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Iowa Legislature

Iowa House Takes Up Medicaid MCO Termination Bill

Iowa Capitol

Iowa Capitol

 Action Alert from Disabilities Resource Center


The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

Excerpts from Sen. Tom Courtney’s weekly legislative report. The full newsletter can be found here:


Iowa leaders, parents, students and teachers are calling on Governor Branstad and lawmakers to make our local schools a top priority again. They’ve launched a new organization to connect concerned citizens across the state.

Called Parents for Great Iowa Schools, the group is fighting to make sure every child in Iowa gets a world-class public education that will prepare them for the 21st-century economy, generate the skilled workforce Iowa needs, and encourage problem-solving, critical-thinking, creative and innovative young people.

Iowa’s public schools provide education for about 475,000 elementary, middle school and high school students. That means the short- and long-term effects of underfunding our public schools could be significant. In the short term, our students need access to the best teachers and techniques in a top-notch setting. In the long term, they must be able to address life’s challenges and contribute to their communities as thoughtful adults.

Last month, school leaders told lawmakers another year of inadequate state funding would force them to pack more students into classrooms, rely on old textbooks and technology, and cut back on literacy efforts.

That’s bad news when you consider that at least 22 percent of Iowa third-graders last school year failed local reading tests. Starting next year, any student who is substantially deficient in reading at the end of third grade will have to take a summer reading program or be held back.

Local schools need to know they’ll get adequate funding in a timely way. In addition, the Iowa Department of Education is asking for additional money specifically for summer school and literacy efforts throughout the state. Unfortunately, Governor Branstad’s budget does not call for funding these critical requests, even though he wants to hold kids back if their reading isn’t on par by the end of third grade.

If you share these concerns, go to to sign a petition encouraging Iowa lawmakers to invest in public schools again. You can also follow the Parents for Great Iowa Schools group on Facebook at


This week, a bill was introduced in the Iowa Senate to stop Governor Branstad’s unilateral decision to privatize Iowa’s Medicaid program.

I’m supporting this legislation—Senate Study Bill 3081—because many of my constituents tell me that the Governor’s plan tries to do too much, too fast, and it fails to protect vulnerable Iowans. There is no excuse for putting the health and wellbeing of more than 560,000 Iowans at risk.

Specifically, the legislation directs the Iowa Department of Human Services to immediately terminate contracts with three private out-of-state managed care companies.

As an alternative, the legislation calls on Iowa to continue improving patient outcomes, increasing access to care and making the existing public management of Medicaid more efficient. This common sense legislation is necessary because Iowa still isn’t ready—even after a 60-day delay—to implement a privatized Medicaid system operated by for-profit, out-of-state companies.

Since the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a delay in privatizing Iowa’s Medicaid system in mid-December, we have seen no evidence that state officials and private companies have taken the steps to ensure the health and wellbeing Iowans receiving Medicaid services.

The main concerns I’m hearing from constituents include:

* Arbitrary and unrealistic implementation timeline
* Failure to establish adequate provider networks in advance
* Disruptions of longstanding patient-provider relationships
* Diminished quality and access to health care services
* Compromised patient care
* Inadequate communication with patients and providers

You can review Senate Study Bill 3081 on the Iowa Legislature’s website at


Expanding Iowa’s middle class and maintaining fiscal responsibility are key elements of the state budget proposed by Senate Democrats this week.

Our number one goal is to make investments that will grow Iowa’s middle class. We propose strategic investments to help Iowa workers gain new skills, improve local schools, grow Main Street businesses, and create more cultural and recreational opportunities.

Our plan calls for $7.4 billion in general fund spending. Iowa law allows the Legislature to spend up to 99 percent of available revenues. Our budget is below that level, which means we’ll end the year with a surplus and full rainy day accounts.

According to December estimates by the state’s nonpartisan Revenue Estimating Conference, our budget proposal works out to 98.9 percent of available revenues, which is less than what Governor Branstad wants to spend.

We are announcing our budget proposal early in the legislative session in hopes of avoiding the budget gridlock of recent years. Iowans want us to focus on their priorities, not bickering about numbers.

Branstad, Snyder Typify Republican Party


When I think of Republicans, especially Republicans in power I think of incompetence beyond anyone’s worst nightmare. In their drive to enrich their wealthy donors, they push hard for cuts to any programs that help the poor and help maintain the middle class so they can cut taxes for the rich. Seems like there are as many examples of Republican incompetence especially in the nation’s governorships as there are grains of sand on a beach.

This week we have a couple of shining examples of Republican incompetence at their worst.

Here in Iowa old bumbley, stumbley Terry Branstad is sticking with his brilliant idea to take money from a tax earmarked for school improvement and use it for something else. It almost makes no difference what the something else is. This is the 3rd time in only 7 months that Branstad has taken aims at cutting school funds in some form or another. This is a game plan that has been used over and over again across the country to force the privatization or profitization of public schools systems.

Starve the beast it is called. The beast in this case is government. One of the largest governmental outlays in most states, Iowa included, is for public schools. Republicans believe that if they slowly take the money away from the school systems, the systems will eventually turn to a profitized system as a solution. They do so in what has been described as the “boil the frog” method. As a frog is cooked the heat is slowly turned up in such a way that when the frog finally realizes he is being boiled alive he is incapable of escaping because he is too far gone. By slowly removing money from the schools, schools must change how they function and will continue to do so until they no longer function.

So late June, Branstad vetoed a compromise from the legislature that would have given a much needed shot of one time money claiming Iowa could not afford it. Just a couple of months later Branstad moved unilaterally to cut a long existing tax on consumables for businesses. As stated by state Sen. Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City at that time:

Today, however, after large corporations lobbied him for a $37 million, on-going tax cut that legislators had rejected, Governor Branstad says Iowa can afford it. Furthermore, he says he doesn’t need the Legislature’s approval to do it.

“The agenda for the October 13 meeting of the Administrative Rules Review Committee reveals that the Branstad-Reynolds Administration is proposing a rule change to exempt consumable supplies used in manufacturing from the Iowa sales tax. If the Branstad-Reynolds Administration does not withdraw this rule, it will take effect on January 1, 2016, even though this $37 million annual tax cut has never been approved by the Iowa Legislature.

“This rule would change more than 15 years of existing policy.”

Less taxes = less money for schools.

Now Branstad wants the one percent sales tax that was long ago approved as earmarked for schools to be split for what he deems as a crisis of water quality in Iowa. There has been a crisis in water quality in Iowa for a long time. Branstad sees this as yet another opportunity to cut into school funding. If this attempt fails, expect another assault on school funding from the governor claiming some other crisis next year. Cutting school funding is his mission. All while claiming to be a friend of Iowa schools.

Meanwhile in Michigan, a real crisis of monumental proportions with toxic lead in the drinking water of Flint is being met with perhaps the worst leadership possible. What Flint needed was a leader who would have stopped the poisonous water from flowing into homes in Flint immediately when the problem was found. Then the legislature should have been called into session and money and manpower should have been dedicated to fixing what is a huge public health problem immediately.

Since Governor Snyder was part of the problem his first move as state leader was to try to hide the problem. His next order of business was to try to slough the blame onto someone else. Such tactics never work and are not doing so in the Flint crisis. Now, even at this late date Snyder still refuses to deal with reality and deal with Flint as the emergency it is. Instead he is offering Flint residents a discount for the poison that flows into their homes in the guise of water.

The connecting theme between Branstad and Snyder is that both are dedicated to continuing to deliver tax cuts to the rich. Cutting taxes for the wealthy is the connecting theme for incompetence in the Republican governor’s chairs across the country. Brownback in Kansas has driven his state to near bankruptcy in pursuit of cutting taxes while ruining public schools. Christie in New Jersey diverts federal money to cover huge budget holes. Bevin in Kentucky has already embarked on a path to take away health care from the poor and no doubt will slash other programs for the holy grail of tax cuts.

Flint water sample (hat tip to

Flint water sample (hat tip to

Is Iowa On The Brink Of An Education Crisis?

