension system in the country.  Iowa also has the 4th lowest debt, including pension liability, in the country.

  • One in 10 Iowans is a member of IPERS.  Most of IPERS members are teachers and school staff, followed by law enforcement, social workers, prison staff, transportation workers, and other public employees.
  • The average IPERS retiree leaves public employment after 22 years of service.
  • The average IPERS retiree receives an annual benefit of $16,000. Benefits are calculated based on a formula of years of service and highest average salary, with a maximum benefit of 65 percent for 35 years or more of service.  No one makes more in IPERS retirement than they did while they were working.
  • This benefit is secure and paid for a lifetime, but does not include a cost-of-living adjustment.  Every year spent in retirement means the IPERS monthly benefit has less buying power. That’s why IPERS is only one part of retirement planning and is designed to be combined with Social Security and other personal savings and investments.

 

October 2018 Update

While SENATE FILE 45 did not advance in the 2017 – 2018 session, leading Iowa Republicans continue to back the ideas contained in the bill.

On April 24 of 2017, shortly after the 2017 session adjourned, Governor Reynolds told reporters that her priorities for the next session included “Water quality, tax reform and a study of the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System,” according to reports in the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Quad City Times.

On August 28 of 2017, then Senator, now Senate President ,Charles Schneider (R) invited the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation to give a presentation to members of the IPERS Benefits Advisory Committee.  The Reason Foundation is an advocate for private market/401(k) type retirement plans.   The IPERS response to the Reason Foundation’s presentation can be found here: https://www.ipers.org/newsroom/2017/reason-foundation-presentation-bac

On December 18 of 2017, the Legislature’s Public Retirement Systems Committee met for a contentious meeting, headlined by one newspaper as: “Iowa lawmakers grill IPERS officials about public pension funding.”  The committee adjourned without making recommendations for legislation in 2018.

On June 22 of 2018, Governor Kim Reynolds was interviewed on Iowa Press (http://www.iptv.org/iowapress/story/30878/governor-kim-reynolds).  The Governor repeatedly talked of making changes to IPERS while “maintaining the commitments that have been made.”  IPERS managers have consistently warned that changing to a 401(k) plan for new members would threaten benefits to current members.

On October 23 of 2018, individual editorials from Governor Reynolds and Iowa House Republican Speaker Linda Upmeyer appeared in major papers.  Both claimed there are no plans to change IPERS.

On October 25 of 2018, House Democratic Leader Mark Smith revealed that Speaker Upmeyer had previously voted for “a 401(k)-style plan that would divert money from IPERS.” (HSB 512, House State Government Committee Vote, March 2, 2006)

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Produced by the Iowa Senate Democratic Research Staff: 515-281-5804

HWY 20 shows the promise of rural Iowa investments

IOWA SENATE NEWS
October 18, 2018

Statement on the completed expansion of Highway 20 by State Senator Tod Bowman of Maquoketa, current Ranking Member and former Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee

“It’s been decades in the making, but we finally have a four-lane highway across northern Iowa between Dubuque and Sioux City.

“There will be a ribbon cutting in western Iowa for the completion of Highway 20 on Friday. I’ll be teaching in Maquoketa at that time, but I will still be celebrating this important investment in rural Iowa.

“Safe, efficient roads for Iowans, travelers and commerce have been top priorities over my last eight years on the Senate Transportation Committee. We’ve accomplished a lot in that time through bipartisan efforts focused on making Iowa the best place to live, work and do business.

“Expanding Highway 20 already has brought more traffic to the communities it passes through and has helped relieve congestion on I-80 by providing another convenient route across the state for people and freight.

“It will continue to create opportunities for manufacturing, agriculture, services, recreation and tourism—all of which create jobs, boost our economy and improve our quality of life.

“This and other infrastructure investments—like high-speed Internet—are critical to get Iowa’s economy going again, especially in our small towns and rural areas.”

 

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Statement on latest revenue estimates

IA SEN NEWS
Oct. 16, 2018

Statement from Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee

“The fiscal mismanagement by Governor Reynolds and legislative Republicans is like a slow train wreck for everyday Iowans.

“Their smoke-and-mirrors shell game won’t erase the fact that the Governor and Republican-controlled Legislature have made job training and higher education unaffordable for thousands of Iowans, reduced protections for seniors and other vulnerable Iowans, and made health care less accessible for thousands of Iowans over the past two years.

“It’s no wonder that Iowans are clamoring for new leadership that will put their needs ahead of the self-interest of Wall Street corporations, special interests and millionaires. It’s time to put Iowans first again.”

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Appropriations Ranking Member on year-end balance

IA SEN NEWS
September 25, 2018

Statement from Sen. Joe Bolkcom,
Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee

“The fiscal mismanagement and misplaced budget priorities of Governor Reynolds and legislative Republicans are still bad news for everyday Iowans.

“Last year, the Governor took a victory lap because she didn’t need the Legislature to have a special session to fix her budget mess.

“The Governor is cheering today because there’s still money in the state’s bank account. That would be great news if she and the Republican-controlled Legislature hadn’t slashed funding for job training and higher education, reduced protections for seniors and other vulnerable Iowans, and made health care less accessible for thousand of Iowans.”

 

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How can we stop the increase in Iowa suicides?

The U.S. has seen a jump in suicides in recent years, with rural states being hardest hit. Iowa’s suicide rate increased more than 35 percent between 1999 and 2016.

Mental illness, economic hardship, relationship problems, substance abuse, poor health and other crises increase a person’s risk of suicide.

September’s National Suicide Prevention Month reminds us that we all can do our part to help. One simple way is by sharing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or SuicidePreventionLifeline.org. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as other prevention and crisis resources.

Even state government and our local communities have a role to play in ending suicide. Senate Democrats will continue to push for policies and strategies that the Centers for Disease Control says reduce the risk of suicide, including:

  • Connecting patients with mental health care, covering mental health services under insurance plans and increasing the number of mental health care providers.
  • Strengthening economic stability by providing unemployment benefits and other temporary assistance, while also stimulating the economy and job growth so that Iowans can get ahead.

Statement from Sen. Pam Jochum on passing of Sarah Jochum, her daughter

IA SEN NEWS
August 31, 2018

Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque and her daughter, Sarah, in the Iowa Senate Chamber on March 20, 2018.

“As we mourn Sarah’s passing, our family is also celebrating the impact that Sarah had for 41 years on our lives and the lives of so many Iowans.

“Sarah taught all of us about unconditional love.

“Sarah loved everyone and touched so many hearts.

“People who met Sarah were moved to help their fellow Iowans through such careers as nursing, social work and special education.

“Because Sarah had a parent in the Legislature her entire life, she made an impact on Iowans in other ways. She helped us bring an advocacy and a passion to the Capitol that continues today.

“Even in death, Sarah is creating new, life-changing stories because her organs will be donated to recipients across the country.

“Our entire family sends out a big ‘thank you’ to Iowans and others for their outpouring of support during this difficult time.

“We will miss Sarah….but we know that she lives on in each of us.”

What happens when you privatize Medicaid?

In a video released Sunday, AJ+ looks at “what happens when a state puts a crucial social safety net in the hands of for-profit companies.”

It’s a devastating report on Iowa’s Medicaid privatization that features Senator Pam Jochum of Dubuque, as well as Iowans who are suffering under the #MedicaidMess.

It’s got people all over the country scratching their heads and asking, “What is wrong with Iowa?”

WATCH: