Author: Iowa Senate Democrats

Senate Dem Leader on appointment of new Human Services chief

Iowa Senate News Release
For Immediate Release:  9/5/19

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen on appointment of Kelly Kennedy Garcia to Iowa DHS Director

Iowans need a leader at the Department of Human Services who will stand up for people instead of for-profit companies.

Apparently Governor Reynolds shared her ‘ambitious goals’ for serving Iowa’s most vulnerable populations with newly appointed director Kelly Kennedy Garcia.

It is time for Governor Reynolds to also share those goals with Iowans.  The Reynolds Administration has been working behind closed doors on a ‘new direction’ for the department for nearly a year.  Yet Governor Reynolds has continued to keep Iowans in the dark about what to expect.

Like most Iowans, Senate Democrats are hopeful the new Iowa DHS director will have the courage to help Governor Reynolds fundamentally change course. Her to-do list should start with:

1)    Fixing Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system, a failure that is unsustainable, unaffordable and unaccountable.

2)    Reversing the policies that destroyed Iowa’s once successful family planning network.  The result has been more unintended pregnancies, more risky births, and more teenage mothers.

3)     Addressing Iowa’s maternal health crisis which has more than doubled maternal mortality in less than three years.  Reynolds Administration policies have contributed to making Iowa a more dangerous place to have a baby.

4)    Establishing a comprehensive, adequate source of funding for child and adult mental health services.

5)    Ending dangerous practices and procedures in use at Glenwood, Eldora and other state-operated facilities.

6)    Rebuilding Iowa’s child protective safety net by mending the holes that have resulted in abuse and death.

The Reynolds Administration does not have a good record on helping Iowa families. Senate Democrats hope the Garcia appointment signals real change rather than more failure.  Iowans deserve better.

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Mathis named Legislative Friend of Housing

Iowa Senate News Release
For Immediate Release:  September 4, 2019

Senator Liz Mathis receives “2019 Legislative Friend of Housing” Award

CEDAR RAPIDS: Today State Senator Liz Mathis of Hiawatha received the 2019 “Legislative Friend of Housing” award at the statewide 2019 Housing Iowa Conference currently being held in Cedar Rapids. 

The award recognizes “a legislator who has actively participated in committees involving affordable housing legislation, has developed strong grass roots initiatives and makes improving the lives of Iowans through affordable housing an integral part of his/her legislative work.”*

“There are few things more important in life than a home that is safe and affordable,” Mathis said. “Iowa communities both large and small struggle to provide families with high quality, affordable places to live.  In the State Senate, I’ve focused on housing because solving this problem will help our children succeed, help businesses grow, and improve the lives of Iowa seniors.

The specific work that led to Mathis’ nomination included:

  • Helping lead the restoration of flooded Cedar Rapids homes.
  • Expanding affordable housing for workers after the floods.
  • Working to restore single-family housing in a core neighborhood that was under stress.
  • Organizing a state-wide tour of affordable housing in the cities of Dubuque, Des Moines and Carroll.

Housing legislation Senator Mathis helped pass or fund include: the State Housing Trust Fund, the Workforce Housing Tax Credit, the creation of a new state income tax exemption for deposits in a First-time Homebuyer Savings Account, Workforce Housing Set-Asides for Iowa’s smaller communities, the Home Ownership Assistance Program for military service members and veterans, and Redevelopment Tax Credits.

Senator Mathis is the ranking member of the Human Resources Committee and Ag & Natural Resources Budget. She also serves on the Agriculture, Appropriations, Commerce and Ethics committees.  Additional information and photos of Senator Mathis can be found at http://www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/mathis/

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* https://www.housingiowaconference.com/awards/legislative-friend-of-housing-award

Labor Day: Iowa workers are our best asset

Labor Day is about recognizing the contributions workers make to their communities and our state. It really can’t be overstated: Workers are the backbone of our way of life.

A thriving workforce is a sign of a strong economy and a successful society. When workers aren’t valued, we’re headed in the wrong direction—and that’s exactly what many Iowans are facing.

In recent years, decades of advances toward fair wages, working conditions and benefits have been lost to policies that are upending the principles that made our country strong, along with opportunities for Iowans to achieve the American dream.

In spite of record low unemployment, our economy has slowed to a crawl. Working families have been pushed aside in favor of corporations and profits.

Most GOP legislators and the Governor gutted the state’s collective bargaining law that ensured employees and public employers collaborated on mutually agreeable solutions in the workplace; slashed protections for Iowans injured on the job; put pensions in danger; and weakened wage and “Buy American” requirements.

The nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project sums it up this way: “Unfortunately, policy choices have put us on a road that prioritizes corporate profits over worker wages and corporate tax cuts over the public investments that allow for a strong, sustainable economy.”

The result is a growing inequality, with the rich getting richer. Meanwhile, many Iowans work multiple jobs and still struggle to make ends meet. That’s not right.

As we celebrate Labor Day, Senate Democrats remain committed to fighting for working Iowans, restoring and protecting workplace rights, and ensuring Iowa employees and employers have a fair shot at getting ahead.

Continuing the fight for equality

On August 26, we celebrated Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

“It is a time to celebrate women leaders who have gone before us, paving the way toward increased opportunity for women,” writes Wendy Musgrave, a member of the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women. “However, true equality is not achieved until it is made real for women in all sectors and industries, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, ability or socioeconomic status.”

One way we can continue the push for equality is through equal pay.

In 2009, the Iowa Legislature approved a Pay Equity Act, outlawing wage discrimination. It is illegal for an employer to pay some workers less than others for jobs requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility.

Nonetheless, wage inequality persists. In fact, the gap for Iowa is even higher than it is for the nation as a whole when it comes to equal pay between men and women. On average, a woman working full time in Iowa earns 79 cents for every dollar a man makes.

It’s even worse for women of color: African-American women in Iowa earn 59 cents for every dollar a white man makes; and Iowa’s Latina women make 58 cents for every dollar a white man makes.

These wage disparities are enormous over the course of a 40-year career. Women overall lose more than $400,000 as a result of the wage gap, and women of color lose about $870,000.

Why should one person be awarded more purchasing power and a better standard of living for the same work? We all deserve to know our work is valued, to support our families and to get ahead.

Equal pay for equal work is simply the right thing to do. We must close loopholes that allow wage discrimination to continue. That includes allowing employees to discuss what they make with coworkers, without fear of retaliation from their employers; and narrowing the reasons an employer may pay workers different amounts.

 

2019 Equal Pay Days

Equal Pay Day is the date American women earn as much as men did the previous year. Here’s how much women earn per every dollar a man makes and how much longer it takes them to earn what a man does in one year:

Third bipartisan “Ag Day” for Iowa legislators

Iowa Senate News Release
For Immediate Release:  August 20, 2019

 

Third bipartisan “Ag Day” with Iowa legislators to take place on Monday, August 26 in Sigourney

The 3rd bipartisan “Ag Day” will take place on Monday, August 26, in Sigourney.  All members of the Iowa House and Senate have been invited.  As of August 19, 24 have indicated they will attend.  Members of the news media are welcome to attend.

“The focus of this event is helping legislators to learn more about precision farming and good conservation practices,” said State Senator Kevin Kinney of Oxford, a farmer and former Johnson County Deputy Sheriff.  In past years, Senator Kinney has organized similar bipartisan Ag Days on Iowa agricultural issues.

This year’s event will focus on new conservation technologies.  Topics will include terraces, waterways, improvements, tiling and the benefits of cover crops.  At the event, John Deere will provide hands-on demonstrations.  In addition, Ryan Vogel, the owner of a local earth moving and tiling business, will discuss the impact of recent legislation on cost sharing.

The event runs from 10 AM to 2 PM.  Participants will meet at 10 AM at Sinclair Tractor, 1407 200th Ave in Sigourney.  Sponsors of the event include Sinclair Tractor and the Keokuk Farm Bureau.  Sinclair Tractor is providing a lunch.

If you have questions or would like to know more, contact [email protected] or call (319) 631- 4667.

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Iowa Future Caucus tours renewable energy facilities


IA SEN NEWS

August 14, 2019

 

Iowa Future Caucus Launch Statewide Tour of Iowa’s Renewable Energy Industries

Four state lawmakers who created the Iowa Future Caucus this year toured statewide Iowa’s renewable energy industries on Wednesday, August 14.  Founded in 2019, the Iowa Future Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral group of young lawmakers dedicated to finding bipartisan solutions in the Iowa Legislature.

“Protecting the quality of life for our kids and our grandchildren means we have to take seriously air and water quality, the development of clean and renewable sources of energy, and pursue policies that build environmentally friendly infrastructure for our cities and towns,” said Representative Lindsay James.  

