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Iowa Legislature

IDP Statement on GOP Legislators Supporting Branstad Administration’s Disastrous Medicaid Privatization Plan

Iowa Democratic Party

DES MOINES – Today (Tuesday, Nov. 3), Republicans on the joint Health Care Policy Oversight Committee all voted against a motion to delay the Branstad administration’s disastrous Medicaid privatization plan by six months in response to concerns and unanswered questions about the change. Every Democrat on the Committee voted in support of the motion to delay the privatization plan.

In response, IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire issued the following statement:

“All across Iowa, health care professionals, caretakers and those who depend on Medicaid have expressed serious concerns with the Branstad-Reynolds administration’s privatization plan, including possible cuts to important services. Now with less than two months remaining until the privatization plan is set to take effect, the administration has failed to provide Iowans with crucial details into how the change will work, leaving Iowans with far more unanswered questions than answers. With the health and well being of more than 500,000 Iowans at stake, it is terribly disappointing that Republican lawmakers on the Oversight Committee would stand behind the Branstad-Reynolds administration’s disastrous privatization plan, and block a reasonable delay in implementing the change.

“I commend Democrats on the committee for standing up for vital health services that Iowans depend on.

“It’s time for the Branstad-Reynolds administration and Republicans in the legislature to listen to the people of Iowa and delay implementation of the Medicaid privatization until all concerns are addressed.”

More Medicaid Listening Posts Scheduled


Senate Democrats are holding listening posts to hear what you have to say about Medicaid privatization. Here are the listening posts that have been scheduled so far

Sigourney with Senators Kinney and Bolkcom: Monday, November 2, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sigourney Public Library – Meeting Room (720 East Jackson Street).

Clinton with Senators Hart and Mathis: Wednesday, November 4, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Clinton Community College – Auditorium (1000 Lincoln Boulevard in Clinton).

Waverly with Senators Schoenjahn and Ragan: Monday, November 9, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. at the Bremer Room of the Waverly Public Library (500 W. Bremer Avenue, Waverly)

Manchester with Senate President Jochum: Thursday, November 12, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Manchester Public Library – Meeting Room (300 North Franklin Street).

Council Bluffs with Senate Leader Gronstal: Friday, November 13, 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., CHI Health Mercy Council Bluffs – Classroom A & B (800 Mercy Drive).

Decorah with Senators Ragan and Bolkcom: Monday, November 16, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Luther College – Room 102 in Olin Building (700 College Drive).

The Health Care Policy Oversight Committee is a joint committee of the Iowa House and Senate that will receive public input and make recommendations for improvements to Iowa’s Medicaid managed care.

Statehouse meetings in Room 116: Tues., November 3 (10 AM-3:30 PM) and Mon., December 7.

More information:


IPP: Branstad’s Administrative Tax Cut For Businesses


If you are looking for solid, fact based opinions on what effect Iowa’s fiscal policies will have in the real world before they are enacted one of the best sources around is the Iowa Policy Project.

Once more under the guidance of Terry Branstad, Iowa is embarking on some new territory in the fiscal arena. Normally fiscal matters are a part of the budgeting powers that are held by the legislature. There is good reason for that. If the budgeting powers were held by one person, then that person would be hard to control whatever party that person is a member of. Bufgeting includes taxing powers. One could easily see that one person exercising budget and tax powers could easily reward friends and punish enemies without any checks.

This is pretty much what Terry Branstad did a couple weeks ago when he unilaterally interpreted a clause in the Iowa tax code to give something like a $40 million gift to the business community. This took place about 3 months after Branstad line item vetoed a $50 million one time expenditure that the legislature approved for Iowa schools. It looks like Branstad is running the budget on his own with schools being punished and businesses getting rewarded.

So we turn to Iowa Policy Project for some insight. From Research Director Peter Fisher we see in brief that a tax cut is not good for Iowa:

The administration’s proposal to create new sales tax exemptions for Iowa businesses is unnecessary, expensive and counterproductive. The state can ill afford another tax break that will harm essential state services while producing little or no economic benefit.