Iowa Capitol

Iowa Capitol

Action alert from Progress Iowa:

The caucuses are over, but the legislature is still in session, and there’s a lot of work left to be done.

With the help of Public Policy Polling, we recently surveyed Iowans across the state, and the results were clear:


We need your help, let your state lawmakers know they cannot run from this important issue and that our children deserve better funding.

Below is a list of upcoming legislative forums. Please attend a forum near you and tell GOP lawmakers to support at least a 4% increase in education funding!



Representative Linda Miller-District 94
Devil’s Glen Hy-Vee
2900 Devils Glen Rd, Bettendorf, IA 52722

Senator Dan Zumbach-District 48
CLICK HERE to TWEET @DanZumbach to fund education today!
Delaware County Farm Bureau
115 E Delaware St, Manchester, IA 52057

Senator Randy Feenstra-District 2
CLICK HERE to TWEET @RandyFeenstra to fund education today!
Danny’s Sports Spot
1013 S 2nd St, Cherokee, IA 51012


Senator Tim Kapucian-District 20
First Presbyterian Church
1025 5th Ave, Grinnell 50112

Farm Bureau Office
212 W State St.
Williamsburg, IA 52361

Keystone Library
93 Main St. Keystone, IA 52249

Representative Ralph Watts-District 19
Redfield American Legion
612 N Main St. Redfield, IA 50233

Representative Sandy Salmon-District 53
Community Room
723 Main St. Plainfield, IA 50666

Senator Ken Rozenboom-District 40 and Representative Tedd Gassman-District 7
Bridge View Center
102 Church St, Ottumwa, IA 52501

Senator Tom Shipley-District 11
Cumberland Fire Station
216 Main St. Cumberland, IA 50843

Representative Zach Nunn-District 30
CLICK HERE to TWEET @FriendsforZach to fund education today!
Hy-Vee Club Room
108 8th St. SW Altoona, IA 50009

Senator Mark Segebart-District 60 and Representative Brian Best-District 12
Carroll Dental Associates
1406 US-71, Carroll, IA 51401

Representative Sandy Salmon-District 63
Community Room
113 3rd St. Frederika, IA 50631

Will The Legislature Let Medical Marijuana Happen This Year?

medical marijuana

Two years ago, Iowa seemingly became the latest in a string of states to allow marijuana to be used in limited medical situations. In Iowa, the situations were centered around epilepsy. All agreed this was very necessary and very good policy.

What was missed in allowing the use of medical marijuana in Iowa was that the possession of marijuana continued to be illegal. In order to legally use marijuana a person had to possess it first which is illegal.

Last year Republicans in the Iowa legislature refused to even discuss legalizing possession of marijuana by those who needed to use it medically.

Republicans need not wonder too long why Iowans think their legislators are a joke. They won’t fund schools, they keep women’s wages stuck in the 1950s and when they do try to take a step forward it appears they can move only leg.

This is not rocket science. In order to use the marijuana that will alleviate a terrible medical problem a person must first be able to possess the marijuana. This will be a huge step forward for those who need it. To the Republicans in the Iowa legislature, please do the right thing and make it possible for those who need this drug to be able to get it.

If I was cynical I might think that their opposition was based on getting “campaign contributions” from drug companies that are working across the country to halt the use of medical marijuana. But surely that couldn’t be it.

Democrats Lay Out Agenda For 2016 Legislative Session

Gronstal: “There is no net to the general fund. That is the fiction they’ve created.”

Children Should Not Have Guns

iowans-guns-web-version-jpeg300X300Why do we even have to say this stuff? 

Below is an action alert from Iowans for Gun Safety. The bill mentioned here appears to be sponsored by Matt Windschitl (R) who also helped pass it out of subcommittee and whose family happens to own a gun store in Missouri Valley.  Windschitl introduced “Stand Your Ground” legislation in 2013 based on a model bill originally promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  In 2014, Windschitl  wanted silencers:   “Another bill I am working on is to allow Iowans the opportunity to own a firearm suppressor,” said Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) in a newsletter. “As I have said before, law abiding citizens are just that, law abiding. We should be allowing Iowans to exercise their rights to the greatest degree possible and not be imposing burdensome restrictions on their Constitutional rights.”   Or burdensome restrictions on the ability to profit from the sale of guns and gun accessories?