“Solar, wind, biodiesel and ethanol are all components of progressing towards cleaner energy in our state and the energy of our future.  I’m excited to learn more about clean energy in our state and figure out ways to continue to support it.  As Iowa has been the leader in Wind Energy let’s continue to do that with other clean energy options.” – Representative Joe Mitchell 

“Iowa’s renewable energy industries create jobs, support rural communities, and provide alternatives to conventional fossil fuels. Renewables will continue to be an important part of our state’s future for many decades to come, and it’s terrific to have this tour so we can learn more about what’s in store for these Iowa companies.” – Senator Zach Wahls

“Renewable energy isn’t a partisan issue– it’s the best possible Public-Private investment in Iowa’s future.  The return on cultivating renewables helps our communities, our businesses, and our state attract long-term economic partners and retain our best workforce.” Senator Zach Nunn

 

A bipartisan group of Iowa legislators spent the day learning about Iowa renewable energy production sites in Mason City, Colo and North Liberty. This photo was taken at the Biodiesel Plant in Mason City operated by Renewable Energy Group. The group above includes workers from the plant and State Representative Lindsay James of Dubuque,  Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City, Representative Sharon Steckman of Mason City, Representative Joe Mitchell of Mount Pleasant, and Senator Zach Wahls of Coralville. 

 

A bipartisan group of Iowa legislators spent the day learning about Iowa renewable energy production sites in Mason City, Colo, and North Liberty. Chris Hoffman of Moxie Solar in North Liberty (right) explains how the company has expanded to include offices in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Chicago and Austin, Texas. From left to right: State Legislator Lindsay James of Dubuque, State Senator Zach Wahls of Coralville and Hoffman.   

 

The renewable energy tour on Wednesday included an ethanol plant, a biodiesel plant, a wind farm, and a solar energy facility. The full itinerary is below.

Ethanol Plant Tour – Golden Grain Energy in Mason City: Golden Grain Energy is a privately-held company dedicated to adding value to northern Iowa’s corn production by turning locally-grown corn into clean-burning ethanol.

Renewable Energy Group in Mason City: Renewable Energy Group is a global producer and supplier of renewable fuels like biodiesel and renewable diesel, renewable chemicals and other products.

Wind Farm Tour – NextEra Wind Farm in Colo: NextEra Energy Resources is a leading wholesale power generator, operating power plants and offering a diverse fuel mix to utilities, retail electricity providers, power cooperatives, municipal electric providers and large industrial companies.

Solar Installer Tour – MOXIE Solar in North Liberty: MOXIE was founded in 2008 out of a desire to bring new energy options to Iowa. With over 500 successfully completed projects and predominantly 5 star customer reviews, we’re proud of our role in creating a more sustainable future for our clients and our world.

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Iowa needs better medical cannabis program that meets patient needs

Statement by Senator Joe Bolkcom
Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board Meeting
August 2, 2019

Members of Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Board, with all due respect.  It’s time to face facts.

Between the misguided actions of the Governor, the Republican controlled legislature and this Board, you have created the nation’s worst medical cannabis program.

Residents of 32 other states — the majority of all Americans — have much better access to affordable, effective medicines made from cannabis.

In Iowa, the medicine is too expensive and not potent enough to help most people. Getting approved as a patient is cumbersome and bureaucratic. There are only five dispensaries, none located in rural Iowa.

After five long years, only 3,300 sick Iowans have been able to cut through the red tape to legally obtain medical cannabis. More than 70 percent of these patients suffer from intractable, severe and chronic pain.

Patients want the choice of medical cannabis when they are faced with serious, life threatening medical conditions.

Sadly, a few short months ago this board derailed very modest improvements supported by 137 Iowa legislators that would have helped these patients suffering from intractable pain.

Meanwhile, Iowa remains awash in powerful, highly addictive narcotic pain pills.  It’s astonishing that in the first six months of 2019, Iowa doctors wrote 850 thousand narcotic prescriptions for 307 thousand Iowans. More than half were prescribed addictive opioids like fentanyl.

So follow this. There are more than 300 thousand sick Iowans taking narcotic pain pills while only 3,300 patients have been able to access safer, medicines made from cannabis.

When are we going to start protecting Iowans from deadly, drug company opioids?

The board’s misplaced obsession with THC has clouded your ability to actually help people. THC is medicine and Iowa patients are capable of managing it.

This is NOT about having a party, it’s about helping people that are dying and sick.

Earlier this year Illinois ended marijuana prohibition.

On January 1, adults 21 years of age and older will be able to legally buy products made with marijuana.

The good news is that Iowa medical cannabis patients will have much easier access (albeit illegally) to less expensive, far more effective medicines closer than Colorado.

The bad news is that this could put Iowa medical cannabis companies out of business.

These companies that have invested millions are all losing money now and they will lose much more as their patients take their business to Illinois.

Like it or not, without thoughtful and immediate improvements to Iowa law, Illinois businesses will become major suppliers of medicine to Iowa patients.

This mess is Governor Reynolds, the Republican legislature’s and yours to fix.

It won’t happen until you start listening to patients and put their needs first.