State and local taxes have little effect on business location decisions
State and local taxes are less than two percent of total costs for the average corporation. As a result, even large cuts in state taxes are unlikely to have an effect on the investment and location decisions of businesses, which are driven by more significant factors such as labor, transportation, and energy costs, and access to markets and suppliers.

Enacting a subsidy through administrative rules guarantees complete absence of evaluation and accountability
While the sales tax break has been promoted as an economic development incentive, creating it by administrative rule eliminates even the minimal level of accountability established by the Legislature for the periodic review of tax credits. There will be no review, no evaluation of its effectiveness, not even an annual accounting of its cost.

Tax breaks erode support for public investments in our future
The proliferation of tax incentives and business tax cuts over the past two decades has resulted in several hundred million dollars each year cut from the state budget. This has undermined the state’s ability to support quality education, from pre-school through public colleges and universities, which in the long run will have serious consequences for state economic growth and prosperity.

From IPP Executive Director Mike Owen:

New rule! Governor wants to make laws himself

We all know the drill: The Legislature passes bills and the Governor signs or vetoes them, whereupon they become either laws, or nothing.

Not anymore, apparently.

The move by the Branstad administration to implement a new sales tax break worth an estimated $40 million a year — possibly more — is taking place outside the legislative session. If it succeeds, we have entered a new world of executive authority in Iowa.

Business lobbyists wanted the change, it could not pass the Legislature, and the administration thinks it has found a short cut: Change the longstanding interpretation of the existing law. Presto, tens of millions of dollars will be available for manufacturers. And those same tens of millions of dollars will not be available for schools.

Iowa Policy Project

Iowa Policy Project

If the Iowa legislature has any spine at all this should be the first issue they address in the next session. However with former ALEC president Linda Upmeyer as the new Speaker of the Iowa House the chances are probably zero. Unless they stand up to the governor’s action they essentially approve of this change in the scope of power. The underlying issue is not the money, but the change in who has what power. Budgetary power was a power few legislatures have handed over willingly. It looks like Iowa’s is about to.

Capitol Comments

kirsten marquard

Governor Branstad takes one tiny tiptoe forward with the Anti-Bullying Proclamation but then takes ten big stomps backward.

FIRST, this week, Gov. Branstad proposed new rules (instead of legislation) allowing his administration to give $37 million dollars in tax exemptions to big corporations because we “have the money” all while vetoing $57 million for our Iowa school kids because he doesn’t believe we have the resources. We should put kids before corporations.

SECOND, Gov. Branstad also closed our two Mental Health Facilities without a good plan for the care of sick, dual diagnosed Iowans forced to move.

THIRD, he is also pushing his own privatization plan for Medicaid, which could start as soon as January, without legislative oversight and once again putting private corporation profits before the basic care needs of sick Iowans.

This is not good policymaking. There are three branches of government to maintain equal in power in Iowa. The hard work of sitting down to gather ideas from everyone, working through problems to form policy with solutions moving the state forward is hard work but worthy of this great state. Forcing policies through, vetoing at the last minute, and moving legislation by rule-making may be fast and dirty work for the short term, but Iowa overall is not better-off. I and others will continue to do what we can to move this state forward. We have to do better!

Domestic Violence Hotline Phone Number Changed

The following information is an excerpt from an Iowa Domestic press release: The Iowa Domestic Violence HelpLine (formerly the Iowa State Domestic Violence Hotline) has changed its phone number to:

The statewide HelpLine will have advocates available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist victims and survivors with the resources and shelter they need to escape an abusive situation. It is also available for friends, family or concerned citizens to call for assistance and guidance if they have witnessed or suspect intimate partner violence is happening to someone they know. For more info:

Governor’s Plan to Privatize Medicaid Moves Forward

There are big changes coming to Medicaid as we know it in Iowa because the Governor has decided to push Iowa to privatization.

