Human Resources (health policy) committee – As Chairman, this committee takes up most of my time and focus. What it means – I review every bill that is introduced and referred to the committee. Based on the intent and content of the bills …every bill is not assigned a sub-committee. That can be a hard decision. Every bill that members draft is important to that member, but some just will not be supported by our committee. To make that decision, I have to speak to members individually and gauge their support and interest. It would be very easy to just give every bill a sub, but this year we are trying not to bring members together for additional in-person if the bill will die. If you are seeing bills introduced but not assigned a sub…this is why. Please know that I thoughtfully consider every bill that comes before me.
This week in HR, we passed HSB 121, which is a bill that creates a standing order through the state medical director for several types of birth control, and after completing training, pharmacists will be able to provide certain types of birth control. This was the bill we passed in sub last week. We improved the bill through an amendment to put some additional protections in place for the woman seeking birth control. It passed through full committee with almost unanimous support. We also had a lot of subcommittee work and will be considering those bills in committee next week.
Vaccine update- This week, the state launched updates to Iowa’s coronavirus dashboard to include information on COVID-19 vaccine administration and locations eligible Iowans can receive the vaccine. The vaccine information can be found here.
On the dashboard, you can pull up each county and see the vaccine distribution and locations where you can get the vaccine in your area.
As of Wednesday, 263,248 doses have been administered. This includes 64,046 Iowans that have completed both doses of the vaccine, and 135,156 Iowans that have received their first dose.
Compare the vaccine numbers above to the number of Iowans that have tested positive for COVID over the last 11 months. As of Wednesday, 321,271 individuals have tested positive since the beginning of the public health emergency in Iowa. The media seems inclined to report problems with the vaccine rollout, but it should not be lost on Iowans that there has been significant progress in vaccinating those willing at record pace.
Finally, I have received a lot of communication regarding the Student First Act, SF159, both in favor and opposed. The main issue people seem focused on is the scholarship division, or “vouchers”. First of all, this does not affect Webster County. No school in Fort Dodge will be eligible for these scholarships. These are directed at 34 failing schools in the state. That said, I have heard your concerns, and at this point, I do not support this division of the bill as the private schools are not under the same restrictions as public schools.
This is a large bill, and the House is still discussing each division. We are starting to break it down, and the individual divisions will probably be introduced in separate House bills.
The first bill was debated Tuesday night. House File 228, a bill which removes the ability of school districts to deny requests for open enrollment due to voluntary diversity plans adopted by school districts. These voluntary programs have eliminated the ability for about 450 students to open enroll in other districts. If we are going to support the open enrollment system, we have to make sure it is available to all students. I supported the passage of the bill.
Stay tuned for the other divisions of the bill. They include public charter schools (held to the same standards and rules of public schools as they are a public school), an expansion of the tuition and textbook tax credit, and an increase in the educator expense deduction.