Thank you.

Oversight Committee should investigate Foxhoven allegations, resignation

Iowa Senate News release
July 22, 2019

 

Key Senators: Oversight Committee needs to investigate Foxhoven allegations, resignation

DES MOINES — Democratic Senators Tony Bisignano and Claire Celsi, members of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, are calling for an interim public meeting of the five-member committee to discuss the departure of Jerry Foxhoven, former Director of the Iowa Department of Human Services.

“Governor Reynolds has said that she wanted her Administration to be one of the most honest and transparent in history,” said Sen. Tony Bisignano, Ranking Member of the Senate Oversight Committee. “We are calling on her to be transparent, release all relevant information, and to clear up the real reasons for Jerry Foxhoven’s resignation.”

A 2017 state law requires that the reason for firing (or demanding the resignation of an employee) is made public. Reynolds has declined to explain why Foxhoven was asked to resign and claimed that there has been a group working towards “a new direction” for the Department. When asked to produce documents proving that the group had been meeting, or to produce documents related to Foxhoven’s termination, Reynolds claims that none exists.

“The need for a public meeting is more important because of recent allegations by Foxhoven that he was asked by Governor Reynolds to do something illegal and he declined,” said Sen. Claire Celsi. “Iowans deserve to know what is going on and we want to get to the bottom of it. We’re asking Senate Republican leaders Charles Schneider and Jack Whitver to authorize Senator Amy Sinclair, chair of the Senate Oversight committee, to convene a meeting so we can question those involved and get some answers.”

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Statement on latest privatized Medicaid contracts

Iowa Senate News Release
For Immediate Release:  July 10, 2019

 

Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen on outrageous new contracts for privatized Medicaid 

“The outrageous contracts with two out-of-state corporations are more evidence that privatized Medicaid in Iowa is unsustainable, unaffordable and unpredictable.

“Governor Reynolds has once again agreed to give the MCOs the largest dollar increases for Medicaid in the last decade. The publicly managed Medicaid system grew at an average of 5% each year over a 10-year period before privatization. Last year, the increase was 8.4%. The increase announced today is a whopping 8.6%!

“Just imagine how much better off Iowans would be if K12 public schools, job training programs and family planning services received that kind of increased state support!

“The big cheerleaders for privatized Medicaid – Governor Reynolds and Republican legislators –cannot back up their claims that privatizing would save money and make people healthier. That’s because it hasn’t happened.

“Privatized Medicaid continues to be a bad, bad deal for Iowa Medicaid recipients, health care providers and taxpayers.”

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Legislative leaders to decide on medical cannabis special committee

For Immediate Release: July 9, 2019

Special committee would provide path for bipartisan agreement on medical cannabis

Decision to be made by legislative leaders this Thursday, July 11, at Iowa Statehouse

This Thursday, the leaders of the Iowa Legislature will be asked to create an interim committee to hammer out reforms of Iowa’s “worst in the nation” medical cannabis program.  

After several years without progress, a comprehensive bill was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support during the 2019 session.  A month later, Governor Reynolds vetoed the bill. An effort to override that veto fell short last month.

A study committee on medical cannabis reform offers the surest chance of success because it would allow input from advocates, medical experts and other interested Iowans, according to Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City and Rep. John Forbes of Urbandale.

“Year after year, Iowa families have traveled to the Statehouse pleading for help,” Bolkcom said.  “After listening to Iowans, we should hammer out a fix that is ready to go the day the 2020 session begins in January.” 

“All we need to do is focus on helping suffering families.  That’s it,” said Representative John Forbes, an Urbandale pharmacist.  “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. All Iowa has to do is approve what’s working in other states and get the heck out of the way.”

The Legislative Council’s Studies Committee is scheduled to meet at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, July 11, 2019, in Room 22 of the Iowa State Capitol.

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Interim committee request letter_FINAL

 

Contact the legislative council and encourage them to support an interim committee: http://bit.ly/Iowa-Leg-Council-7-2019

Breckenridge, Wes [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Deyoe, Dave [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Grassley, Pat [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Hagenow, Chris [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Hall, Chris [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Hein, Lee [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Oldson, Jo [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Prichard, Todd [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Steckman, Sharon [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Upmeyer, Linda [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Wills, John [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Windschitl, Matt [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Behn, Jerry [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Bolkcom, Joe [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Chapman, Jake [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Feenstra, Randy [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Jochum, Pam [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Lykam, Jim [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Petersen, Janet [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Ragan, Amanda [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Schneider, Charles [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Sinclair, Amy [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Whitver, Jack [LEGIS] <[email protected]>; Zumbach, Dan [LEGIS] <[email protected]>