The Governor moved on his own to make these changes and unfortunately the Iowa Legislature has no ability to stop or slow the process between the Governor and the federal government (CMS). The federal government is the only way to stop or slow down the Governor’s privatization plan at this point. My concerns include giving a private company (which has been plagued with problems handling health services in other states) the ability to collect administration fees that are much higher than our current state administered plan. That, coupled with smaller amounts of money appropriated for Medicaid, can only lead to reduction of critical healthcare services for Iowans.

To learn more or to voice objections to the privatization of Medicaid in Iowa consider attending a few public meetings listed in the link below. You have to be registered to attend meeting, so please check out The “IA Health Link Kick-Off Meetings” will host two Linn County meetings:

Friday October 16, 2015 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Kirkwood Community College – Hotel Kirkwood Ballroom A & F (7725 Kirkwood Boulevard SW Cedar Rapids, IA)
Other meetings throughout the state can be found at the link.

Editor’s note: Iowa Senate democrats will be holding listening posts throughout the state on the Medicaid prioritization. A list of listening posts is here

Home Heating Assistance Available

Winter is coming soon. Iowans who are at least 60 years old or are disabled and meet certain income guidelines can apply for assistance for their home heating bills starting October 1. All other persons, with certain income restrictions can apply starting November 1.

Contact your local Community Action Agency (CAA) for more info: or call 515-281-0859. This assistance called LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) is limited to Iowans whose income is below $20,597 (single) or $27,878 (couple). This program goes until April 30, 2016 for those who are accepted. If a household qualifies for LIHEAP, they are automatically qualified for the weatherization federal program. This program uses federal funds to assist homeowners with winterizing and could include insulation or even a new furnace. For more info contact your local Community Action Agency (see website above).

Office of Bullying Prevention Created

The Governor has signed an executive order creating the Office of Bullying Prevention at UNI. The executive order assigns administrative functions under current law for the Office of Bullying Prevention, but also directs the Office to work with the Department of Education (DE) to address other bullying issues.

Those issues include:
• Resolving inconsistencies in the reporting of bullying incidents by schools.
• Developing guidelines on cyberbullying.
• Giving schools greater authority to address bullying incidents off school grounds.
• Ensuring access to training (available electronically or other means).
• Promoting an existing 24 hour hotline.
• Working with the DE to develop parental notification procedures.
• Creating a taskforce to look at the issue of allowing students previously subject to harassment or bullying to open enroll and participate immediately in varsity interscholastic sports.
• Promoting of a student mentoring program.

The Governor has indicated that his budget request will include funding for this newly created Office of Bullying Prevention. To read the actual proclamation check here.

The King Of Iowa?

Has he forgot how government works?

Has he forgot how government works?

Well, Terry the Terrible is at it once again. Looking down the barrel of not being quite the governor that luminaries such as Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal are, Branstad pulls a tax cut for businesses out of nowhere. Being a founding member of ALEC carries with it a lot of responsibility to turn everything over to the profiteers and bankrupt the government. It’s embarrassing to see upstarts stealing your thunder.

Sometimes a Governor just has to go it alone and screw the laws and rules about how government is supposed to run. That stuff just gets in the way. It slows down the profits you know. Makes a governor look weak.

When a juvenile home needed shutting, Terry did it without listening to anyone; when the mental health hospitals needed to be shut down, Terry did it, damn the laws; when a business needs a couple of bucks or maybe $110 million, Terry ponied up our money; when there’s some money to be made scamming the Medicaid system through administrative costs or bogus co-pays, Terry can do it; declaring poverty when faced with funding schools or helping out food banks for the poor, Terry is there with the sad story of a poor state.

If he can’t do it himself he enlists a duke — er — I mean an appointee like Bruce Rastetter to do the job. Wrecking Iowa’s University system? On its way. That’ll teach for graduating folks like Branstad and Rastetter!

The one big target, I mean goal, is to dismantle the public unions. That is probably on tap for next year. Once dismantled, Branstad can step aside and give the throne to Kim Reynolds. That way she will be an incumbent for the 2018 election. That way the people of Iowa will keep electing her just like we reelected Branstad over and over. Iowans hate to change politicians no matter what they do or how bad they are for our state. Just look at Chuck Grassley.