HR 2042 would allow a child of any age to possess a pistol or revolver under direct supervision of a parent or guardian.  Watch the Iowa legislature for more great Republican ideas on how to get more guns into the hands of more people.

Please contact your state representative to oppose HF 2042, Kids under 14 handling guns. View the bill at

The proponents of this bill refer to it as a “gun safety” bill, but Iowans for Gun Safety sees it as opening up many dangers. Our argument against it is that children do not have sufficient judgment to understand the permanent consequences of misuse of guns. Children are the most frequent victims of gun accidents. This is true for children from 2-5 who may find a gun in the home and not understand the difference between a toy and a real gun. It is also true for children 12-14, who may want to show off a gun they found in the home and fire it in the process, killing or injuring a friend.

We also think a common sense approach to guns includes other principles, such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, violated when a gun is used to take a life, intentionally or accidentally. Common sense also needs to balance parental rights with public rights. The good of the community needs to be taken into account in gun laws. As the community includes people with many different approaches to parental rights and responsibilities, the law needs to take the broadest approach to safety and health.

To contact your legislator, click here.

Iowans for Gun Safety


The Courtney Report

Courtney Report

The Iowa Legislature is back in session. We are quite happy to once again turn a corner of this blog over to excerpts from the newsletter of State Senator Tom Courtney and occasionally others. The full newsletter can be read here.


Another year of inadequate state funding for K-12 schools will result in larger class sizes. That’s what school administrators tell us in a new survey.
Superintendents, principals and other school officials completed the survey in recent weeks to help us better understand the consequences of shortchanging public schools, and to determine the impact of the Governor’s veto last summer of bipartisan school funding.

Underfunding local schools limits educational opportunity for our students. That’s bad for Iowa’s future at a time when business leaders say Iowa needs more skilled workers just to fill current job openings. When we underfund education, we undermine our state’s economy and the ability of Iowa families to get ahead.

In addition to packing more students into classrooms, school leaders say underfunding schools will force them to:

* Delay purchasing books and classroom materials (77 percent of respondents).
* Leave positions unfilled (71 percent).
* Delay new technology purchases (56 percent).
* Cut back on programs that help kids learn to read (43 percent).

An increase of at least 4 percent in basic state aid to schools is what’s needed for the next school year to avoid these types of drastic cuts, according 88 percent of school leaders who responded to the survey.

It’s time to make public schools a bipartisan priority of the Legislature again. We can afford to do it. Our state savings accounts are full at $719 million. That’s a record high level, equal 10 percent of state budget. In addition, we expect to end the year with a surplus of $264 million.

To view complete results from the school administrator survey, go to here.


Medicaid is the health care safety net for 560,000 Iowans. One in five Iowans depends on Medicaid for vital health care services, including the elderly, people with disabilities and mental health concerns, children and moms.

Because of an ill-conceived and poorly executed plan by the Branstad/Reynolds Administration, Iowa families may not be able to count on that safety net anymore.

The Governor’s unilateral decision to turn Medicaid and $4.2 billion over to a few private out-of-state companies is fiscally irresponsible and risky to the health of Iowans. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has stepped in to slow down the process until at least March 1, but many are still concerned that the Iowa Department of Human Services and the out-of-state companies will be not be prepared to make the transition by then.

Members, caregivers and families are in turmoil over the major changes to Iowa Medicaid. It could result in increased costs to taxpayers and denial of health care to Iowans. Some providers are unsure they’ll survive the new payment structure.

We will continue to help Iowa patients and local community health care providers as best we can with their individual circumstances.

In addition, Senate Democrats are developing stronger oversight legislation this session. We want safeguards in place to protect Iowans who rely on Medicaid and our local health care providers from potential negative impacts of privatizing Medicaid.

