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From Rep. Vicki Lensing’s (D-Johnson) newsletter:

More bills made their way through subcommittees as we finish our third week of the Legislative session. Some interesting ones involved vaccination exemptions and ending daylight savings time, which I will highlight later.

A new Iowa Supreme Court Justice was named by Governor Kim Reynolds to replace Justice Mark Cady who died in November. Dana Oxley, a Cedar Rapids attorney, was named to the court. She is the fourth woman to be appointed to the court. There is one more vacancy on the Supreme Court to be filled, a result of the retirement of Justice David Wiggins this March.

Child care has become an issue for many Iowans – both accessibility and affordability. It’s an issue for families but also a workforce issue. The number of childcare openings available to parents has dropped while the cost of child care continues to rise. This is underscored by the fact that Iowa ranks as one of the top states nationally where both parents are working and have children under the age of 6 years old.

We need to make available new grants to expand or open new licensed child care facilities. We will encourage more small businesses (less than 20 people) to provide child care benefits to employees through tax credits.

Democrats propose making child care assistance, which is available to families with income less than $30,000 for a family of three, to be expanded to include more families by raising the eligibility for families making less than 200% of the federal poverty level.

We also want to address the child care cliff, when a family makes just $1 more than the $45,000 cap to qualify for child care assistance they lose that assistance. We propose expanding the credit to more families and then phase out the credit as family income rises.

Despite the increase in the outbreak of measles and other infectious diseases, a bill was proposed to exempt Iowans from vaccinations for personal and religious reasons. Although the myth that vaccines can cause autism and other conditions was disproved, many Iowans still believe they should be able to opt out of vaccinations. These misconceptions are now spread through social media.

While adverse reactions to vaccinations are reported, they are rare and usually mild in nature, like a rash or a fever. Immunizations are helpful in protecting and even preventing the spread of contagious diseases.

According to a recent article in the Des Moines Register, “The number of Iowa parents obtaining religious exemptions to vaccination requirements more than tripled from 2,572 in the 2006-07 school year to 8,740 in the 2017-18 school year, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.”

The bill is being considered in the Iowa Senate where a similar bill stalled last session.

Pharmacy students from the University of Iowa visited the Statehouse yesterday advocating for vaccinations. Pharmacists are often more accessible than physicians for healthcare issues. In Iowa, pharmacists are allowed to give vaccinations and immunizations helping prevent the spread of preventable diseases.

Iowa also has many agreements (CPAs) between pharmacists and prescribers, allowing patients to see their pharmacist for modifying or discontinuing medication therapy, chronic care management, refill authorization and tobacco cessation. This allows many patient and public health concerns to be addressed and health outcomes to be improved when pharmacists are involved.

Time is an issue in the Iowa Legislature: separate bills have been introduced in the Iowa House and Senate to make daylight saving time permanently the official time throughout Iowa. Introduced in the Senate, legislation also has been introduced to make Central Standard Time year-round in Iowa. And the clock is ticking on the future of these bills!

Another bill proposes to prohibit the use of electronic communication devices (cell phones and other hand-held devices) by drivers. The law would be similar to laws in 19 other states. Current law forbids the use of electronic devices to write, view or send messages while driving. This proposal would make it unlawful for drivers to talk on cell phones unless they hands free, use a speaker phone or an earphone device.

Lastly, allow me to plug an upcoming event on the University of Iowa campus. Dance Marathon 26 will be held at the Iowa Memorial Union on February 7-8. For the last 25 years, the students/dancers have sought donations and financial pledges to help fund support of the pediatric oncology and bone marrow units at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. The 24-hour event is the third largest of the 300 dance marathons held across the country.

Last year, Dance Marathon raised over $2.96 million bringing the total over the last 25 years to $27,508,627.59. Not only an amazing accomplishment by an organization staffed and run by college students, but a great life lesson for all involved! Hoping this year is even more successful!

Author: Vicki Lensing