Branstad scoffs at the legislature. Who do they think they are anyway? Representatives of some group of people or something. Branstad acts as if he is more than just a governor – more like a king, beholden to nobody. If Iowans don’t hold him accountable for his outrageous actions by dismissing him at election time or calling him on his actions, he might as well act as the king he seems to think he is.

Kings seldom act in the best interest of the people but act in the best interest of other nobles like themselves. A group of Americans recognized this in the 18th century. But if we don’t keep a wary eye on our leaders they will grab every advantage they can.

From Iowa Rep. Mark Smith (D – Marshalltown):

Next Tuesday, October 13, the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee will consider this issue. The committee can delay or reject the proposed change.

Here’s how you can help keep valuable and limited tax dollars available to invest in local schools: Send a public comment opposing ARC 2178C.

1) Send an email message with the subject line: “Public comment on ARC 2178C”

2) Address it to: of the Iowa Department of Revenue and of the Legislative Services Agency.

3) Explain why you oppose this effort to massively cut corporate taxes without a vote by the Legislature. Points you might address include:

a. Why have a Legislature if the Governor can give away almost $40 million without vote.
b. How will education ever be affordable if the priority is corporate tax cuts.
c. The economic benefits of strong local schools.
d. Crowded class sizes, teacher layoffs, and reduced course offerings due to lack of investment in local schools.

Your comments will become part of the official record and will shared with every member of the committee.

Let me add that if you could, please sign this petition calling for the legislature to stop Branstad’s unilateral move.

Senator Bob Dvorsky On Education

Dvorsky ReportIowa is among the first states to create a teacher leadership system designed to boost student achievement, increase teaching expertise and raise the status of the teaching profession.

Research shows a correlation between a school’s ability to keep good teachers and student achievement. Iowa’s 2013 Education Reform initiative rewards effective teachers with more responsibility and higher pay, attracts promising new teachers with competitive salaries and opportunities for advancement, and encourages greater collaboration among all educators.

Under the Teacher Leadership & Compensation System, 25 percent of teachers will take on new leadership roles—including serving as instructional coaches and mentors—to improve the classroom experience. Districts that apply to start teacher leadership systems must set goals, establish minimum teacher salaries, mentor new teachers and have a rigorous selection process for leadership roles.

Teacher leadership systems are being phased in over three years, with the goal of all Iowa school districts participating on a voluntary basis by 2016-17.

The Iowa Legislature approved $50 million for the first year of the program and $100 million for the second year. The third year will see a $150 million investment. Money for teacher leaders, however, was never intended to supplant other K-12 educational funding.
The Teacher Leadership & Compensation System and other targeted investments in STEM, building strong reading skills and providing more learning opportunities through online schools are great tools. However, they are not a replacement for basic school funding from the state. If we don’t provide adequate dollars to support the daily needs of our schools, they will have more students and less staff.

For example, one Iowa district will have to make about $300,000 in cuts with the minimal school funding approved for this fall. That will significantly diminish the impact of the $340,000 the district will receive in teacher leader grants.

We must provide a strong foundation for schools to build upon. That way, the teacher leadership program can effectively prepare our students for higher education, worker training and good jobs in a competitive global economy.

Our local school districts selected for the teacher leader program include:

School District    Starting In
Iowa City – 2015-16
North Cedar – 2015-16
Solon – 2015-16
West Branch – 2015-16
Wilton – 2015-16
Bennett – 2016-17
Durant – 2016-17
Lisbon – 2016-17
Midland – 2016-17
Tipton – 2016-17
Mount Vernon – 2016-17

As summer ends, teachers and students are preparing to head back to the classroom. So am I—through America’s Legislators Back to School Program.

I am setting up my schedule of school visits and am excited to go “back to school.” Please contact me if you are interested in having me come to your school.