Veterans from across Iowa visited the State Capitol on January 20 for the annual Veterans Day on the Hill. I was pleased to welcome veterans from our district, and to listen to their concerns and ideas.

They had a full schedule of activities, including a special ceremony in the rotunda honoring their service. In addition they had the opportunity to meet Adjutant General Timothy Orr of the Iowa National Guard, Commandant Jodi Tymeson of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Col. Robert King (Ret.), and members of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs.

The Legislature’s Veterans Affairs Committee has worked in a bipartisan way to expand benefits for our veterans, service members and their families. For example, last year we:

* Provided a stable source of revenue for the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund by transferring $2.5 million in lottery revenues each year to the trust fund (SF 323).
* Offered flexibility in using college aid by providing a total of 120 undergraduate credit hours through the National Guard Educational Assistance Program, instead of administering aid by term (SF 130).
* Expanded college credit for military education, training and experience to include National Guard members and Reservists, saving them time and money in completing their degrees (HF 205).
* Ensured a full property tax exemption through the Disabled Veterans Property Tax Credit to veterans who have 100 percent service-connected, permanent disability that makes it impossible to work (HF 166).
* Added “service-disabled veteran” to the definition of targeted small businesses, which are eligible for low-interest loans and grants, as well as consideration when that state seeks bids for goods and services (SF 499).

This year, we continue to explore opportunities to support our veterans, enhance existing services at the state and county levels, help returning service members reenter civilian life, and encourage more veterans to make Iowa their home.

Iowa troops who have answered the call to duty deserve this dedicated support.

Corruption In The Iowa Legislature?

ALECorIOWAIn honor of the opening day of the 2016 Iowa legislative session, we invite you to partake of some background information that will help make sense of those seemingly crazy ideas of Governor Branstad and the Iowa GOP legislators, like dismantling public education.  If you’ve ever made a perplexed comment on social media, or just asked yourself, why?, read this.

Earlier this spring, Republicans in the Iowa House passed two ALEC model bills. One would strip away consumer protections by lowering the statute of repose for construction defects and another unworkable idea deals with state budgeting. They are both bad ideas and I voted against them.

Following the ALEC playbook, House Republicans have even refused to bring up a bipartisan minimum wage bill that has already passed the Iowa Senate. Since the last time a minimum-wage increase was approved in 2007 with 79 votes, there’s no question it would pass the House with bipartisan support again this year if Republicans would bring it up. –  Mark Smith is a State Representative and Democratic Leader in the Iowa House of Representatives.


What Is The State Policy Network?

The State Policy Network (SPN) is a web of so-called “think tanks” that push a right-wing agenda in every state across the country. Although many of SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation by non-profit, non-partisan investigative reporting groups the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now reveals that the State Policy Network and its affiliates are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.

What Is The State Policy Network’s Agenda?

The State Policy Network largely pushes a right-wing, corporate-backed agenda aimed at attacking the middle class. The State Policy Network and its affiliates push for privatizing public schools [italics BFIA’s], blocking expanded access to health care, lowering taxes for corporations and the very wealthy, undermining workers’ rights and unions, and a polluter’s agenda that attacks environmental protections. Some State Policy Network “think tanks” have even advocated for voter suppression laws that make it harder for Americans to vote and opposed common-sense gun safety bills.

How Is the State Policy Network Related to ALEC?

The State policy Network and many of its affiliates are members of the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where corporate lobbyists and special interest group representatives vote as equals with state lawmakers behind closed doors on “model” legislation that in many cases ends up benefiting the corporations’ bottom line. The State Policy Network has played a major role in supporting ALEC, serving as a “chairman” level sponsor of the 2013 and 2011 ALEC Annual Conferences and acting as a voting member of several task forces. State Policy Network affiliates push parts of ALEC’s agenda in their respective states, and ALEC is also an associate member of the State Policy Network.  State Policy Network and its affiliates have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to ALEC.

How Does the State Policy Network Push Its Agenda?

