The Groundhog may have seen his shadow and forecasted six more weeks of winter, but the Iowa Legislature isn't scared of its shadow. Legislators are moving fast to pass bills that are important to their leaders and the Governor, starting with the Governor's education reforms (public funds can be spent on private schools, charter schools, open enrollment), broadband (getting Iowans connected to high speed Internet), childcare (making sure families can find affordable and quality options) and housing (increasing funding for local housing and homeless programs and encouraging developers to build affordable housing around the state). The Governor's justice reform and tax package were released this week amidst mixed reviews (police officers and the ACLU both panned the justice reforms).
Professional licensure continues to be a key focus area of Senate Republicans, who are supporting a bill (SSB 1046) that requires a complete review of all professional boards and commissions to determine if they are needed, sunsets all boards if no action is taken by the Legislature to continue them, and requires lawmakers ensure all future legislative actions taken on professional licensure be the least restrictive needed to ensure public safety. This was a component of the Senate's broader licensing reform effort last year, but the House and Governor rejected this portion. The bill's future is uncertain. While the Senate subcommittee did move it forward, the administrative energy this type of review would take makes its long range survivability pretty unlikely.
The Senate State Government Committee is also taking steps to simplifying the process of state board and commission appointments by eliminating Senate confirmation for Governor's appointees to several boards and councils, including Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board, Iowa Law Enforcement Council, Public Information Board, Civil Rights Commission, all Department of Human Rights Commissions, Council on Human Services, MH/DS Commission, Commission on Aging, Child Advocacy Board, County Finance Committee, Board of Corrections, City Development Board, Commission on Judicial Qualifications, hawk-I Board, Early Childhood State Board, Iowa Autism Council, and Children’s Behavioral Health System Board.
Speaking of Senate do-over bills, they are taking another shot at requiring additional levels of asset verification for those receiving Medicaid, food assistance, and family support services (FIP). That bill - HSB 1125 - requires the state to hire a private company that is to look at the assets of all household members (including a teen's college savings) and property (including lottery winnings, which apparently legislators think people are hiding in order to continue to receive public assistance). The House rejected this as well last year, so it will probably make it through the Senate only to die in the House. Last year, it was estimated that this would cost the state millions while saving maybe $40,000.
While we are on Medicaid, Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Peosta) and Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) have filed twin managed care oversight bills (HSB 169 & SSB 1164) that define "clean claims" and require 90% to be paid within 14 days and 100% within 30 days. While there is still wiggle room in that issue, the bills also require MCOs to correctly load new rates within 30 days and that payments be correct after that time and requires Iowa Medicaid Enterprise to hire a company to provide a single portal for all provider credentialing and re-credentialing (for managed care and fee for service).
Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, the organization opposing vaccinations (Informed Choice Iowa) has managed to get a dozen bills introduced to weaken Iowa's vaccine laws. One set - HF 330 & SF 193 - ban employers from requiring employees to get immunizations, including for COVID-19. This includes employees of hospitals, health care facilities, nursing homes, residential treatment centers, and others.
Finally, three legislators have introduced a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ and diversity bills (yes even more than previously reported), including making political ideology and "creed" a protected class in Iowa's Civil Rights laws. Rep. Sandy Salmon (R-Waverly) and Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Fairfield) are the top bill filers in this area, followed closely by Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R-Orange City), who also sponsored a bill to ban all schools from using the Pulitzer Prize winning "1619 Project" of the New York Times Magazine to reframe history to incorporate the Black experience and the consequences of slavery. The chances of any of these bills making it to the finish line are small, as is another bill that would stop the springing ahead/falling back clock changing and freeze Iowa at Daylight Savings Time. That bill did pass a subcommittee but I'm sure border legislators will fight back.
If you want to see the bills a particular legislator has introduced, you can find that by going to their bio (www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators
- go to Representatives
- click on the name of the legislator you are looking at - and in the top right corner you can find a link to bills they sponsored).
Session Numbers: We are now up to 1,039 bills and resolutions introduced as we close out the fourth week of the Iowa Legislative Session. Legislators still have another five working days to sponsor bills, so the numbers will keep adding up for another few weeks as we head toward the first legislative "funnel" deadline (March 5) when bills need to be out of their committees of origin. Perhaps the most important numbers - seven legislators in quarantine (of which five have tested positive) for COVID-19. No one believes the numbers are not higher; not everyone is reporting their infections.
IPA Priorities: PsyPact (SF 78) is dead, but IPA's advocacy team continues to stand up against bills that diminish the important patient safety and privacy safeguards in Iowa's professional licensure laws. This includes a new bill to require Iowa insurers to open up their networks and include any telehealth network that provides mental health services, even ones that are 100% online and 100% out of state (although they would need to comply with Iowa laws and be licensed in the state). IPA opposes this bill (HF 294), and this time we're on the same side the insurance industry. The bill had a subcommittee, which moved the bill forward but noted that it may not make it to committee discussion.
We are happy to report both telehealth bills IPA is supporting have been voted out of committee and will be ready for floor debate next week - HF 294
requires insurance payment for a mental health service be the same whether delivered virtually or in-person (does not address audio-only) and HF 88
requires all professional licensing boards to change their rules to allow for the use of audio-only modalities as a way to deliver service. The House would vote for a full telehealth payment parity, including audio only and all types of services, but the Senate is unwilling to look at a bill that broad. We hear a physical health telehealth bill is still coming out; the House currently plans to send all three to the Senate.