The Back to School Program is designed to teach young people—the nation’s future voters and leaders—what it’s like to be a state legislator, and it gives me the chance to meet personally with young constituents and to answer questions, share ideas and listen to concerns.

The program engages students and gives them an understanding of democracy. Every year, more than 1,400 state lawmakers visit an estimated 320,000 students in their classrooms. I’ve visited class rooms all over my senate district and hope to visit more this year. Trying to bring civics to life for students is one of my favorite parts of being a senator.

As a new school year gets under way, I know teachers, staff, administrators and school boards will provide great educational opportunities for our students. However, they’ll face a challenge because funding is much less than they expected.

Iowa education funding has fallen behind the increasing investments made by other states. We’re now in the bottom third of states for K-12 per-pupil funding, investing $1,612 less per student than the national average.

We planned to reverse that trend this year, until Governor Branstad’s last-minute veto of a bipartisan compromise. Now our K-12 schools will be out $56 million that they’d hoped to use this fall for updated textbooks, computers, lab equipment and other teaching tools.

Here’s what our local school districts are missing out on:
Bennett – $21,223
Durant – $64,405
Iowa City – $1,486,381
Lisbon – $75,903
Midland – $58,773
Mount Vernon – $119,586
North Cedar – $96,345
Solon – $144,333
Tipton – $99,546
West Branch – $89,386
Wilton – $86,531

A recent poll shows the majority of Iowans oppose the Governor’s veto. They know Iowa has enough money to make the necessary investments in our students and schools while balancing the state budget responsibly. The state’s nonpartisan Revenue Estimating Conference projects state revenues will grow by 6 percent this year. In addition, we have a budget surplus of more than $300 million and almost $700 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history.

Years of not helping our schools keep up with the cost of inflation is taking its toll. The loss of funds this year is resulting in staff layoffs, program cuts, larger class sizes and higher property taxes.

Senate Democrats are committed to making Iowa schools No. 1 again. We respect the work of teachers, administrators and school board members, and will fight again next session for the kind of increase that Iowa students deserve. We need to ensure that Iowa’s next generation will be at a competitive advantage when it comes to education and job opportunities.

Keeping college affordable allows more Iowans to get the education and skills they need to find good jobs. It creates a positive cycle that helps our state attract the types of businesses and jobs to strengthen our middle class and grow our economy.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said that college grads earn 66 percent more than those with a high school diploma. By 2020, about two thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education. Yet college is more expensive than ever, increasing at alarming rates in recent decades and burdening students with massive debt.

Affordable tuition for those willing to study hard and work hard is a smart approach to strengthening Iowa’s middle class, keeping our workforce competitive and building a high-skill, high-wage economy. Iowa students have proven they are willing to do their part. Studies show that they have a much better college graduation rate than the nation as a whole.

That’s why it’s so disappointing that Governor Branstad vetoed funding to make college and career training more affordable.

The role of community colleges is growing, as they work closely with local businesses to reduce Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers. They’re the first place many Iowans go for higher education, job training and better career opportunities. An increase of $2.5 million this year was meant to keep community college tuition affordable. The Governor’s veto is a loss for students at Kirkwood and Eastern Iowa community colleges.

We also proposed to freeze tuition for a third consecutive year at Iowa’s public universities. But Governor Branstad’s veto of almost $8.8 million is expected to result in a mid-year tuition hike at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa. That’s a bad move when you consider that about 63 percent of Iowa’s state university graduates in 2013 had student loan debt, averaging $28,293 per student, according to the Iowa College Student Aid Commission.

Students fared better at Iowa’s private colleges and universities, including Cornell College in nearby Mount Vernon. A boost in the Iowa Tuition Grant will ensure students can afford the education that’s right for them. To qualify, a student must be an Iowa resident, attend an independent, non-profit college or university, and demonstrate financial need. The Iowa Tuition Grant represents about 1 percent of all state funding for education, but it helped more than 14,000 Iowa students last year and generated almost $450 million in financial aid awards from the schools.

For more on grants, scholarships and other help to pay for college, go to

Paulsen Retires But House Continues in ALEC’s Hands

A Legislator for Every Corp.