While State Policy Network members call themselves “think tanks,” they rarely act as such. State Policy Network groups often engage in extensive lobbying activities, even though nonprofits are limited in the amount of lobbying activity they may participate in by the IRS. State Policy Network “think tanks” release “research” and policy reports, and there are numerous instances of State Policy Network think tanks being accused of skewing facts and using faulty research to reach their policy goals. Many State Policy Network think tanks also collaborate with the right-wing Franklin Center to launch agenda-driven “news” outlets, hawking right-wing talking points from behind a mask of journalism.

SOURCE:, “State Policy Network”

(click here to read more)

AlecTerry Branstad is a founding member of ALEC. Blog for Iowa has mentioned this dozens of times.  Curiously, the page where you used to be able to find the original members of ALEC on has been taken down.  

Find out more about ALEC’s influence in Iowa here in a guest opinion by Mark Smith in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Reports connecting state legislastion to ALEC model bills

Click here to take action


New Legislative Session Starts Next Week

Iowa Capitol

Iowa Capitol

One of the great pleasures of my young life was to read the incredibly droll and wry way that young Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul would approach the opening of the Iowa legislature every year. Kaul would then follow with three to four months of humorous observations as the legislature would often stumble and bumble through the process of making laws.

While the Iowa legislature still has many moments of stumbling and bumbling much of the humor is gone now. The consequences of many of the decisions made by the legislature are now very negative especially for Iowa’s families. The legislature does nothing these days about low wages, temp employers who exploit Iowa’s citizens in the worst way, pay day lenders, lack of daycare for women seeking employment and many other problems that beset Iowa’s poor and middle class.

What was once Iowa’s calling card across the country – the best schools in the country – are now reduced to begging a Republican led House to do the job they are supposed to do by law. Surely we can expect Republicans to once more kick school budgeting down the road in their annual attempt to make Iowa schools look bad so they can have an excuse to turn to their answer to school problems, profitized charter schools. Who can forget last year when Republicans pushed the budget to the very limit before agreeing to a small compromise. Then to see the compromise blown up by a governor who seems to see his only purpose these days as delivering goodies to Party donors.

On the school front, Branstad has already sent forth a message that he wants to start tapping a sales tax dedicated to schools to use the money for other problems. Once that dam is breached the money will flow from the schools in a flood. This is a play from the book of dismantling public schools systems that has been used by tea bag Republicans across the country. In order to use their solutions first they have to create the problems for which they have solutions. And in case you have missed it, these solutions are handed to republican legislators all written and ready to go courtesy of ALEC.

Branstad is already setting his own course by not consulting the people’s representative on such major matters as extending a tax break to businesses through a “reinterpretation” of current tax laws. Then there is his decision to close the juvenile home at Toledo in a move that appeared to be against existing laws. Of course there is the aforementioned line item veto that was a punch in the gut for most every Iowa school district.

But the coupe-de-grace for Branstad was his unilateral decision to privatize (and profitize) the running of Iowa Medicaid system. Not only did Branstad act on his own without consulting any other elected officials, the implementation has been an absolute disaster. His administration was in such a hurry to give his buddies our tax money that they didn’t even pretend to design a system or think through how it would work.

What can we expect this year from Iowa’s finest? It being an election year you can bet there will be no new taxes or even a mention of anything like that. There will no doubt be a lot of grand standing on how such and such will save Iowa big bucks. That will for the most part be malarkey. We can expect our friends at Iowa Policy Project and Progress Iowa to keep a close eye on such malarkey, but their insightful work will be mostly ignored by the corporate media and the legislators themselves.

We will probably see the usual bills to let Iowans carry more guns and do so in stores and restaurants in the open so we can join other crazy states in bringing back the old west. Probably have the bill to allow silencers on guns again too. Those will keep people from being disturbed by the noise of the gun as a mass murder takes place at the movie.

We can always hope that someday the legislature will somehow feel the pain that average working Iowans go through trying to survive on an ever shrinking income. But last I knew there were very few former wage workers in the legislature and lots of business owners. Guess where their interests lie?

Not sure even Donald Kaul could find much to laugh at these days.