A Legislator for Every Corp.

Just in case the citizens of Iowa were concerned that the retirement of Kraig Paulsen as speaker of the House next January might loosens ALEC’s grip on the Iowa House rest assured that the most likely successor is even tighter with ALEC than Paulsen was.

Linda Upmeyer is the former chair of ALEC and heir apparent to the Speaker’s chair next January. Once again, for those who are new to this, ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. Behind that innocuous sounding name lies a corporate group that writes very corporate friendly legislation and helps member legislators get such legislation passed. In short, ALEC creates legislation that is extremely favorable to corporations. If conditions do not exist that would call for an ALEC solution, ALEC members work to make such conditions exist.

Let’s take the recent school funding line item veto by Governor Branstad. Branstad is also in the tank for ALEC, having been a founding member some 40 years ago. One of ALEC’s major agendas is to gut public schools and create a clamor for alternative, profitized schools. One of the best ways to do so is to cut public funding to public schools. As the money goes down, schools will inevitably be unable to maintain the high quality that we in Iowa once took as our birthright. If you lived in Iowa you got to attend the best schools in the country.

Paulsen and his colleagues in House refused to move on a major underfunding of schools continuing the policy they have established over the Branstad term. Democrats refused to leave Des Moines without more money for schools and an assurance that Branstad would give the money due consideration. Thanks to an upsurge in tax revenues it looked like the compromise of a one time cash infusion to the schools would be safe from the Branstad veto pen. But, no it wasn’t. Branstad tried to duck any media scrutiny by vetoing school funding on a Friday night before a major holiday weekend. That was July 3rd.

Many were surprised by the veto. Those who have watched Branstad over the years were not. His loyalty is not to Iowa, but to the corporations of ALEC and their mission to profitize every aspect of our lives. The House leadership fought tooth and nail to pass a school budget that that would send Iowa’s schools in reverse, much like many other Republican led states in the country. When they finally compromised, it was done in such a way that the compromise could be carved out by the line item veto pen.

Don’t forget that the environment for the cutting of school budget money was set up years before when the legislature passed major tax cuts geared mostly to corporations.

Expect another major row over school budgets next year with nearly the same scenarios. Republicans under Upmeyer will once more propose little if any increase and will refuse to budge. Once again they will break the law they themselves pushed by refusing to even attempt to pass a school budget on time. As they waste our time and money in Des Moines, Iowa’s school children will be crowded into larger classrooms with even less individual attention. We can expect Iowa’s test scores to continue to fall.

We can also expect to hear more and more voices calling for the private sector to come rescue our schools. Most of these voices will be from people who are invested in some way in having schools profitized. You can bet that Speaker and former ALEC chair Upmeyer will have an ALEC approved bill ready to make that happen. Head of the House Ways and Means committee chair and ALEC task force member Tom Sands will be ready to give his stamp of approval and former founding member of ALEC Terry Branstad will be ready to sign it and declare a major step forward for Iowa.

Thus will Iowa go down the road to being a subsidiary of ALEC and their member corporations.

As Iowa is led along this prepared path to its ALEC endorsed conclusion, remember legislation is seldom reversed. Also remember that the major media voices in this state – newspapers, radio TV and magazines – are corporate owned and will be pushing for profitized corporate answers to what ever problems come up or are created.

Lawmakers Call for Special Session on School Funding

kirsten marquard

From Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquard

On July 2nd, Governor Branstad vetoed $56 million in urgently needed school funding. The money was approved by lawmakers in a compromise during the 2015 legislative session.

kirsten's petition

In an effort to restore school funding, I and other lawmakers are calling for a special session of the Iowa Legislature to overturn the veto. For a special session to occur, two-thirds of Iowa lawmakers (67 in the House/34 in the Senate) must formally request one. Above is my official petition.

Iowa school leaders say the result of the $56 million veto will be larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and higher property taxes. A petition from Iowans to lawmakers calling for a special session was also launched last week and has already gathered over 5,000 signatures. Anyone interested in signing the petition can go here.

The state just ended the fiscal year on the June 30th with a 6% increase in revenues and collected a record $8 billion for the first time in Iowa history. Over the last five years, school funding has slipped to about 1.85% annually, including one year when the Republican party and Governor Branstad left schools with zero. That’s compared to average increases of about 6% in the 1980’s to 4% in the 90’s.

Separately here is an analysis from Iowa Policy Project:

Some folks may buy into Gov. Branstad’s line about spending “one time money” as a solid reason for a line item veto. But as often happens, Republican “logic” falls apart under scrutiny. Mike Owen of Iowa Policy Project provides just such scrutiny:

Set aside for a moment that it can be quite sensible to use one-time funds for ongoing expenses. It depends on the circumstances. Set aside the fact that Iowa revenues and projections are strong and that state money seems to be available on an ongoing basis for corporate subsidies if not for restoring repeated shortfalls in education funding.

In the case at hand, the Governor vetoed one-time funds — for public schools, community colleges and the three regents universities — that ironically would have been spent in line with his own stated concern. The $55.7 million in one-time funds for local schools and area education agencies would have supplemented regular funding, set at 1.25 percent growth per pupil, all part of a package negotiated by the split-control Legislature.

Here’s the oft-stated concern about one-time funds, in a nutshell: You don’t spend one-time money on things that commit you to the same or greater spending in the future, because you don’t know whether the funds will be there later on.

For K-12 schools, the legislation specifies that funds “are intended to supplement, not supplant, existing school district funding for instructional expenditures.” It goes on to define “instructional expenditures” in such a way that assures the funds are for one-time uses that carry no additional commitment beyond the FY2016 budget year.

So, you can add to one-time expenses that you would have had to leave out, for purposes such as textbooks, library books, other instructional materials, transportation costs or educational initiatives to increase academic achievement. You can’t plan on having the same funds available in the following budget year.

For community colleges and the regents, each section of the bill included this stipulation: “Moneys appropriated in this section shall be used for purposes of nonrecurring expenses and not for operational purposes or ongoing expenses. For purposes of this section, ‘operational purposes’ means salary, support, administrative expenses, or other personnel-related costs.”

With or without the one-time funds that would have helped school districts, the legislative compromise ensures the continued erosion of the basic building block for school budgets, the per-pupil cost.

For the last six budget years, per-pupil budget growth has been above 2 percent only once. Once it was zero, and schools for the coming year are at 1.25 percent. This does not come close to meeting the costs of education at the same level year after year.

Supplemental State Aid (formerly termed “allowable growth) defines the percentage growth in the cost per pupil used to determine local school district budgets, which are based on enrollment. For FY2016, the Legislature and Governor have set the growth figure at 1.25 percent. Though state law requires this figure to be set about 16 months before the start of the fiscal year, the issue was not resolved until last week, when the Governor signed the legislation, and the fiscal year had already begun. The Senate passed 4 percent growth for FY2017 and the House 2 percent, but no compromise emerged and that remains unsettled. The education funding vetoed last week by the Governor affects separate one-time spending that would not have affected future budgets.

Study: Cannabis can help treat bone fractures

medical marijuanaOne of the real mysteries to many Americans is how our country can turn a blind eye to a plant that has been shown that it could help solve some major problems from agriculture to construction to medicine.

The ban on use of products from cannabis plants is particularly baffling in the medical area. Based on some myths that came into popular lore in the first half of the last century, laws were created that all but banned research on medicinal uses for cannabis in the US. Other countries are throwing off their self imposed shackles of fear and are studying what applications there could be for cannabis derived medicines.

Cannabis derived medicines have been shown to have real promise in helping control seizures in children which can be life saving. This is one place where the Iowa legislature to their pride legalized use of the medication yet to their unending shame refused to legalize ownership of the medicine.

Just a short list of some of the medical conditions that cannabis medications can treat:
stop cancer from spreading
decreases anxiety
slows the effects of Alzheimer’s
Crohn’s disease

As I said, that is just a short list. A lengthier list with some discussion can be found here. Just the other day a new study was released that that showed that marijuana products rich cannabidiol oil sped up the healing of bone fractures. Imagine what that could mean for older folks who just broke a hip or a leg. In a story in the SFGATE Oscar Pascual summarizes the findings of a study done at Hebrew University in Jerusalem:

“CBD markedly enhanced the biomechanical properties of the healing femora after 8 weeks,” researchers reported.

Researchers also evaluated the administration of both CBD and THC, but did not find it to be more advantageous than CBD by itself.

“CBD alone is sufficiently effective in enhancing fracture healing. … Multiple experimental and clinical trials have portrayed CBD as a safe agent suggesting further studies in humans to assess its usefulness for improving fracture healing,” the study concluded.

CBD-rich cannabis could prove beneficial for bones as well as joints, as patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis are now reportedly using medical marijuana for pain relief.

So once again we appeal to those in congress and in legislatures throughout the country to stop this insane war on the cannabis plant. Let Americans use applications derived from the cannabis plant to enrich our lives through medicines, agricultural (especially needed in mono-cultural Iowa) and industrial uses.

Let me remind you that those who form the biggest lobbies against cannabis tell us quite a story about why it remains illegal and un researched in the US:

the pharmaceutical industry – cannabis may be able to displace billion dollar drugs
the alcohol industry – pretty obvious I would say
the police union
private prison corporations
prison guard unions.

Way beyond time to throw off the shackles of ignorance, Iowa and America.

2015 Iowa Legislative Session – Tobacco Control

Iowa Capitol

Iowa Capitol

Eileen Fisher is a Johnson County resident and president of CAFE Iowa CAN, a network of tobacco control advocates whose presence is felt continuously among Iowa legislators.

She recently provided this report on tobacco control legislation during the 2015 session of the General Assembly.

New Laws

Health and Human Services Budget—SF 505
The bill appropriates funds from the General Fund for the Departments of Aging, Human Services, Public Health, Veterans Affairs and the Iowa Veterans Home. This bill represents a decrease of $19.2 million compared to FY15. The final bill provides the following appropriations and policy provisions of interest to your organization:

  • Level funding of $5,248,361 for the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Division.
  • Removal of the earmarks on the funding with the exception of the $453k for enforcement with ABD.
  • New language was included which requires the department to determine if those seeking help with cessation services have third-party sources available before providing nicotine replacement products through the program.

Bills that Failed to Pass

Vaping Regulations—HF 306–Position: For
This bill would have redefined alternative nicotine and vapor products as tobacco products, thus making all provisions applicable to tobacco products also applicable to alternative nicotine products and vapor products, including the taxation of tobacco products.

Casino Licenses—SF 139–Position: Monitoring
This bill would have provided for the issuance of a license to conduct gambling games at a gambling structure in which smoking is prohibited. This bill required the racing and gambling commission to establish a process for granting licenses to conduct gambling games at a gambling structure that is subject to the smoking prohibition requirements of Code section 142D.3. Companion bills on this issue include SF24 and HF255.

Casino Smoking Ban—SF 36 –Position: For
This bill would have removed the exception under the Smokefree Air Act that allowed smoking on gaming floors; the bill makes the entirety of these premises subject to the smoking prohibitions of the Act. Companion bills on this issue include HF102 and HF336.

Tobacco Age—SSB 1109 – Monitoring
This legislation would have raised the legal age for use of tobacco, nicotine products and vapor products to 19. The title of the bill was The Keep Tobacco Out of Iowa High Schools Act.

Cigarette Permits & Reports—SSB 1195–Position: For
This bill would have related to the permit fees for distributors, subjobbers, and retailers of tobacco products. Under this bill the fee for permits for cigarette and tobacco product distributors, vendors, and wholesalers would have been raised to $500, up from the current $100.

Note bills that failed to pass in 2015 remain active for the 2016 legislative session. To learn more about CAFE Iowa CAN, click here.